Go-go music, D.C.’s own distinctive brand of funk, may have faded a bit since its heyday here a couple of decades ago, but it still has its true believers. Count among them composer Liza Figueroa Kravinsky, whose work fuses the raw, physical power of go-go with the nuanced complexity of classical orchestral music. Crazy? Maybe. But on Friday night, Kravinsky brought her hard-driving “Go-Go Symphony” to the Atlas Performing Arts Center — and it brought the sold-out house to its feet, cheering.
In fact, the whole evening (part of the Atlas’s “Intersections” series) was one wild, unpredictable combination after another. The classical Capital City Symphony (led by conductor John Devlin) was backed by a rhythm section of seasoned go-go players, while “beat ya feet” dancers from Da Originalz fronted the stage with electric guitarist Stephen Curtin, Rosshan Monroe on tenor sax and a string of hard-charging horns. It wasn’t always a fair fight — the amplified rhythm section tended to steamroll the delicate strings — but the music itself roared, from go-go treatments of Mozart, Richard Strauss and Edvard Grieg (whose funkified “In the Hall of the Mountain King” may never be the same) to a pair of subtle-but-powerful works by saxophonist Peter Van Siclen.
When MC Head Roc took the stage for Kravinsky’s “Go-Go Symphony,” though, things really kicked into gear. A born performer, Head Roc had the audience up in their seats throughout this exuberant work, which built small, punchy gestures into a powerhouse of unstoppable momentum. Will “symphonic go-go” take the world by storm? Hard to say — but in Kravinsky’s hands, at least, it’s well worth a listen.
Brookes is a freelance writer.