What should ARTINI attendees expect to hear on Friday?
I’m going to be giving people a broad taste of sounds, from house to upbeat contemporary music. They’ll be hearing everything from Daft Punk to Rihanna… and a lot of remixes! Bring open minds and happy feet and you will enjoy yourselves and hear some new music.
(Get ready with a lush mixdown of chuk’s ARTINI set – ed.)
These two are making some of the most interesting music coming out of D.C., and this was their debut from a few years back. They’re varied sounds, but great to play in the morning to propel you out of the bed, as well as for vibing out.
You’re also a performance artist. Is there any crossover between your art and your work as a DJ?
My art carries over quite a bit into my DJing, because a lot of my performances are very heavily indebted to music. I did a performance called Cuirass Cavus that incorporates elements from songs that were popular at the time. A cuirass is the name for the breastplate that women warriors used to wear; I made a metal breastplate and modeled it after the body of the artist whose music I was using. This song and Rick Ross (featured on the chorus) were the main inspiration for the performance. I also did a piece last summer with the Pink Line Project where I got to incorporate some of the tropes of DC Go-Go.
The ARTINI mixologists each chose a piece from the Corcoran collection as inspiration for their cocktails. Does the artwork in the gallery inspire your own work? Do you have a favorite piece?
I think my favorite piece is the Yinka Shonibare in the Salon Doré—in the center of this very old world room you have this very, very current contemporary piece that somehow has a beautiful dialogue with the past and brings in the concerns of the present and the future with globalization. I identify with that work because I’m Nigerian, and those are patterns I grew up wearing, but I also connect with the global identity of the piece. I’m coming from one culture but have connections to many around the world, especially through music and fashion. That will reflect itself in my mix as well. There will be sounds from Berlin and South Africa.
Are there any artists whose work has been a major influence for you?
The biggest direct influence for me, who gave me the push to do my own DJing, was seeing the art, fashion, and music collective ghe20 g0th1k, led by a woman named DJ Venus X. She employs music to make people feel included, to make an atmosphere where everyone will feel welcome and to give them really awesome music to hear that the might not usually get to hear.
Is that also what you want to accomplish when you’re DJing?
Yeah. I just want people to be able to move and not feel self-conscious, and that’s a really important function that music can play that art doesn’t always play, I think.
Any music that’s been in heavy rotation for you lately?
ARTINI is a vibrant evening of art, cocktails, entertainment, and dancing. The gala is the culmination of a month-long celebration in which eight mixologists from the District’s most prominent restaurants and bars compete to see who can create the most artistic martini. Sample all eight artinis and view the works from the collection that inspired them. The evening also features hors d’oeuvres and dancing.
“Big Tony” and Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson will be speaking on the DIY DC panel tonight (Thursday, March 28th @ 7pm) at the Corcoran. Co-presented by Washington City Paper. Pre-registration recommended: Details here.
Tony “Big Tony” Fisher is a singer and lead bassist for Trouble Funk, one of the most popular D.C. Go-Go bands. The original band, Trouble Band, played Top Forty hits until opening up for Chuck Brown, at which time they began recording their own original Go-Go songs. In 1981 their releases Pump Up The Volume and Drop the Bomb hit big and they are still sampled by hip hop DJ’s around the world. Trouble Funk is one of the only Go-Go bands to play crossover shows with bands like Minor Threat and The Beastie Boys, who actually opened up for them.
Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson is the lead guitarist for Rare Essence, another pioneering D.C. Go-Go band. The band’s hits Body Moves and Work the Walls and the album Live at Breeze’s Metro Club, along with their exciting live performances, cemented their popularity. Rare Essence still plays shows several nights a week and their iconic winged RE logo is a well-known symbol on the east coast and the primary influence of legendary D.C. graffiti writer RE Randy’s name.
Both Trouble Funk and Rare Essence started out playing shows at Savoy Elementary School for twenty-five cents and a canned good.
Could each of you describe how your band got its name?
Big Tony: Okay, well, actually, when Rio started off, he had a band by the name of the Day-Tones, or something like that, and he was just having a lot of problems with the band. He was like, “This ain’t nothing but a whole bunch of trouble, and I think that’s what I’m calling the band—Trouble.” And that’s how we changed from Day-Tones to Trouble, Trouble Band the Show. … Then we had a Hammond B-3 organ, and my cousin and I, we took and modified it. We took a big old board and we painted it white. We put some graffiti and that glitter stuff on it and we wrote “TROUBLE” in big letters, “will,” in small letters, “FUNK” in big letters, and “you” in little letters. So when you looked at it, it looked like “Trouble Funk,” but it’s like, “TROUBLE will FUNK you,” that was what it said. People started calling us Trouble Funk and we just adopted the name.
