I first heard of Go-go back in the mid-nineties. I was visiting relatives in Virginia and attempting to explain jungle, the music that had me so excited at the time. After listening to my description, one of my aunts said: “Oh, you mean Go-go?”
I’ve since heard fascinating stories about the Washington D.C.-based sound from them, as well as Ian MacKaye and a few other DCers who witnessed Go-go at the heights of its popularity. Percussion-heavy live bands operating like DJs by vamping out current radio hits, long long performances, issues of segregation and public space in the predominantly black scene, the many struggles of a genre that never quite broke through beyond the D.C. area. There was a lot going on…
Earlier this year some of the Anthology of Booty sisters took me to a nice 2nd-hand vinyl shop in DC where I had the chance to sift through old Go-go 12″s. More than anything, they felt like artifacts, little durable reminders of a much larger, harder-to-hold-onto moment. Those 12″s left me wanting to hear more about the histories of Go-go and those of the people and places where it took root.
A 1980s BBC documentary on Go-go was recently uploaded to Youtube. I hope it lingers… Here’s part 1: