Many go-go fans have suffered the heartbreak that comes when a favorite band splits up, loses a key member or goes on indefinite hiatus. But one of the beautiful things about the scene is that disbanded go-go bands almost always come together again for at least one reunion show. The resulting gigs are rarely disappointing, and sometimes they’re so incredible that they transport fans back to the best music they’ve ever heard and the best nights of their lives. On Friday night, Uncalled 4 Band, or UCB, gave that kind of show.
UCB sold out the Howard Theatre, packing it with people amped to see Tre, Roc Mikey, Eazy, Bo, G-Money, Glenn, Slump, Rashad, Stan, Peeps and Marcus on one stage. Although various configurations of members have played together, the band officially split in 2011, shortly after the release of an eclectic mix tape, “The Blend.” Some went solo, some supported rapper (and frequent UCB collaborator) Wale on tour, some decided to do something different altogether. But on Friday, UCB sounded as tight as ever, as if they had never so much as missed a practice in the past three years.
There was a bit of a rough start: The doors opened late, a fire alarm went off inside and, in the end, the show got going nearly two hours after its advertised start time. But when titanium-wristed percussionist Slump (Jerry Venable) started hitting the congas, and singer Tre (Walker Johnson) began singing nasty lyrics in his choir-boy falsetto, all of that was forgotten.
In a seamless two-hour set, the band hit an array of material from its different eras and iterations. They covered music that once rocked live shows at the Palace and other go-go venues of old, through “Sexy Lady,” the 2005 track that has become both crossover hit and part of the go-go canon of beloved songs. There were odes to strippers (“Strip Club”) and sippers (“VSOP”), as well as love songs both sweet (“Addicted”) and not (“Too Freaky 4 Da CD”). The night was light on covers, but a snippet of Pharrell’s “Happy” and a knocking, drum-filled take on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” made it onto the full set list.
Still, the best moments were when the rugged sounds of early UCB — the rough cool of “Gangsta Walk” and the controlled chaos of “Git Git Mission” — bounced off the walls of the Howard Theatre, the old District knocking against new. Music blared out of speakers in one of the toniest venues in the city to a crowd of energetic, peaceful partyers.
Rapper Roc Mikey (Michael Bailey) said toward the end of the show to not call it a “reunion,” but a “return.” Does that mean this wasn’t a one-time thing? “Y’all don’t want us back in no-go-go,” Mikey teased, warning that the crowd wasn’t ready for them to come back and start doing regular shows again, even though he could see, clearly, that they were.
Godfrey is a freelance writer.