“Hold up!” DJ Kool shouted from the stage.
They and more than a thousand others came out Saturday afternoon to the corner of the Northeast Washington park named for the “the Godfather of Go-Go” to celebrate the musician and his contributions.
“We know that to celebrate someone’s legacy, it takes intentionality,” Department of Parks and Recreation Director Delano Hunter, a native Washingtonian, said. “To celebrate Chuck Brown is to celebrate the fabric of who we are as a city.”
The annual festival, put on by DPR and D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), underscores the city’s appreciation for Brown’s music and legacy, Hunter said.
This year also marked 10 years since the musician’s death, a moment that “feels like yesterday,” Wiley Brown, 32, Brown’s son, said. Brown said he remembers being onstage with his father as young as 4-years-old. He’s now a vocalist in his father’s Chuck Brown Band, and he performed Saturday. Seeing the fans every year at the event for his dad means “the world,” he said.
“It’s nothing but love when you come to Chuck Brown Park on Chuck Brown Day,” Wiley Brown said. “That’s a testament to how much love he poured out, and it’s still being given back.”
Chuck Brown Day began when Chuck Brown Memorial Park, a section of Langdon Park, was dedicated in 2014, Hunter said. The free and open event features live performances, food trucks, activities and games for children. Nearly 4,000 attendees come throughout the day, the director said.
This year’s performances, hosted by DJ Kool, included musicians Rare Essence, Uncalled 4 Band, Doug E. Fresh and the headliner, Chuck Brown Band.
The park was transformed into a balloon-lined backyard barbecue bumping with go-go music and bodies. Children played in the moon bounce as a fan blowing water kept passersby cool. Attendees feasted on fried fish and devoured ice cream cones in the heat.
DPR and the Department of Behavioral Health both set up booths, and The Chuck Brown Foundation hosted a free bookbag giveaway for students.
By 2 p.m., the scheduled start of the festival, picnics filled the grounds of the park. Families lounged on blankets and lawn chairs next to ice-filled coolers.
Jordan, who was seated toward the front, grew up listening to Brown and has been attending go-go concerts since he was 16, he said. He brought his children to be inspired by Brown’s legacy and go-go music as much as he has been.
“He’s always been in my life … that’s why I brought them,” Jordan said of Brown as he pointed to his children. “So they can experience the music, the culture and just enjoy themselves.”
“It’s a D.C. thing,” Jordan added with a smile.
Hunter said D.C. prides itself on being the birthplace of Brown’s iconic go-go genre, a type of hip-hop-inflected funk with a strong backbeat. Gathering fans together every year “epitomizes Chuck Brown’s legacy,” he said.
“It was all about togetherness. It was about having a good time, celebrating each other,” Hunter said of Brown and his music. “The event and the dynamics have sort of taken on the persona of Chuck Brown.”
Wiley Brown said the moment anyone hears his father’s music “you can’t sit still.” Some of his favorite tunes include “Day-O,” “Chuck Baby,” and of course, “Bustin’ Loose,” he said.
“It’s very melodic. He incorporated all the things he loved as a kid such as jazz, 50s, ragtime,” Wiley Brown said. “He was able to take those things that influenced him and put his own spin on it … then it became a sound for the town.”
When the Uncalled 4 Band kicked off their performance, people stood up from their chairs, nodding their heads and dancing to the music. Some crowded toward the front, feet moving and mouths grinning.