Andre: At first we named the band the Young Dynamos and then it was called Thesis and then … Foots came and said, “Look, we need to have a different kind of name, because this name is going to stand out.” He said, “I saw this commercial on TV that has this perfume that’s called Essence Rare.” I was like, “A name after a perfume?” He said, “No. We flip the name. We make it Rare Essence.” When he said that, it was like, “Oh, yeah, okay.”
What is the story behind the big RE logo?
Andre: We were looking for a signature. We hadn’t thought about putting a picture out there on the posters or anything. We were thinking we needed a logo like the bands of the seventies, which were the Parliament Funkadelic, Cameo, the Barclays. All of those, when you saw their name, it wasn’t just regular type, they had a graphic with it. What we figured we would do was have the Rare Essence … at first it was just a simple R and an E, but then Funk was like, “No. We need to add something to this, because that’s too plain.” He drew the wings off of the back and then drew the wings off of the front. From that point on, it turned into a whole bunch of other different types of wings, whether it was leaning forward, then it was leaning back, and all of that there. It just evolved into what it is today.
Why did Go-Go not hit the mainstream?
Andre: You know what? I think that Go-Go has hit the mainstream. The problem with Go-Go today is we don’t have the hits on national radio that everybody else does. There are a lot of groups that are taking from Go-Go right now. Taking the beats, taking the sounds, taking a lot of what we do between the call-and-response and all of that [and] other things. They’re taking from it and using it in their own ways. Trouble Funk has done I don’t know how many national and world tours. Sugar Bear, E.U., had done a bunch of tours in the late eighties, early nineties that would not have sold had it not been for E.U., and they had major artists on those shows. They had Heavy D, they had Keith Sweat, they had Salt ‘n’ Pepa, all of those groups there. The concert tickets were selling pretty good. As soon as they put E.U. on that show, sold out … people really like and they’re into Go-Go. We think that all we need is the hits.
Big Tony: That’s the only thing that hip hop really has over Go-Go … consistent hits.
Andre: Right, and it was in New York, which is where the game is. All of the major labels are in New York or in L.A. If you want to be in the entertainment business, that’s what you do. You either go to New York or you go to L.A., and D.C. didn’t have anything like that. Had we had a major label based out of here, we would’ve been … we would have tons and tons of hits.… There’s not enough interest and not enough major label or big business interest, which is the reason that Trouble Funk has their own label, we have our own label, and everybody else has their own label.… Instead of us waiting on them to sign us, we figured, well, now we can sell twenty, thirty thousand records right there ourselves.
How would you describe the sound of Go-Go to people not from D.C.?
Big Tony: Man, I would describe Go-Go.… It’s a lot of syncopated percussion involved, just a consistent funky drive with a lot of call-and-response between the band and the audience. It’s a very intimate type of situation, and it’s not just local, because Trouble Funk, we perform all over the world and got the same response.
Andre: Right, and a lot of times, once we get the people there live, oh, we got them after that. The thing is to get them in the building. After we get them in that club, when they leave that club that night, they’re fans, because they get caught up in the excitement of everybody else in the club. I had a bunch of people that tell me, “When I walked in here, I didn’t understand this. I didn’t like it, but now, I love it.”
Big Tony: We have toured with groups like WAR, Herbie Hancock, Chevy Hills, Cameo, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone. As a matter of fact, we all started out together. I mean, we were headlining these cats—Fishbone and Red Hot Chili Peppers and Beastie Boys. We were headlining all these cats, and we were shutting them down everywhere we go. As a matter of fact, we did a gig with Herbie Hancock, and we was at the Montreal Jazz Festival, and Herbie came in and said, “Man, what’s all this. It looks like some kind of jungle up in here, all these drums.” That night was an experience for him.
What are PA tapes?
Big Tony: PA tapes are bootlegs.
Andre: In the early days, that was the biggest way that the groups were promoted.… We would play here on the Showmobile Stage and there would be a whole sea of boomboxes on people’s shoulders with the record button pressed, because they were going to take that tape home and listen to it for the rest of the month, year, or whatever.
Big Tony: And if you can get a good one, then you can make some money.… The soundman had started recording direct, and the tapes would get out there and people get them. They want to buy them and whatever, and PA tapes, they started becoming very popular. And the thing about the PA tape is if the bootlegs don’t want it, then that means they really ain’t that good. They’ve got to want your stuff. If they want it, then you know you’ve got something good. Actually, that kind of worked out to an advantage to have bootleggers around.
Header photo: Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson and Rare Essence, 2012. Rosina Teri Memolo.
