War will erupt at Reno’s Biggest Little Street Party

War headlines Saturday at the Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews & Blues Festival.

The quintessential street band will play the Biggest Little Street Party in the World.

War will be the final band to perform Saturday at the Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews & Blues Festival, firing upon the Fourth Street Stage at 6:30 p.m., an hour after Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio play from the Third Street Stage.

“We are going to make sure that we have a chain and pull everybody around the corner because we are WAR — We Are Ready,” said keyboardist Lonnie Jordan, the remaining founding member from the pioneering world-beat band that started in the 1960s. “ I want you to inform people to bring plenty of water because it’s going to be hot, and I’m not talking about the weather, I’m talking about our stage.

“And I’m not going to bore people with any new songs. I don’t want to put anybody to sleep and have someone say, Aw man, what happened to my song? I want people to have flashbacks and remember some of those soundtracks that made them who they are today.”

At age 70, Jordan hasn’t lost any enthusiasm for his band and its place in history. War was ahead of its time and different from what anyone had heard before. It fused rock ‘n’ roll, Afro-Cuban, R&B and jazz. It had seven-minute long songs on its albums. And the members were black, white, brown and British. That made War difficult to find in a record store. But it was ubiquitous on the radio. Even today.

“It was a universal street band type of music,” Jordan said. “We were global before global became global. We were a world-beat band before world beat was a name. All we did was pick up a pencil and write what (the public) gave us. We were troubadours.

“We were the first Google. We just gave people information about what was going on in the world. That’s why we wrote songs like “The World is a Ghetto.” We were making people aware of their surroundings. And that’s why we wrote songs like “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” because we’ve seen a thing or two.

Eric Burdon, who arrived with his band The Animals during the British Invasion, was about to head back home to Newcastle when he was introduced to War. They jammed at a nightclub and the group soon became Eric Burdon and War.

“We didn’t understand all the record company politics,” Jordan said. “We didn’t know anything about radio and what’s supposed to be a hit or record labels telling us we need to sound like somebody. So, thank God for Jerry Goldstein as a producer. He said this band has something totally different that no one understands. I don’t even understand. But we’re just going to go in the studio and create this nonunderstanding situation.”

Then came the first hit song, which was, well, misunderstood, “Spill The Wine” was the “B” side of “Magic Mountain,” a tune banned by radio because it was about getting high and having a ball, Jordan said.

“A lot of people didn’t know that that was just as bad as ‘Magic Mountain,’ he said. “Eric Burdon sang, ‘Spill the Wine, Take that pearl.’ And everybody in the world thought he was singing ‘Dig That Girl.’ Back in the 70s, that’s worse than the word ball. You are talking about the details of balling.”

“Spill The Wine” was the first of many Top 40 songs by War, including “Low Rider, “Cisco Kid,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” “The World is a Ghetto” and “Summer.”

 — Tim Parsons

  • Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews & Blues Festival
    Friday, June 14
  • Third Street Stage
    4 p.m. — Jason King Band
    6 p.m. — Shane Dwight
  • Fourth Street Stage
    3:30 p.m. — Mike Furlong
    5:30 p.m. — Buddy Emmer Blues Band
    7:45 p.m. Berlin with Terri Nunn
  • Saturday, June 15
    Third Street Stage
    11:30 a.m. — Jason King Band
    1:30 p.m. — Buddy Emmer Blues Band featuring Mighty Mike Schermer
    3:30 p.m. — Buddy Emmer Blues Band featuring Andy Santana
    5:30 p.m. — Elvin Bishop Big Fun Trio
  • Fourth Street Stage
    12 p.m. — Mike Furlong
    2 p.m. — Briefcase Full of Blues
    4 p.m. — Shane Dwight
    6:30 p.m. — WAR

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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