Jason Jones aka Scottie. Formerly of the bands Submission, Suttle Thoughts, and Big City. Currently an Associate Pastor at Zion located in Woodbridge, VA.
Michael Thompson aka Mike Madison. Formerly of the bands Side Show, and OP Tribe. Co-founder of L!ssen, and currently a member of Secret Society and Sound Nation.
Two uniquely talented guys.
Two admitted wallflowers. The type of guys you have to be reminded that they actually played in a band, played at a certain show, and sung a certain song. “Oh yeah, that’s right!” is a phrase these two guys hear all the time with great frequency.
You see, these two guys never really enjoyed the glamour of it all…just the craft.
Two guys that would rather sing, then immediately throw a smoke bomb down on stage as they disappear from sight. As they’ve performed all around the city at multiple venues, in multiple bands, and with thousands of people watching, they’ve done lots of observing on the landscape as a whole.
They don’t profess to have all the answers. Far from it, but they both have two unique perspectives and opinions. Here’s the 8 things they’ve learned by being immersed in the DMV live music culture. SCOTTIE
So I spent several years in Go-Go bands, mostly on the gospel side but also a short time on the secular side. Over that time, I learned a GREAT deal…so with that said, I want to share “Eight Things I Learned In Go-Go Bands”…
- Go-Go is REAL music. Go-Go is a genre that requires study to do well. My musical background is pretty diverse…classical and jazz were my first loves, gospel, CCM, hip-hop, R&B/Soul and country are all foundational parts of musical palette, but being in a Go-Go band required me to STUDY. I dug into everything from old-school Chuck, Trouble Funk, Hot Cold Sweat, AM/FM, Benny & the Masters and Essence all the way to Back, Junk, NEG, UCB, OPT, Lissen, Suttle, etc., in order to understand better the different nuances, styles, timing, etc. (ESPECIALLY in my gospel Go-Go days).
- Eating Late is BAD for You. I got away with it earlier in my Submission days, but I gained a ton of weight during my Suttle time because there aren’t many healthy options at 4am, and going to sleep right after is an awful idea. I was terribly busy and eating habits + lack of sleep will catch up with your body…speaking of sleep…
- Sleep is AWESOME. I didn’t sleep much, particularly in my Suttle days. I would get home late from gigs, steal an hour or two, hop up and go to my day job (which required me to THINK). I was irritable and not as sharp mentally as I normally pride myself on being. Once I got my sleep pattern back to normal, I was MUCH better…major key.
- People are Loyal & Supportive. I can’t think of anyplace else you can see your favorite act 4-5 nights a week and STILL I was constantly amazed at the faces I would see 3-4 times a week (I saw some folks more than my family). People spent money and time to hear our art night after night, week after week, month after month…you can’t beat that.
- Keeping Musicians on the Same Page is Tough. One thing that made my Submission days special was the fact that our unit was basically the same for like 10 years (was it THAT long!??!?!). We grew up together so it was a bit of a different dynamic, but on the secular side, I different ideas, obligations, etc., dictated that personnel changed a LOT. I worked alongside some of the most talented people you’ll find anywhere, and I know how “we” musical sorts are, but I don’t know if the average person gets how difficult it is to keep the core of a band together. Even when people get along well, which I’d say was normally the case in my experiences, keeping 12 (yes, that’s a lot of people) moving in the same direction is a huge task.
- Change Comes Slowly. The reality is that with a few exceptions (Bounce, for one), Go-Go sounds largely the same as it did when I was growing up. Many of the popular cover songs are the same ones they were 10 years ago. That familiarity is both good and bad…for some it means you can always hear your favorite tunes, so you’re anxious to check out your favorite band…but for some, it means you can always hear your favorite band, so maybe you’re not as anxious to get out.
- Go-Go Is Special and Unique. I’ve done ALL kinds of music, and there’s nothing like Go-Go…it requires so many elements to be done well…the timing and feel it takes to sing to or play a pocket or socket is ultimately helpful if you’re versatile as a musician. I’ve never failed to see a well-played socket move a crowd and even bounce (sorry old-heads) can get a party jumping.
