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Yeah, 2016 was a train wreck, but in many ways it was a damn good year for go-go. Despite gentrification’s forward march and the doomsday prognostications, go-go is not fading away. So get crankin’ and support your local go-go.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture The new museum’s section on go-go gives the genre some well-deserved props. The exhibit includes Chuck Brown, Experience Unlimited (E.U.), Little Benny, Junkyard Band, and Rare Essence. There’s video of Chuck doing “Bustin’ Loose,” a Globe poster advertising a Panorama Room show, a photo of a very young RE posing in front of the U.S. Capitol Building, and plenty more. Are Chuck’s green snakeskin cowboy boots in there? Hell, yeah!
E.U.’S Performance at the Freedom Sounds Community Celebration, Sept. 25 E.U. was tapped for the Smithsonian’s three-day “Freedom Sounds” fest celebrating the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s opening. The band’s greatest hits set included “Ooh La La La,” “Slave to the Rhythm,” and “E.U. Freeze.” And when frontman Gregory “Sugarbear” Elliott chanted, “When you walk in the door and you want to go-go, say what?” the audience knew just what to tell him.
The Ewing 33 Hi “Big G” Backyard Band leader and bonafide D.C. celebrity Anwan “Big G” Glover scored his own limited-edition run of Patrick Ewing sneakers. And like Big G himself, his sneakers are bad-ass: A mostly silver “futuristic chrome upper” with red stars and bars on the heel. The number 88 represents the year Big G formed Backyard, and while we’re on the subject of representation, the 51 on the sneaker’s hang tag signifies the quest for statehood. Sold out in four hours.
Big G’s Birthday Party at The Howard Theatre, May 6One of the best go-go entrances of all time. Everybody on stage was wearing white and gold, including the African drummers and dancers who joined the band. And then out strolled the Ghetto Prince, rose petals tossed at his feet. This was a great year for Backyard, which released the Street Antidote triple CD, performed in Central Park, and gained thousands of new fans with a cover of Adele’s “Hello.”
Rare Essence, Turn It Up Rare Essence, the wickedest band alive, released Turn It Up, its first all-studio album in 15 years. The first and title single showcased lead talkers Shorty Corleone and Calvin “Killa Cal” Henry along with DJ Kool. The second, “Tryna Go,” was a collaboration with Raheem DeVaughn that was featured on BET Soul and Sirius Radio’s “Heart and Soul” channel.
Young Junksters Believe it or not, Steven “Buggs” Herrion, the youthful voice on Junkyard Band’s eternal hit “Sardines,” turned 50 in May. His big birthday marked the debut of the Young Junksters, a go-go ensemble consisting of the Junkyard Band member’s kids, who go by names like Son of Skinnie Pimp and Lil Wink. The Junksters recorded four songs and videos so far and just might represent the future of go-go.
Wind Me Up, Maria Improbably, the full-length go-go musical was produced and performed at Georgetown University, courtesy of Georgetown professor Natsu Onoda Power. Musical director Charles “Shorty Corleone” Garris and his tween performing Capital Kidds leant the project some credibility. Every performance sold out, proving that there are many ways to build go-go audiences.
Chuck Brown’s LegacyThe legacy of go-go’s godfather continues to grow. The first annual “Go-Go New Music Day” honoring Chuck brought new tracks from The Chuck Brown Band, Be’la Dona, Backyard Band, Junkyard Band, Team Familiar, and others. The Nats licensed “Bustin’ Loose” for online and TV spots, and the D.C. lottery launched a Chuck Brown ticket. And in October, Brown was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of fame.
RADIO, RADIOFor the first time in many years, more than one new original go-go song was on rotation on local radio, and go-go tracks garnered radio mix play in the DMV and in other markets.