Of all the Washington-area go-go bands, Trouble Funk has been most willing to adjust its sound from the pumping, home-style Washington groove to one more likely to appeal to both commercial radio and national audiences accustomed to the slicker funk beats of rap music. Friday night, the group returned to the 9:30 club for an enjoyable show that showcased both the band's new direction and its go-go roots.
The first part of its set was a little rocky. The band is tighter than ever -- almost too tight -- playing ponderous percussion weighed down even more by menacing synthesizer riffs.
There was talk about an upcoming tour of Japan, but the group also played up go-go traditions: Redskins raps, irresistible solos by conga player T-Bone and references to their days at the now-defunct Paragon Club. Fortunately the band loosened considerably as the set wore on, fusing the old and the new. In an innovative mix, the song "Pump Up the Volume" led into the group's old hit "Pump Me Up," and Bootsy Collins' "Wind Me Up" was worked into the rousing party of "Let's Get Small." By the time it got to the latter, Trouble Funk was positively funky with some inspired jams that alone were worth the price of admission.