With a theme of non-violence and unity, the third annual Go-Go Awards honored legends like Chuck Brown and Big Tony of Trouble Funk on Sunday while reuniting bands that delivered encore-worthy performances.
After a tribute to Brown, the godfather of go-go, Mayor Adrian Fenty inducted him into the new Go-Go Hall of Fame. Big Tony received the Forefather of Go-Go Award, the WHAT? Band was honored as Band of the Year and Pleasure reunited to accept the Best Girl Band of All Time award.
“They brought us from playing on buckets to playing at the Convention Center,” remarked Rev. Tony Lee, founder and senior pastor of the Community of Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church, in an opening prayer embracing the native genre of D.C. music, which creates a sound based on percussion.
Entertainers, musicians and political figures joined with a diverse crowd of D.C. youth and their family and friends at the Washington Convention Center to honor another year of go-go music, sponsored by WPGC-FM and Peace Abode LLC.
The host of the evening was Joe Clair, known for his work as the host of BET shows “Madd Sports” and “Rap City” as well as his standup comedy on the BET network’s “Comic View.” A native of Seat Pleasant, Md., Clair humored the crowd with jokes reflecting on his moments in high school. He would sneak to The Black Hole, a historic go-go venue on Georgia Avenue Northwest, and he would perform the “Run Joe,” a dance inspired by Chuck Brown’s “Run Joe.”
Clair’s allusions to the popular go-go songs and dances from his youth appeased the crowd, especially through technical difficulties, scheduling confusion, and late or absent celebrities who were not present to accept their awards. Nonetheless, Clair showed his improvisational skills as a comedian.
The performances were the highlight of the awards ceremony. Experience Unlimited, better known as E.U., featuring Sugar Bear, enthused the crowd in the opening performance with a rendition of “Da Butt,” commemorating the song’s 20th anniversary since its rise to fame in the 1988 Spike Lee movie “School Daze.”
Following E.U., Total Control Band (TCB), a teenage and young adult favorite, performed a medley of hits as teens flocked between the aisles and rushed to the stage, where they danced and sang. Band members donned matching TCB shirts and gold crowns, recognizing themselves as the bounce beat kings – bounce beat being a new style of go-go.
Backyard Band (BYB) performed crowd-pleasing sets, featuring Grammy-nominated Maryland native and R&B singer Raheem DeVaughn, and Big Tony of Trouble Funk. During the Chuck Brown tribute, Rare Essence performed renditions of his classics, as Mayor Fenty watched from the side of the stage and as the crowd danced in the aisles.
The celebration did not reflect the violence and stigma that surrounds the music that is an important historical and cultural element of Washington, D.C. When the WHAT? Band was named Band of the Year, singer Michelle Blackwell noted, “Go-go is a unique genre of music because the band and the crowd – we are one.” With equal excitement from both the audience and band during the performance, as well as devoted fans of the music who frequent spots such as LePearl Ballroom, Icon Nightclub and CFE Event Center, there is validity in that statement.
However, the violence that coincides with some events makes visiting go-go clubs less attractive for out-of-state residents and parents who do not want their children to attend the clubs. On Nov. 30, a 21-year-old man was fatally shot after leaving The Icon nightclub in Waldorf, Md., according to Fox 5 News Online.
“The violence is not a reflection of the music,” said Wave Dave, second singer of All About Money (ABM). “The people who come to the go-gos start trouble, but I don’t necessarily think it has anything to do with the music.”
Musicians, ministers, political figures and community activists used the awards night as a platform to inspire the youth to take an active stand against violence plaguing the community.
Big Youngin of The Junkyard Band received the Change Agent of the Year Award, largely for his work with the Peaceaholics, a non-profit organization promoting conflict resolution within the community. He noted that youth are under attack and challenged the crowd to become involved, because the youth are the future.
Despite the uneasy feelings some people may have about go-go, Big G, lead talker for BYB and former cast member of [the HBO series “The Wire,” urges college students and out-of-state residents to visit a go-go, especially Howard University students who are “right off Georgia Avenue, right around the corner of the birthplace.”
“You have to get at least two or three under your belt to say you were in D.C., because you weren’t in D.C. if you didn’t get no go-go,” Big G stressed.
The smiling faces and dancing bodies among the diverse crowd of nearly 3,000 people showed that the third annual Go-Go Awards was a memorable night of success.