In recent days there has been some media hubbub about a scheduled performance by the B Street Band, a Bruce Springsteen tribute band from New Jersey, at that state’s upcoming Garden State Inaugural Gala. The thought is that Springsteen wouldn’t want his music at an event honoring Donald Trump because progressive hero Springsteen has been an outspoken critic of the president-elect while supporting his political opponents Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. So even though Springsteen would never agree to play Trump’s inauguration, his music will be prominently involved — hence the press attention.
This is silly for a few reasons. One is that the Garden State Inaugural Gala is not the inauguration. It’s not even one of the three official inauguration events. It’s just a party in Washington on Inauguration Day. Furthermore, as The New York Times reports, the B Street Band was such a hit at the 2009 and 2013 galas that the planning committee booked them to perform at the 2017 event before Trump had even announced his candidacy. The band’s website insists that this is a nonpartisan event, but keyboardist Willie Forte tells NYT that they’ve received hundreds of angry emails from Springsteen fans in response to the coverage, adding, “I never saw this coming — this part coming. Are you asking me if, you know, if I would’ve reconsidered if I could go back in the beginning and I knew this was going to happen? Sure.”
Organizers for the event also pointed out that a New Jersey boardwalk-themed event is bound to feature the classic music of New Jersey whether it’s performed by a tribute band or just spun by a DJ. One argued that Springsteen’s music transcends politics: “It’s like, when you look at a Rembrandt or read Shakespeare, do you care what their politics were?” Forte does say B Street Band, which has been performing together since the ’80s, would cancel if Springsteen asked them to, but they haven’t heard from him, “thank God, so far.”
The one genuinely intriguing element of this story is that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Trump ally and extremely public Springsteen fanboy, is an honorary chair of the Garden State Gala, and Springsteen has been famously averse to palling around with Christie. So it’s both very funny and very sad that this is as close as Christie will ever get to booking Springsteen for an event.