Learn more about D.C.’s Go-Go scene tonight with Kip Lornell (Adjunct Professor of American Music and Ethnomusicology at George Washington University) as he chronicles the development and ongoing popularity of the only musical form indigenous to Washington, D.C. Lecture begins at 7 p.m.: register now.
In collaboration with Corcoran College of Art + Design students, Shodekeh and Krysia Bock performTranslucent Bodies throughout the Gallery. Dominic “Shodekeh” Talifero is a professional beatboxer and vocal percussionist currently working in the Baltimore area. He has applied his beatboxing to everything from ballet classes and Lithuanian folk singing to experimental improvisation and collaborations with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Channeling musical instruments and soundscapes, he vocalizes dynamic emulations of the world around him: drum sets, turntables, ocean waves, and sleigh bells.
Also happening is Corcoran Uncorked. So stop in for drinks from Ted’s Bulletin and treats from Cookies & Corks, check out the Gallery (open late!), and then get ready for an amazing performance. Everything starts at 6 p.m. Shodekeh starts at 7 p.m., free with Gallery admission.
Go-go and punk rock were very do-it-yourself. There was not a lot of radio play, as Iley talked about, for either. And people were making their own records, creating their own record labels, booking their own shows. There was not major money behind it. People were doing it themselves. And because they were doing it themselves, they were doing it for their community and then the outgrowth into their community.
Go-Go and hardcore emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s as uniquely Washingtonian urban youth subcultures. Iley Brown (discographer, writer, promoter and DJ), 9:30 Club owner Seth Hurwitz, D.C. Go-Go and hip-hop figure DJ Kool, and musician Alec MacKaye (Untouchables, The Faith, and Ignition) share stories from these two underground music scenes and discuss their origins, folkways, and parallels. The panel is moderated by Washington City Paper managing editor Jonathan L. Fischer.
Seven things you didn’t know about Baltimore beatboxer Shodekeh
By Allie O’Hora
1. Shodekeh (SHO-de-kay) is his middle name. The name is Nigerian in origin and means “warrior/one who fights for what he believes in.”
2. He’s an interdisciplinary artist by nature who finds inspiration for his work in all different kinds of art and performance. “Music does not have to be a medium that exists purely in sound, just as the visual arts don’t strictly have to be something you see with your eye. It can be something musical or something physical.”
Shodekeh recommends the documentaryDark Light: The Art of Blind Photographers.
3. He is basically a human Lyre bird. He says he started out beatboxing as a child, trying to emulate the noises his toys made, and went from there. “Now…” He imitates the noise of a chainsaw, then slowly transforms the sound into a throbbing beat.
4. He can beatbox along with anything. Even classical violinist Sirina Huang:
5. He likes to explore the limits of the senses in his work, which can occasionally be hazardous. In his Blind Orbit exercise, which he frequently performs in student workshops, a blindfolded dancer moves in a circle around him, responding to his rhythmic and percussive vocalizations without the benefit of a visual reference point. A successful workshop, he says, is one where the dancer doesn’t crash into him.
6. He has a synesthetic approach to his music and sees shapes when he beatboxes.
7. He describes pairing shapes with sounds almost as a memory trick: “I think it gives me access to being able to recreate that sound,” he explains. In his work with Corcoran students, he hopes to create concrete form from his vocalizations through improvisation and performance, as the dancers do in this performance from Shen Wei Dance Arts.
…and Three about krysia bock
By Mark Swartz
Shodekeh’s collaborator, choreographer Krysia (/KRISH-a/) Bock, promises, “Breath, voice, movement, and visual arts will be combined into a nice little package. We’ll move the audience into a new space.” Here are few things to know about Krysia:
1. This isn’t her first time collaborating with Shodekeh. They worked together in 2010 on “Dorsal Exposure” for the New Steps Choreographer’s Showcase.
2. She’s certified in both pilates and yoga (she trained in Goa, India), and now she’s taking courses at George Mason in preparation for a graduate degree in physical therapy. She explains, “Giving people a movement experience is really important. Physical therapy is a way to that. It helps me understand how the body works.”
3. She’s inspired by the Gaga movement—and its founder, Ohed Naharin. As Krysia explains, “You’re experiencing what’s happening in your own body. There’s something very raw and animalistic about it—something you don’t get from watching a ballerina.”
