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TV showrunner/professional curmudgeon David Simon‘s been doing press for the upcoming Treme vs. The Wire Battle of the Bands benefit show in New Orleans, a concert where The Wire‘s Anwan “Big G” Glover will perform with his old group, the Backyard Band. Simon, who was born in D.C. and grew up in the Maryland ‘burbs, tells Louisiana music mag OffBeat that he used to sneak out to the go-go. He also puts his go-go heroes in New Orleans brass terms: “If Chuck Brown is the Dirty Dozen, then [Anwan Glover’s] the Rebirth.”
Simon hears connections between go-go and New Orleans music. Both are percussion-heavy and built on call-and-response interaction with the crowds, but go-go creates its groove by slowing things down and bringing it to life with congas and cowbells instead of tambourines. Go-go pioneer Chuck Brown told OffBeat in 2009, “I heard Grover Washington come out around 1977 with a tune called‘Mister Magic’. I said, ‘I recognize that beat. I want to use that.’ What I did was we slowed down the 120 beats a minute to 60 beats a minute, and everybody started grooving, the neck ties came off, and they stopped wearing the suits.”
According to Simon, “Go-go shows are very similar in purpose and scope and behavior to sort of the brass culture here and the weekend second lines—the shouting out to people who’re at the show. Go-go music in D.C. is a street culture and the music is very reminiscent of it.”
Although The Wire centers on systemic dysfunction in Baltimore, go-go crept into the show at least once, in what amounted to a love letter to Chocolate City. In this season 2 episode, the character Stringer Bell tells a D.C. connection, “I can’t stand that go-go shit, anyhow.” The D.C. associate responds, “I know a club in Oxon Hill that will wreck y’all.”