Jan. 29, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Meet Me at the Go-Go

John Stanton/CQ Roll Call
Though the go-go scene saw a downturn several years ago, Rare Essence (above) played the newly reopened Howard Theatre in June.

Youve gone to Bens Chili Bowl for a half-smoke all the way, but you havent danced to the pocket beat until your clothes are heavy with sweat. Youve hit the Kennedy Center for a free concert, but it hasnt made you back it on up.

And until youve heard firsthand what Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) calls the sound of Hometown D.C., you can never really know Washington, D.C., and feel the true city hidden beneath the machinery of government. To do that, you have to walk through the doors of a go-go.

Created by the late Chuck Brown in the 1970s, go-gos stripped-down fusion of funk, soul and Latin rhythms has over the past four decades come to define the heart of the city.

Even if you dont know it, you do. Youve heard it coming from your neighbors backyard barbecues on sunny Saturday afternoons and thumping from car windows deep into the night on U Street. Youve heard Browns Bustin Loose sampled in dozens of hip-hop and R&B tracks, from MC Hammers Bustin Loose to Nellys Hot In Herre.

And at many a steamy summer game at Nationals Park and RFK Stadium before it Bustin Loose and Browns gravelly voice could be heard blasting from the PA system after a home teams home run.

Still, hearing a go-go song or even a whole record isnt the same as actually going to a go-go.

Aloysius Miles, 41, started going to go-gos as a teenager growing up in St. Marys County, Md.

My brother used to drag me to a bunch of em when I was 15 or 16, Miles said, explaining that part of the allure of the go-go is the uniqueness. Because nobody has that sound anywhere in the United States except us. Its the D.C. sound.

The music tends not to stop. The song starts going, and then it rolls into another and another, Miles explained, adding that while a number of bands play original songs, there are a lot of redone songs, hip-hop and R&B, in a go-go fashion with a lot of congo.

Drums, horns, guitars, lots of people on stage pure, honest. When you hit a go-go show you see musicians jamming, not scrawny kids who got cut from the soccer team playing their oversized computers, said Dan Ronayne, a Prince Georges County native who would blast go-go from his office during his time with the Republican National Committee.

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