Shodekeh and Krysia perform this Wednesday night at the Corcoran. Also happening is Corcoran Uncorked. So stop in for drinks from Ted’s Bulletin and Cookies & Corks, check out the Gallery (open late!), then settle in for an amazing performance. Everything starts at 6 p.m., Shodekeh starts at 7 p.m.
weekly Washington City Paper highlighted aspects of life in the capital city not covered in The Washington Post or other mainstream press–a role it continues to play thirty years later. These clips from the archives demonstrate some of the ways that WCP chronicled D.C.’s Go-Go scene, which is celebrated in the exhibition Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture of the 1980s. (Don’t miss musicologist Kip Lornell’s Go-Go lecture at the Corcoran March 18 at 7 p.m.)
Listing a Go-Go concert held on July 12, 1985, at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium (still a great place to see a concert), the editors drily note how the music press took its time to catch onto the genre that spawned the acts Trouble Funk, E.U., and Class Band–“the only publication that hasn’t done a go-go story is Popular Mechanics.”
In another clip, the writer discusses an Island Records compilation featuring Chuck Brown–photographed between two identically mustached and scarved mannequins–and five other artists. The notion of Go-Go becoming as big as reggae one day is simultaneously hoped-for and dismissed. What catches our eye these days, however, is the aerobics studio ad.
Finally, WCP (un)covers an entirely different kind of Go-Go–the kind of club where scantily clad women display themselves. Observing a protest by a group called Dupont Circle Citizens Against Sleaze, whose members chant, “Bistros not bimbos!” reporter William R. Rice asks, “Why are the busy professionals of Dupont Circle giving [club proprietor] LennyLowenstein so much free publicity?”
The first bands to play the 9:30 Club were the Lounge Lizards and Tiny Desk Unit. People packed the small black-box room, and the show sold out. That night the club became the official breeding ground for the alternative and progressive music scene in D.C. According to local promoter Seth Hurwitz,
“It was the true alternative culture downtown in Washington. That was when the word alternative really meant alternative.”
The spontaneity, style, and integrity of the scene helped create the unique experience in the rundown Northwest neighborhood. “Back then it was super sketchy. This was way before any one had any thoughts of developing. It was just an old funky part of D.C. with funky old stores. D.C. was all pretty much black at this time. The location was famous for being around the corner from Ford Theater. In fact, legend has it that John Wilkes Booth escaped through the basement of what was the 9:30 Club. It was frontier land, nobody went in there with the idea that this was gonna be big someday, there was no master plan at work,” says Seth, who booked The Fleshtones as his first show at the club and later took over ownership with Rich Heinecke in 1986.
FLASHBACK: Anyone remember these halls?
In the eighties, two very different genres of music were alive and well in D.C.: Go-Go and hardcore punk rock. The former was characterized by a continuous groove, the latter by a screaming voice, but both felt at home on the stage at the 9:30. Other bands that played the early days included Chuck Brown, E.U., Rare Essence, REM, The Go-Go’s, X, The Slickee Boys, Tony Bennett, Devo, Urban Verbs, Black Flag, Government Issue, and Steel Pulse. The club soon became known for hosting cool new bands, and some nights Dody even turned down bigger acts like the Police and Prince because they already had their lineups booked and wouldn’t make concessions based on profits. It was important to Dody, and later Seth and Rich, to keep the spot genuine and saturated with a lot of different genres.
The club was very special to the locals and to the many musicians who played there. It had a sense of danger and, as Seth describes it, the distinctive the smell of “cigarettes, beer, and when air conditioners don’t work right.” The city even ran a contest to name the smell. Back then, D.C. was a hotbed of local talent, bands that were proud to be from D.C. Although many never gained national recognition, they were lifelong natives, and staying in D.C. and playing at the 9:30 was a badge of honor. Bands such as Trouble Funk, Razz, and Fugazi were true hometown heroes that often played the 9:30.
Get the feel and the sound (but no, not the smell) of the old 9:30 Club with a mix inspired by this undated flyer:
“I hold a serious culinary grudge,” Gastman says, “like pretty much forever. If you mess my food up or are rude and don’t try and make it up to me I am never coming back. I’m also going to tell all my friends and anyone that will listen. And then I’m going to write your name on my BANNED LIST. I’m going to get mad at friends if I find out they ate at your place.”
2. He has a blog where he talks (or posts) about everything… seriously, just about everything.
I mean we’ve got John Lennon, a street pug, license plates, and a vote in exchange for a lap dance.
3. He was asked (by The Rumpus) “How did a nice Jewish kid from Bethesda get into graffiti?”
In the early ’90s I was into punk rock and hardcore music. Everyone had a tag. They were running around writing on crap. It seemed interesting—I didn’t do it at first. By the end of 8th grade I started screwing around with it a little bit and by the middle of 9th grade I was totally immersed in it. Running around downtown, stealing spraypaint, running around at night doing stuff I shouldn’t have been doing.
