Go-go Music

Growing up just outside of Washington DC, I was exposed to the music that came from the area known as "Go-Go". Seeing shows live was an unbelievable experience and go-go was a big part of my life as a teen. Just imagine a stage (or a house party) full of nothing but percussion instruments and a few horns. No drum machines, just drums of various sizes and shapes, a few horns and a lot of interaction with the audience. Go-Go is not a spectator sport! There is a lot of call and response, a lot of cowbell, and a lot of dancing!

Since I left the DC area when I was a teen,1 some of the information here is memories, music I have, and research around the web. Wikipedia has a much different explanation of go-go and mentions a lot of bands that I'm either vaguely familiar with or just hadn't heard at all. While I agree Chuck Brown is known as "The Godfather of Go-Go", go-go is a musical movement that cannot be traced back to one single person. The rest of the article is odd that it mentions big concert venues and songs making an impact on the music charts when that wasn't my experience at all.

When I lived in the DC area growing up there were a few big shows2, the best you had was going to live parties or very small venues where the only way to get a recording of the music was a live "PA" tape.3 During DC's initial surge, the Department of Parks and Recreation even drove bands around in “Showmobiles,” allowing groups to perform free go-go concerts in multiple neighborhoods during the summer months.4

There is really no way to accurately describe the sound of go-go music, so the best thing to do is just listen for yourself. Here are few of my favorite songs that I found on YouTube.

  1. A long time ago. In a land far, far away. 

  2. For example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_Go_Live_at_the_Capital_Centre 

  3. A "PA tape" is exactly what it sounds like. Someone would leave a cassette tape recorder beside a mic and record the music 

  4. The local's version of the history of Go-go