The announcement that D.C. legend (and lifelong Redskins fan) Chuck Brown would be performing at halftime of this Sunday’s game against the Texans was largely met with one of two responses. If you were familiar with Brown’s work as a pioneer in the city’s distinctive go-go music scene, it was a positive response. If you weren’t familiar with that work, the response was, simply, “Wait, who?”
I’m familiar enough with the music to fall into the former category, but not enough so to accurately explain Brown’s level of prominence (beyond “very”). For that, I turned to a few of the guys on the team — mainly players with ties to the D.C. area where go-go was born, but also longtime left tackle and current coaching intern Chris Samuels, who became a big fan. Sort of.
Cornerback Byron Westbrook — who says he “grew up with go-go” — sums the whole thing up pretty well: “Chuck Brown is a D.C. legend, one of the original go-go inventors in the D.C. area.”
Go-go, Westbrook says, is music that doesn’t immediately make sense to everyone. “For people who haven’t grown up on it, they think it’s just a band that’s hittin’ on pots and pans, y’know? But it’s just like Baltimore Club music, California Hyphy music, Florida they have their type of music … this is just the D.C. type of music.”
“It’s a combination of things,” running back Larry Johnson explains. “It’s a combination of a live band with a way of using drum sets and percussion instruments to make songs. It’s kinda like a freestyle almost, of how you feel. Every instrument has their own feel, has their own freestyle.”
There’s at least a few go-go songs that have broken through into the mainstream over the years, notably Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose” and EU’s “Da Butt” and “Buck Wild”. But for the most part it’s a musical style that has stayed proudly, almost stubbornly tied to the region where it was born.
“When you think of go-go, it is [Chuck Brown],” says cornerback Kevin Barnes. “I’ve had family that’s been here since the sixties and seventies, and he’s the one who revolutionized D.C. music, took it national. It’s a big deal that he’s performing at halftime.”
“When I first moved up here and I listened to go-go on the radio,” Samuels says, “I didn’t like it. I did NOT like it. It was weird to me, a different sound. But once I went to a go-go show — and somebody told me before I went, they said, ‘If you go to a show, you’ll like it a whole lot more’. So I went to a show in Centreville, I think at the old Shark Club there, and I really enjoyed it. It was live, the crowd was live and into it.”
It wasn’t enough to convert Samuels to the entire scene, but that show and the subsequent years made one thing certain for him: “Some go-go I don’t like, some go-go I do, but definitely Chuck Brown is my favorite.”
And Brown’s favorite is the Redskins. “Through thick and thin for me it’s the Skins,” Brown said in a press conference at Redskins Park, calling the chance to play at halftime “like a dream come true for me and the band.”
“He’s a go-go legend,” Westbrook says. “I think it’s a big thing for him to be able to perform at halftime, showin’ the public something that everybody doesn’t get on the radio all the time.”
The one other question that the partially-informed might ask about the show goes something like this: “Wait a second, hasn’t Brown been doing this, like, FOREVER?” And the answer is yes. He’s around 74 right now, and it’s been well over thirty years since his first album. But that’s not something that Chuck Brown views as a problem.
“When I hit that stage, I become enraged,” Brown said at Redskins Park, “and if I’m on the right page I forget about my age.”
If the halftime performance is as entertaining as the brief press conference, it should be quite the show.
Photograph by James Hilsdon, Hilsdon Photography, LLC
Posted in General | No Comments »