- Go-Go requires talent. I’ve heard it said that Go-Go musicians can’t do anything else, when from what I’ve seen, the best musicians can do ANYTHING (with study and practice…see above). There’s shade thrown from a lot of different directions…and yes, there are great bands and not-so-great bands…but again, the level of talent I’ve been fortunate enough to work with can stand toe to toe with anyone on any stage I’ve stood on.
I could say a whole lot more, probably rant some, and give a lot more kudos, but these are just a few things from my band years. I’m thankful for all the lessons I’ve learned, the great experiences and relationships I formed in that time. To every former colleague, I salute you.
- The crowds are unreasonably fickle and spoiled. If it’s not the venue they don’t like, the promoter they don’t mess with, the dress code that doesn’t allow them to wear whatever they want to, it’s the expectation of new songs every single performance. I don’t expect anyone to cry a river for these first world problems, but to be a member of a band where you could hear R. Kelly and fuckin Shalamar in one night, yet STILL get complaints is nothing short of maddening.
- Go-Go Is Full Of Self Sabatoge. Damn, where do I start? Original material being shunned and not encouraged by the fans. Promoters’ never ending trickbags. Bands under-bidding their services. Pilfering band members from other bands. Bands undercutting other bands. We cannibalize our own genre for selfish gain.
- The good/bad of musicianship. Go-Go is fairly unique in the sense that we may all have our opinions on the level of skill its musicians possess, but unlike most places outside of school marching bands, the Go-Go band can possibly harbor bad or even non musicians in their ranks. Can’t hide a bad singer in a R&B band. You can in Go-Go. Can’t hide a bad keys or sax player in a jazz band. You can in Go-Go. You’d be surprised at the people you come and see on a frequent basis that you thought are good turn out to be merely a novice. How’s that for behind the curtain?
- Lack of local support. Let me make it plain. We get more support from our local affiliates, and all of this looks different. By a large margin. Mambo Sauce created a well rounded album that had local flavor but national appeal as far as song structure and production, and only a small few of us got to hear it. I kinda feel like that wouldn’t happen in Philly, ATL, and other places. Here, great music gets stifled routinely while we prop out of towners up as if almost by design.
- Promoter Error. This is replete throughout the city. I could REALLY elaborate but I don’t wanna offend my political connects. LOL! I’ll just say that exorbitant prices, cut lines, super cut lines, holding lines, and other tomfoolery is part of a systemic ill in the world of go go, and that’s before you’re in the damn venue!! If I see “lavish buffet” on one more damn flyer…
- Quality Control. I do an Internet show every week, and I hear songs from bands where I find myself wondering how did any of this music see the light of day in the first place? Let me make it real plain again: A lot of the stuff that I hear now is terribly without structure, skill, and good objective thought. Think about it. When you think about a real viable Go-Go song that you’d use to represent the genre…to show its structure and its unique feel, you’re probably going back to Da Butt or even further with Bustin Loose. Of course there are songs that have been made in the last 10 or 15 years that qualify as good, but they are very few and far between. Rap music is a great parallel to go go, because I think they both suffered from the exact same problems. Somewhere along the line the layman was granted access into the world of artists, and allowed to make art. Thus the subsequent dumbing down of the product began. We left the gate open.
- The Best Ability. In all my years playing in bands I can honestly say that I’ve realized and have been told that the best ability by far is availability. Not only does that include being able to take a gig, but being able to be relied upon. Do you know your music? Can you be there on time? Do you add and not subtract from what’s being done? I’ve seen less talented more reliable people get gigs over the ultra talented just because they were people that you could rely on. I could tell a musician a lot of things that can help them be somewhat successful, but being early and knowing your shit pretty much covers the whole gamut.
- Groupies. They exist and not for just guys. They come in both genders and their theatrics range from the mildly possessive to the fanatic. Legally that’s all I’m allowed to say is I do not want to offend any of my political connections or at the very least incriminate myself.
There. Feel free to talk among yourselves. LOL