Bruce Springsteen tribute band say Trump inauguration gala is 'non-political'

The B Street Band, who are set to play Garden State Gala on 20 January, appeared at both of Obama’s inaugurations and were booked for this year’s event in 2013

No celebration associated with Donald Trump’s inauguration was ever going to be able to secure the services of Bruce Springsteen to provide the entertainment. But a Springsteen covers band? More doable. And so the Garden State Presidential Inaugural Gala – New Jersey State Society’s bash for a new president, held in Washington DC at every inauguration – booked the B-Street Band, exactly as it had done for the Obama inaugurations in 2009 and 2013. This time, though, given Springsteen’s own denouncement of the incoming president, the response to the booking was swift and condemnatory.

Even E Street Band bassist Garry Tallent was angered, tweeting: “Please tell me this is more fake news. Or at least a joke.”

The B Street Band themselves have been shocked by the response. “I’ve been beaten down. I haven’t slept. I’ve been up all night,” founder member and keyboard player Will Forte told Rolling Stone. He has also pointed out the event is a non-political New Jersey event and not associated with Trump, telling Billboard: “We’re just working stiffs, working musicians … who got invited to play a ball for guys like us, regular jerks, and it’s non-political and just a celebration of the changing-over of power.”

In fact, the B Street Band were asked to play the 20 January New Jersey ball not only before Trump won the election, but long before he was even a candidate. Forte told Rolling Stone the band had been booked for the event just a week after performing at the 2013 inauguration.

In a statement to fans, he said: “In 2009, The B Street Band was honoured to be contracted by the NJ inaugural ball to perform at their gala celebrating Barack Obama’s election. The NJ State Society was so impressed, they immediately hired the band for their gala four years later in 2013. At that time we performed for President Obama’s successful re-election. The gala again enjoyed our NJ Shore-flavoured style and signed us a third time for the 2017 gala.”

Nancy Fatemi of the New Jersey State Society, which organises the gala, told Rolling Stone: “We consider them the official band of the New Jersey State Society and would not consider any other group. We have been holding this event consistently since the 1950s. Our ball is always non-partisan, like our organisation, and a celebration of democracy and the peaceful transfer of power. Springsteen music is magic to the ears of our New Jersey members and guests, regardless of party.”

Forte told both Billboard and Rolling Stone that the band wouldn’t be pulling out of the event, because they had signed a contract. “I’ve been in enough litigation in my life. I have four kids. I’m 63 years old,” Forte said. “I can’t make stands like other people can. I’m not in that position. Whatever the politics may be, [the band] understands that I’m just trying to do what’s right.”


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