Rare Essence, Washington’s premier Go‑ Go band going on four decades has built a devoted fan base that spans multiple generations.
Originated in the mid ‘70s by the late Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown, Go-Go links songs together over percussion breakdowns—a raw, non-stop party groove fueled by congas, cowbells and timbales, with call and response interactions that obliterated divisions between a band that doesn't stop playing and audience that won't stop dancing.
Rare Essence has been the city’s most popular and enduring Go-Go band. Formed by four students at a Southeast Washington Catholic school during the mid-‘70s, the band was kept on track by several no-nonsense moms and mentored by the late Godfather of Go-Go, Chuck Brown. Rare Essence quickly developed into the city’s most powerful Go-Go band, performing six to seven nights a week. They have performed with Run DMC, LL Cool J, Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, Ice Cube, Heavy D and the Boyz, Wu Tang Clan, Redman and Method Man, French Montana, Scarface, TLC, Eric B and Rakim, YoYo, Shabba Ranks, The Roots, KRS-1 not to mention Chuck Brown, Trouble Funk, The Junk Yard Band, & EU. While no two shows are alike, music lovers new to the Go-Go experience and Rare Essence sound will quickly feel at ease among an allegiance of loyal fans chanting along to hits like “Lock It,” “One On One,” “Hey Buddy Buddy,” and the ever popular “Overnight Scenario,” which is covered by Fantasia all over the country. In a review of the band’s 30th Anniversary show, The Washington Post Pop Critic Writer Chris Richards wrote, “…this band has performed more than 5000 times. Like so many Rare Essence concerts, it’s easy to believe you’re seeing the best one.”
Dubbed “The Wickedest Band Alive” by rap pioneer Doug E. Fresh, who has collaborated with Rare Essence, one of many artists to incorporate Go‑ Go's percolating percussion, and some of its key players, into their own recordings.
Sugar Bear & EU
EU (Experience Unlimited) is one of the original WashingtonDC Go-Go bands. Fronted by founding member Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott, the original members all attended Ballou High School (currently the subject of a critically acclaimed documentary). The band chose the name Experience due to their respect for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Unlimited because they did not want to limit the range of their music. Their early regional hits included EU Freeze, Lock Your Butt, and Knock ‘Em Out Sugar Ray. Although they are best known for their Grammy nominated, massive worldwide hit Da-Butt from Spike Lee’s “School Daze” soundtrack, EU scored hits with Salt & Papa (Shake Your Thang), with rap innovator Kurtis Blow (Party Time), and on their own with Buck Wild and Taste of Your Love. Da Butt won Soul Train’s best R&B/Soul Single, Group in 1989.
EU has performed with Teena Marie, Morris Day and The Time, Mint Condition, Cameo, and countless others. They performed on a show with Bob Dylan in 1989, one of Sugar Bear’s career highlights. EU released the hit Umm Bop Bop in 2000. They dropped the single Bounce in 2001, garnering extensive airplay. EU appeared in the tribute DVD to Chuck Brown, Put Your Hands Up in 2002 (called quite possibly the best live concert DVD ever made by Murder Dog Magazine) with a brilliant set of live music, featuring a percussion showdown between Ju Ju House and Mighty Mo Hagans, along with blistering renditions of EU Freeze. Dog Star, Da Butt and much more. In 2003, EU performed to a national audience on the televised NAACP Awards’ Tribute to Spike Lee. Sugar Bear received the Legend Award at the second annual WKYS Go-Go Awards in 2007. He appears in a local TV commercial for an insurance company, and teaches special education at TC Williams.
Trouble Funk, a musical group born on the streets of Washington, D.C., is synonymous with the emergence of the non-stop, percussion driven, best seen live, experience the party, audience participatory call and response, grassroots, homegrown music called Go-Go. As the world wide ambassadors of the musical genre, Go-Go, a distant but older cousin of Hip-Hop, Trouble Funk has taken their sound from the gritty streets of D.C. to the clubs of the nation and the festivals around the world for the past 35 years.
The band and their sound, developed by mixing an uproarious blend of swinging, up-tempo 70s funk with a 60s style horn section, heavily laden with infectious percussion, topped off with booming vocals and the genre's trademark call and response, burst onto the scene in 1978. Trouble Funk, in its infancy, consisted of the writing team of band leader, bassist and vocalist Tony "Big Tony" Fisher, keyboardist Robert "Syke Dyke" Reed, James Avery and trumpet player Taylor Reed. The group was rounded out with the musical prowess of drummer Emmett Nixon, percussionists Mack Carey and Timothy "Teebone" David, guitarist Chester Davis, trombonist Gerald Reed and saxophonist David Rudd while they peppered the musical landscape of the 1980s with anthems "Drop the Bomb", "Pump Me Up", "Let's Get Small", "So Early in the Morning", "Saturday Night Live from Washington, D.C., Parts 1 and 2", "Say What?" and two R&B/Hip-Hop Billboard charting tracks, "Still Smokin" and "Good to Go". "Drop the Bomb" was the first Go-Go record to be released outside D.C. and was released by the pioneering label, Sugar Hill Records.
Trouble Funk, with their raw, party driven style, was able to capture the attention of musical enthusiasts of a variety of genres catapulting themselves onto the nation and international music scene. They would frequently tour with notable punk rock acts Minor Threat and the Big Boys, while still gracing the stage on major music festivals with legendary artists such as Curtis Mayfield, Parliament Funkadelic, Red Hot Chili Peppers, UB40, Def Leppard and Fishbone, to name a few. Trouble also recorded with Kurtis Blow and appeared in his video, "I'm Chillin'".