She and more than a thousand others descended on the corner of the northeast Washington park named after the “Godfather of Go-Go” on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the musician and his contributions.
“We know that celebrating someone’s legacy takes intention,” said Delano Hunter, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, a Washington native. “Celebrating Chuck Brown means celebrating the fabric of who we are as a city.”
The annual festival, hosted by DPR and DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), underscores the city’s appreciation of Brown’s music and legacy, Hunter said.
Chuck Brown Band, still cranking
This year also marked the 10th anniversary since the musician’s death, a moment that “feels like yesterday,” said Wiley Brown, 32, Brown’s son. Brown said he remembered being on stage with his father when he was 4 years old. He is now the lead singer in his father’s Chuck Brown Band and performed on Saturdays. Seeing fans at the event for his dad every year means “the world,” he said.
“It’s nothing but love when you come to Chuck Brown Park on Chuck Brown Day,” said Wiley Brown. “It’s a testament to how much love he poured out and it’s still being returned.”
Chuck Brown Day began when Chuck Brown Memorial Park, part 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 visitors 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 headliner Chuck Brown Band.
The park was transformed into a balloon-lined backyard grill filled with go-go music and bodies. Children played in moon hopping while a fan blowing water kept passers-by cool. Attendees enjoyed 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 student giveaway.
At 2 p.m., the scheduled start of the festival, picnics filled the grounds of the park. Families lounged on blankets and deckchairs next to cool boxes filled with ice.
Jordan, who sat up front, grew up with Brown and has been going to go-go concerts since he was 16, he said. He got his kids to be as inspired by Brown’s legacy and go-go music as he was.
“He’s always been in my life … that’s why I brought her,” Jordan said of Brown as he pointed to his kids. “So that they can experience the music and the culture and just enjoy themselves.”
“It’s a DC thing,” Jordan added with a smile.
The go-go scene is reminiscent of Chuck Brown with new music
Hunter said DC is proud to be the birthplace of Brown’s legendary go-go genre, a style of hip-hop-influenced funk with a heavy backbeat. Bringing fans together each year “embodies Chuck Brown’s legacy,” he said.
“It was about solidarity. It was about having a good time and celebrating each other,” Hunter said of Brown and his music. “The event and the dynamic kind of took on the role of Chuck Brown.”
Wiley Brown said the moment someone hears their father’s music, “you can’t sit still”. His favorite songs 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, like jazz, ’50s, ragtime,” said Wiley Brown. “He was able to take the things that influenced him and put his own spin on it…then it became a sound for the city.”
When the Uncalled 4 Band started their performance, people got up from their chairs, nodded their heads and danced to the music. A few pushed forward, flexing their feet and grinning with grinning mouths.