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Kato Hammond has been documenting go-go culture since 1996, when he launched the TMOTTGOGO.com website as a way to participate in the music after leaving the band Proper Utensils. Since then, he has published the Take Me Out to The Go-Go print magazine and developed TMOTT television and radio programming. He also wrote his own compelling autobiography and a children’s go-go-themed picture book. Hammond still has more stories to tell: His new documentary, TMOTTGOGO Inside the Pocket: The Story of Go-Go’s Music Magazine, relates the development of the TMOTT brand as seen through the eyes of Hammond and the fans who became TMOTT journalists to support the music they lived and loved.
While the very notion of a documentary produced and directed by someone who is part of its story may seem dubious, this film is no hagiography. Instead, Hammond dispenses with the details of his own life early in this heartfelt film, focusing on the community around the TMOTT brand, both the smaller group of aspiring journalists who joined the fledgling website and magazine and the greater go-go scene.
The engaging two-hour film consists mostly of talking heads reminiscing about their experiences, but there are also vivid re-enactments and plenty of precious clips, including 1991 footage of Little Benny & the Masters performing “Pop Goes the Weasel” at the Metro Club. Inside the Pocket shares some wonderful details about go-go culture. Back in the day, for example, guys represented Southeast by wearing black and gray New Balance sneakers, while those who lived uptown opted for New Balance in brighter colors. Viewers will learn about the way that Morgan State University students who were born and raised in D.C. schooled their Baltimore classmates about go-go. And Chante Smith and Tahira “Agent 99” Mahdi eloquently describe their perspectives as fans in a culture which, despite the popularity of several female acts, has remained male-dominated.
Some memories evoke the go-go scene’s warm family feel. Denise “Moms” Young recalls Hammond setting up her new home computer when he hardly knew her. Other anecdotes are outright funny: Mark Ward describes interviewing Gene Pratt and The Northeast Groovers in the Metro Club men’s room. “We interviewed him in that “stinkin’-ass bathroom”—he says, laughing. “All I remember is wanting to get the hell up out of there, and it’s like the whole band was up in there.” These stories and others underscore the struggle of a community that has been too often underestimated and undervalued, which is exactly what makes Hammond’s work so important.
In its exhibit on go-go, the National Museum of African American History and Culture quotes Hammond, a well-deserved honor for go-go’s most consistent chronicler. “He actually cared about promoting the bands more than some of the bands cared about promoting themselves,” notes Hammond’s book editor Marlon Green at one point in the film. “Kato was doing it for the love of everything.”
TMOTTGOGO Inside the Pocket: The Story of Go-Go’s Music Magazine is available through Amazon.