If you've never seen DC go-go legends Rare Essence, you can rectify that by heading out to the Summer Spirit Festival at Merriweather this Saturday. Lots of folks will be going to check out D'Angelo and Erykah Badu (and rightly so), but local music lovers know Rare Essence is capable of upstaging the headliners. One of the best live acts to come out of DC, they're still going strong after more than three decades. I asked founding member Andre "Whiteboy" Johnson about Saturday's show and the current state of go-go.
What’s happening with go-go these days? Any new bands to keep an ear out for? How about venues?
The GOGO scene in the DMV is very hit and miss these days. Some shows have a great turnout and some not so much. We know this is due to certain venues closing and the lack of support from urban radio. In the past, radio support helped the genre thrive and even prosper. There are a few new bands on the scene today that are really starting to make a name for themselves. One in particular is Black Alley, who is opening the Spirit Fest on Saturday. They call their music Soul Garage Music which seems to be a mixture of Soul, Rock, R&B and GOGO all rolled in together. There are no new venues to speak of. There seem to fewer every week.
What effect has Chuck Brown's passing had on the scene?
Chuck Brown's passing has left a void amongst old school lovers and hardcore Chuck fans such as myself. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE!! The Howard Theatre does Wind Me Up Chuck Mondays in which different bands or artists perform with the Chuck Brown Band to keep his memory alive.
What's up with Rare Essence? Any new recordings on tap?
We recently released PA#16 and the RE Mixtape Vol.2. We are currently doing the final mix on our first studio record in 13 years—it’s all new and original songs. We’re very excited about it and feel like it’s some of our best work. It will probably be released at the top of 2014.
Have you played at Merriweather before? What do you think of Saturday's lineup? Who are you looking forward to seeing?
Rare Essence has never played Merriweather before. This is our first time, and we’re excited for the opportunity. Saturday's line up is great. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone, especially Erykah Badu and D'Angelo. I really like that neo-soul sound and vibe.
I've been asking various musicians/artists/writers two questions: What piece of art—music/visual art/film/whatever—changed your life? How did it affect you?
The Jacksons Victory Tour in 1984. Watching the Jacksons on stage made me want to work even harder to get to that level of performance. I’m still working toward that.