Local go-go band Experience Unlimited (EU) returned to the 9:30 club Friday night, offering its version of the District grooves to an audience that rarely hears live go-go on its home turf. While one could have griped about the band's dearth of new, original material, you'd have had to search long and hard to find anyone in the packed club to agree. The band covered several rap hits, including L.L. Cool J's "I'm Bad," but while they improved on some, other rap tunes, such as a weak "Cinderfella Dana Dane," would have been better left alone. Ditto for an uncharacteristically syrupy cover of "One More Night," dedicated to the Washington Redskins.
EU always sounds best doing original material, and Friday night was no exception. The guitar jams of "EU Freeze" were awesome, as was the delightful cacophony that came with the synthesizer sweeps of "Who's That Doing the Cabbage Patch, Y'all?" Much of the credit for the band's inimitable style lies with vocalist Sugar Bear. Whether beating on a cowbell, going through the motions of a heavy-metal guitar shtick, tilting back for his trademark eerie laugh or swatting invisible flies in the air while chanting, "Take it to the bridge," Bear led his band to that bridge, over that bridge and then some.
It didn't help the party band Royal Crescent Mob, based in Columbus, Ohio, that it was sandwiched between two EU sets. What should have come across as a raucous celebration of R&B influences seemed self-conscious and derivative, saved only by the band's sense of humor. Although the Mob covered more than a few great funk numbers (including the Ohio Players' "Fire"), the group's best moments came with originals, such as "Love and Tuna Fish."