A cryptic message posted on saxophonist Kebbi Williams’ Facebook profile suggested that the Castleberry Hill neighborhood was going to be the location of “musical mayhem” at the hands of the Wolfpack on Saturday at midnight. And just what exactly is the Wolfpack? Judging from YouTube videos and what I could gather online, in one sense the Wolfpack is a musical flash mob consisting of a fairly large number of wind instruments. The Wolfpack seems to have taken over neighborhoods, MARTA stations and night clubs, and often the locations of their upcoming escapades are revealed to social media through an indirect message such as the one that brought me out to Castleberry Hill on this particular night. But the Wolfpack is also something else. As a large marching band of tubas, trombones, trumpets and saxophones (it is unclear to me whether marching percussionists ever take part), the Wolfpack also resembles an Atlanta take on the New Orleans brass band tradition, not that the music played by the Atlanta Wolfpack much resembles that of the New Orleans bands, but rather that the bands seem to fill the same community functions in both cities. At any rate, I got my car from the hotel and drove out to the Castleberry Hill neighborhood where a one-day art event called Flux Night had been going on all evening. Fortunately, I had no problem finding parking, and I gradually walked up to Elliott Street, where a crowd of several hundred young people were gathered in front of a bar called the Elliott Street Pub. I had to walk under some sort of art installation that functioned as an arch, and soon encountered a group of four or so drummers who were bashing away on as many drum sets. One electric guitarist seemed to be playing with them, and on the opposite side of the street was a man juggling flaming batons, and I gradually began to notice that a group of people were attacking an SUV with pickaxes and sledgehammers. Apparently, the SUV had been acquired from a junkyard for the purpose of being torn up, and was thus part of a performance art piece that was being done. If there was a theme to all of this, it seemed to be chaos. Perhaps these artists were into Dadaism, or maybe Futurism.
In the event, I suddenly heard the low bass of tubas from the other end of Elliott Street, and soon a large brass band was marching into this cauldron of confusion. Although it was somewhat hard to hear due to all the yelling and laughing and SUV-bashing, they seemed to be playing a kind of crunk, Atlanta hip-hop groove. Gradually the drummers on the sets nearby began to line up with what the Wolfpack was playing, as did the guitarists. Much of the crowd shifted its attention away from the battered SUV and toward the musicians that were playing just outside the pub’s door. When the musicians had played in this manner for awhile, the music began to break down into free jazz, centered around the drummers, guitarist and a trumpet player (was that Russell Gunn?) and a saxophonist. Soon that came to an end as well, and all the musicians were walking through the crowd, under the big art archway at the corner and were headed away from the area, all too soon.