Chuck Brown

Chuck Brown

He may be 68, but the dashing and dynamic Chuck Brown lays down his nonstop go-go jams with more energy than rockers half his age.

music True originals in the music scene are few and far between. Maybe that’s why Chuck Brown, the man who pioneered the booty-shaking funk mélange known as go-go, has built up such a loyal following over the decades. After all, it’s not just anyone who creates an entirely new type of music.
    Performers of go-go, for those not in the know-know (how could I resist?), play song after song without stopping. Constant drumming and a steady bass line provide the foundation on which other instruments and vocals are added, allowing for a lot of improvisation and free movement between songs. The genre draws from funk, jazz, blues and gospel.
    That much was evident from Chuck Brown’s appearance at Satellite Ballroom on Saturday. Looking every inch the jazz man with his dashing hat, neat goatee and six-string electric, the 68-year-old Brown charmed the crowd from the first note of his two-hour set.
    Upon taking the stage, Brown was greeted with repeated cries of “Wind me up, Chuck!” The diehard fans—many of them having driven from Washington, D.C., where Brown has been based since the ’70s—were clearly out in force.
    Brown and his band launched right into the thick of it. Brown made frequent use of the call-and-response chorus throughout the night. After belting out a line or phrase, he got the audience shouting it right back at him, like a guitar-toting preacher whipping his congregation into a funky gospel frenzy.
    The audience was especially involved in “Run Joe,” a song that needles at authority, and the bluesy “We Need Some Money”—not to mention a funk-tastic cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song.” The crowd’s energy was palpable. People were dancing like mad, and the sweat was flying. It’s no small wonder then that Chuck Brown has recorded more live albums than most artists have studio discs.
    Brown’s sound was defined by his large and diverse band. The two drummers—one on the traditional kit and one on congas—did most of the heavy lifting, with a focused bassist on the five-string helping to keep things rolling. A keyboardist and accompanying vocalist also got in the mix, but it was the brass section that really did the trick. The performances on trumpet, sax and trombone really set the night’s funky tone. Mark Willows on the ’bone, in particular, had a great solo, walking that fine line of being disciplined without being repetitive.
    Go-go of this caliber isn’t likely to be found in Charlottesville very often. So next time you’re in a dancing mood, and get the opportunity to catch one of Chuck Brown’s shows, do yourself a favor and (oh, I just can’t stop myself) go-go.

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