Listen as Roger discusses the graffiti of Washington, D.C., and then join for an exhibition viewing and book signing. For those of you not in the house, we will be livestreaming and tweeting the talk, so tune in at 7pm and follow along on Twitter #PumpMeUp.
And to add one last kicker to the deal, the District’s own Bootsy Vegas is going to be in the house, broadcasting his NAME show live.
With that, we will leave you with a jam to get in the mood:
The Corcoran’s Atrium and Rotunda are covered with harDCore and Go-Go memories, and we also offer a full schedule of public programs starring the people who brought those scenes to life. Keep your Pump Me Up desires satisfied and register now.
Wednesday, February 27, 7 p.m. $10 Members; $12 Public
To complement Pump Me Up, the exhibition he curated, graffiti historian Roger Gastman discusses the graffiti of Washington, D.C. Gastman began writing graffiti as a teenager in Bethesda. He co-curated the exhibition Art in the Streets at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. His film production credits include Banksy’s Exit through the Gift Shop, and Wall Writers. An exhibition viewing and book signing follows the talk. Sold Out–streaming live.
Corcoran Members at the Family level and above gain entrance at 9:30 a.m.
Get ready for a rocking art escapade! This FREE family day includes live musical performances, DJ workshops with the Scratch DJ Academy, make-your-own instrument and graffiti writing workshops, interactive breakdancing performances, face painting, designing posters for a cause, prizes and more! More information.
Ian MacKaye—D.C. native, musician, producer, and co-founder of Dischord Records—became an important voice in the development and influence of D.C. hardcore music in the 1980s. A member of bands such as Minor Threat, Teen Idles, Embrace, Fugazi, and the Evens, MacKaye continues to make music. For over three decades, he has remained a strong advocate for maintaining an independent identity in the music business. MacKaye sits down with Pump Me Up curator Roger Gastman to discuss growing up in the capital, the culture and energy of the city in the 1980s, and the legacy of D.C.’s punk rock music scene. SOLD OUT.
Wednesday, March 6, 6:30 p.m. Free with Gallery admission; SOLD OUT.
Join Bob Cicero, owner of Baltimore’s legendary show card printer, Globe Poster Printing Corp.; John Lewis, Arts and Culture Editor at Baltimore Magazine; and Mary Mashburn, printmaking instructor at Maryland Institute College of Art for a gallery talk on the Globe posters on view in Pump Me Up: DC Subculture of the 1980s. They discuss the elements that make Globe posters so distinctive, the talented people behind the press, and Globe’s new life at MICA. SOLD OUT.
Tuesday, March 12, 7 p.m. $8 members; $10 public
Go-Go and hardcore emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s as uniquely Washingtonian urban youth subcultures. Iley Brown of Stride Records, 9:30 Club owner Seth Hurwitz, D.C. Go-Go and hip-hop figure DJ Kool, and musician Alec MacKaye (Untouchables, The Faith, and Ignition) share stories from these two underground music scenes and discuss their origins, folkways, and parallels. The panel is moderated by Washington City Paper managing editor Jonathan L. Fischer. Register now.
Monday, March 18, 7 p.m. $8 members; $10 public
Join Kip Lornell, Adjunct Professor of American Music and Ethnomusicology at George Washington University and co- author of The Beat: Go-Go Music from Washington, DC, as he chronicles the development and ongoing popularity of go- go music, the only musical form indigenous to Washington, D.C. In the mid-1970s, Chuck Brown pioneered the iconic go-go sound, influenced by local Latin percussion ensembles, disco, Grover Washington’s hit single “Mr. Magic,” and funk. By the mid-1980s, bands such as Rare Essence (RE), Trouble Funk, and Junk Yard Band had emerged. Today we are in our third generation of go-go, and the music tradition continues to evolve and thrive in the district, with most recent bands playing what’s known as “bounce beat” go-go. Dr. Lornell’s talk will highlight this nearly 40-year history with musical excerpts and video clips. Register now.
Thursday, March 28, 7 p.m. $8 members; $10 public Co-presented by Washington City Paper
During the 1980s, Washington’s go-go and punk scenes adhered to different sets of cultural rules, yet both shared a staunchly DIY approach. This panel discussion, moderated by Alona Wartofsky, a former writer and editor for City Paper and The Washington Post, will explore the music and gang cultures of pre-gentrification D.C. Panelists include Trouble Funk’s “Big” Tony Fisher, Rare Essence’s Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson, longtime Washington music writer Mark Jenkins, former D.C. Police detective Donald “Goose” Gossage, and Gangster George, a former member of the Gangster Chronicles crew. Register now.