Sunday, November 9, 2008

Paint the White House Black

"Josh, I want you to run sound for this band I know. They need a sound man for their rehearsals."

"Sure, Chuck!"

So I showed up for the rehearsal, and my playing changed forever. I had stepped in to the world of Go Go.

Pioneered by guitarist and vocalist Chuck Brown, it's a music native to Washington, DC. - My hood, homie! A mix of funk, rap, reggae, and latin, it's the modern day tribal beat of the inner city. Specific to the DC region, it's had limited success in the rest of the states. However, it continues to grow and evolve . (By the way, I once sold a pack of guitar strings to Mr. Brown himself - it was neat!)

Check out this video for a good idea of some ol' school Go Go. I just found it, and it is funky! It's by a band called Trouble Funk - they were big in the 80's.

Fast forward to the present day, where most guys didn't look like Mr. T any more.

So I showed up at this rehearsal to run sound. Boy, it was a big band. There were a gazillion members, and they all liked their monitors hot, and their sound to be right. In between sweating bullets to get their sound perfect, I grew fascinated with the hypnotic conga drum beats, cowbell punctuations, and keyboard hooks. These guys could jam!

So, the sound gig led to a guitar gig, and I was with the Posse for a good long bit. Go Go has a history of violence and drugs at their gigs, but these guys 'n gals were a religious outfit - havin' a holy ghost party! I'm not even Christian, but they took me under their wing, and I learned a lifetime worth of groove in my stint in the band. I was the only white guy in the band, but they helped me out with my fashion and groove, and pretty soon, I had a cool hat, could swing 16th notes, even do the special hand shake! (It did take me a lot of practice.) I had a blast in the band.

Of course, a cool thing the patient guys in the Posse showed me was that being of Lithuanian descent wasn't my problem in not grooving at first, no matter how much I hollered about the direct correlation of rhythmic impairment to low melanin levels. It was what I listened to, practiced, and played. I eventually got my act together. (As a side note, one of the grooviest bass players I've jammed with was from Sweden, underscoring the point made above.)

Playing in a band that was different that my normal style of playing was a terrific experience. Try it if you get a chance!

A 30's something white guy client of mine gave me this cool tape of old go go bands. It's great, and I love to crank it up to get some groove in my playing. It's called Paint the White House Black.

How fitting since last Tuesday!


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