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It’s a sticky summer evening and Caesar “C-Bo” Bowman is on a mission. He and a couple of his brothers are out walking through some of the neighborhoods in Northeast D.C. they know best: 7th and Girard. Trinidad. 4th and W. 12th Street. They run into some familiar faces, give daps and hugs, share laughs, catch up on family and mutual acquaintances. But these aren’t your typical social calls—a cameraman is in tow, capturing every moment. And a common refrain is slipped into each interaction: “3DB is back.”
It’s been more than five years since the Third Dimension Band has gigged regularly, and now it’s coming back with a bang and a brotherhood that’s as strong as ever. And with some go-go heavyweights in its corner, the band is ready to rebrand itself as Perf3ction and rally its audience behind them once again.
Some of the original members of 3DB started playing with each other as early as 1996, but they cite 2000 as their official debut. At the time, they were a cadre of teenagers which, like their up-and-coming go-go peers, stood in the shadows of young legends like Backyard Band, Uncalled 4 Band (UCB), and Total Control Band (TCB).
3DB soon went from playing backyard boogies and practicing in the storage room at the Stage One video store on 12th Street NE to holding down a weekly slot at the Good Food—a small but popular venue in Mount Rainier that’s now home to a Family Dollar.
Then-manager Terrence “Big T” Bowman, also C-Bo’s uncle and former owner of the Good Food, instilled in the band a spirit of community service, which enabled them to build an audience through outreach and performances at block parties, park jams, and back-to-school drives.
“We had a whole community on our back,” C-Bo explains. “[We were] carrying the whole Ward 5 for a long time and the only thing people knew in our age bracket was 3DB.”
Likewise, the band took an inventive approach within the industry, affording them more control over their own destiny. “We were one of the first young bands with our own spot, competing with major bands,” rapper LeTroy “Blade” Durrett says.
Christopher “Fudge” Herbert, the band’s keyboardist and self-appointed band historian, adds that “we may be the first band to blow up and make our own sound, our own name, with the help of no mainstream promoter. We promoted ourself. It was just us.”
Things haven’t always been easy for 3DB. The band has persevered through a lot of personal tragedy, including the murder of original drummer Ryan “Ali” Brown in March 2004, and the death of second-mic Dayvon “Day Day” Cloutterbuck due to heart failure in October 2010.
But in its current incarnation, most of the band’s formative core have returned with C-Bo on lead mic, bassist Stephon “Ike” Washington, Fudge, Blade, and percussionist Russell “Wooda” Battle. They each have matured considerably and make most decisions by committee, although C-Bo wears the manager hat. The band’s last manager Jason “Cocky” Lewis, while reticent to ever manage a band again, is also around, offering advice and pulling strings when necessary.
Then there’s the new blood: Congo/timbale player Dewone “Puffy” Roberson and singer Michael “Mikey Da Singer” Barnwell, Jr.—both of whom also play for MTM—as well as drummer Marvin Quick, and singer Derrell “Rell Divine” Tucker. Each come with impressive resumes as individuals; many credit Quick as the first drummer to play the ever-popular slow-bounce style, and Mikey took home the trophy for Best Singer at the 2015 Bounce Beat Awards.
And its new moniker: Perf3ction, a name that is equal parts active verb and aspiration. For the band, “Perf3ction” represents the natural maturation and evolution of a band that has always prided itself on musical dimensionality (hence its previous moniker).
Some go-go bands play their instruments politely and with clean precision; call it crank respectability politics. Perf3ction is not one of those bands. With Quick’s heavy-hitting style setting the tempo, the band rolls through songs with an intensity that shoots through floorboards and chair legs. This by no means implies that the band lacks nuance and versatility—it can definitely give you jazzy vibes and multi-layered melodic riffs.
But it’s not background music: It dares you to listen actively, rather, demanding your attention. It knocked out the power onstage during a set at the Sandovan Lounge on Georgia Avenue—twice. And even on nights when the band hasn’t drawn a large crowd, the gravitational pull of its sound is undeniable.
This was evident in late July at its first official show back, a happy hour at the Meeting Place around the corner from Farragut North Metro station. A mini-derecho hit the city an hour before the show, but the dozens of people who braved the storm were treated to two sets that married original material with recognizable hits—a few of which came courtesy of guests second-mic: Bo of UCB and Alla Bout Money lead talker Shooters. It was an emotional return to the stage for the band, who dedicated the show to Day Day.
Perf3ction’s bounce beat is aggressive without pandering to the generation for whom late TCB lead-talker Reginald “Polo” Burwell was king. But the band also has a naked reverence for a solid and ear-rattling congo-driven pocket. They’re one of the few bands that can seamlessly transition between the two within a single song.
The band has a new album it’s prepping for an early 2017 release, along with another six songs of all-original, unapologetic, radio-ready crank that were produced earlier this year under the mentorship of Rare Essence singer Charles “Shorty Corleone” Garris.
Neither C-Bo nor Shorty recalls when they first met, but Shorty memorably joined 3DB onstage at a 2013 one-off reunion show to perform some of RE’s most popular refrains. Their ensuing collaborations were an impetus for the band’s return; after all, C-Bo says, “I really don’t have a passion for the industry no more. I have a passion for the music.”
But the industry the band is returning to is far from dormant; many weeks this year saw bounce beat bands playing in venues each night—a strong sign of life in an industry where such ubiquity was once a given. Still, there’s been some stagnation—especially on the bounce beat circuit, which Blade thinks is still “waiting for that mainstream push.”
C-Bo sees the holding pattern as more strategic than indicative of a problem. “In the past six or seven years, [bands have found] their comfort bubble [in] what they do: Make their music, bring their crowd, and stay out the way. That’s less of a headache than trying to take over the whole entire city.” Perf3ction is not necessarily trying to take over the city either; their plan is to leverage the strategy that previously brought them success—if not citywide recognition—to circumvent the pitfalls of the game and cement their place in the history books.
“Now, the game is open to the point where nobody’s really focused on if you can bring a crowd,” C-Bo notes. “If you got good music, you gon’ generate a buzz, you gon’ generate a good crowd. So coming back out now, we wanna make sure that we stick to the consensus of pushing original [music].”
Perf3ction is ready to serve local mainstream radio and the streets with the refined bounce beat they’ve been cooking up. A beat that Shorty enthuses about when he talks about the experience of working with Perf3ction. “We became family fast,” he says. “3DB’s album [next year] is gonna be the hottest album to touch the streets of the District. Print that.”
Perf3ction performs at the Meeting Place with New Impressionz on Nov. 24 at 8 p.m. 1100 17th St. NW. $10.