Trouble Funk: Dropping the Bomb Once Again

It wouldn't be a Richmond Folk Festival without go-go music.

For the unfamiliar, go-go is that heavily percussive, call-and-response, Latin beat house party meets P. Funk sound started in the Washington area by Chuck Brown in the late '70s. Since then, the crowd-pleasing music has fueled some of the sweatiest dance parties imaginable. Trouble Funk is one of its best-known acts.

New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones recently listed several classic groups on his blog that he'd love to see reunite. Last on that list: the 1983 lineup of Trouble Funk. Well mon Frere, c'mon down to the Richmond Folk Fest because we've almost got you covered.

“It's gonna be real close, I'm bringing all the original members that's still living,” says Big Tony Fisher, founder, bassist and frontman for the group. Original keyboardist Robert “Syke Dyke” Reed died last year from pancreatic cancer.

“For me, go-go is original and natural music,” Fisher says, noting that the current crop of young go-go artists doesn't do much for him. The reunion lineup of Trouble Funk performs and refreshes much of its old-school material live. “We do have about five to six new tunes, a mixture of old-school and new,” he says.

The group's 1982 recording, “Drop the Bomb,” was released on early hip-hop imprint Sugar Hill, making it the first go-go group to have a release outside of Washington — an area that's still the genre's stronghold. You can find new copies of Trouble Funk's double-CD release, “Live and Early Singles” (2004) going for as much as $180 on Amazon. The band is readying two new albums: a recording of a reunion show last summer at the 9:30 Club, and another project with Fisher's old friend, comedian and actor Tommy Davidson, who used to open for the band in the '80s. “Tommy's a talented cat, he can sing and rap,” Fisher says.

Even though go-go is built on the interplay between performers and audience, and Fisher says he likes to stay physically close to the audience, performing for an outdoor festival venue won't matter to these 30-year vets.
“If they have a good house system, we gonna rock 'em no matter how big the joint is,” Fisher says. “We're bringing it.”

Saturday: 5:30-6:15 p.m. on the Ukrop's/First Market Stage.
Saturday: 9:15-10:30 p.m. on the Richmond Times-Dispatch Dance Pavillion.


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