Hundreds of fans and music lovers honored legendary go-go pioneer Chuck Brown at a tribute concert Thursday night at the newly renovated Howard Theatre.
Longtime popular group Rare Essence hit classic tunes familiar to fans of the Godfather of Go-Go including “Bustin’ Loose” and “Chuck Baby”- which featured a rap performed by Brown’s daughter, K.K. Brown. Brown, who died May 16, shined shoes outside the theater as a child and played there until it closed in the early 1980s. His wake late last month at the recently reopened building attracted thousands.
“How does it feel to be back in the Howard Theatre,” asked lead talker James Funk before he did a roll call of sorts, asking what quadrants of the District of Columbia, neighborhoods and even countries fans represented.
Funk noted how grateful his group was to Brown’s assistance along their more than 35-year career. He also praised Brown for serving as a mentor for artists of different ages and genres. The band primarily played Brown’s song, but also their crowd favorites including “Freaky Deak” and “Lock It.”
“I thought it was excellent because I’m ol’ school and I remember those shows and that energy and they really honored Chuck with the music,” said Kizzy Dogan, a D.C. native who lives in Bowie, Md. Her sister said one of the best parts was seeing percussionist Milton “Go-Go Mickey” Freeman’s sons perform.
Marc Powers, director of marketing for the Howard Theatre, said the goal was to recreate an ol’ school feel, reminiscent of shows at now-closed venues such as the Chapter III Club, Metro Club and the Ibex where “you would have the Fugees play with like Backyard” or “Eric B. and Rakim would open and (Rare) Essence closed out the night.”
Powers said to “add spice to the mix, we had N.O. to go-go” referencing the appearance of New Orleans-based Soul Rebel Brass Band.
“It was a great blend,” Powers said.
The eight-member group initially joined Essence on stage before opening their set with Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall,” keeping the energy level high with fans dancing in a single line around the theater floor.
“I liked the blend. Go-go already has pieces of different styles and the energy was great,” said Shawn Johnson of D.C.
Hip-hop icon Slick Rick closed out the more than three-hour show.
“It was great. It was wonderful,” K.K. Brown said. “I loved it.”