A primer on the subject of "go-go music" was held Friday night at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium, featuring a band called Class that had been brought in from Northeast Washington so whites could learn more about this black musical form.
Millions of dollars, including a movie, "Good to Go," which is scheduled for release next month, have been invested in the local musical phenomenon called "go-go." But so far, promoters have had difficulty acquainting whites with the music created on city streets in low-income Washington neighborhoods.
Thus, could this music, nurtured on the stoops of housing projects such as Barry Farms and Valley Green in Southeast Washington, profitably be brought into Washington proper?
"I feel there are white kids interested in this music who are uncomfortable going into black neighborhoods," said David Rubin, head of Dogbite Productions, which sponsored the show at GWU. "I'm trying to bring the music out of the black neighborhoods so whites can hear it, and hope that it will bring down other barriers."
Not long ago, Rubin tried the same thing at Georgetown University. But when university officials learned that he was bringing in a go-go band, they tried to cancel the show. A D.C. Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order against the university, and the concert was held.
"Basically, people think I'm bringing in a bunch of dirty street kids and they don't want any trouble in their halls," Rubin said. "All I'm trying to do is get blacks and whites partying together, and go-go is a natural bridge."
The 11-piece Class band took to the stage before a crowd of about 350 people, rapping nonstop to go-go music -- which is like talking over a drum quartet. The lead rapper, who is 18, wore sunglasses and also played trumpet.
"We're gonna tell you 'bout them valley girls," he sang, as the band echoed this refrain six times.
A few heads began to bobble in the crowd.
"They're so sweet, and oh so fine, sexy as hell and bonafide."
Then a few hands went up and began to wave.
The band changed its beat and began sounding like Bishop Walter (Sweet Daddy) McCollough's United House of Prayer brass and drum band on baptism day at the James River.
"Get up on your feet," the lead rapper commanded. "The freaks come out at night."
Suddenly, people appeared with boogie boxes on their shoulders, marching down the auditorium aisle to dance in front of the stage.
"Just keep on doing what you're doing," Class told the class. "And say, 'Hell yeah." The class replied, "Hell yeah."
And everybody started to boogie. "You look real good doing what you doing," Class said as they backed away from the microphone and began a Temptations-style dance routine.
People in the audience who looked as if they could barely walk straight began trying to imitate the dancers. Preppy-looking whites awkwardly, yet unabashedly, attempted to breakdance and boogie.
Some in the audience attempted to wiggle wildly and literally jump up and down on the floor.
"We're trying to make the point that no one else can pump up this joint," the lead singer sang. "We just want everybody to know we're good to go."
Despite the rollicking good times had by all, some of the lessons learned that night did not make Rubin feel much better. Usually about 1,000 people show up for a go-go concert -- of which about four are held each week in Washington. But university officials kept a tight rein on traffic, and the crowd was not able to "bust loose" as much as some band members would have liked.
"Sometimes, I get the impression that people are afraid for black and white kids to get together," said Rubin, who was obviously dejected.
Already, groups like Hall and Oates, masters of blending popular Third World rhythms into their own style, have shown an interest in go-go while new bands like Class desperately scour the city hoping to find the secret formula first.
Before their predominantly white audience Friday night, Class did their "valley girl" routine and a medley that included the "Curley Shuffle," go-go style.
It was not typical go-go music, a sort of refined version. But its beat was unmistakenly African, which meant that even this form had not lost its roots. And as long as its youthful players did not let that happen, they -- and their go-go music -- would be good to go all over this city.