Rare Essence: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

Suraya Mohamed | July 19, 2017 — Dominated by drive and momentum, heavy on percussion and bass, go-go music is all about the beat. Live, “songs” can continue on for half an hour, as the percussion continues to simmer and punctuate between and across different pieces. “That’s why we call it go-go, because it goes on and goes on and goes on,” as guitarist Andre Johnson put it in a documentary film.

While the Tiny Desk doesn’t allow for that kind of expansive get-down — though they did play seven songs — this visit by Rare Essence perfectly encapsulated the genre’s incomparable meld of soul, R&B and, most importantly, funk (with a dash of Afro-Cuban influence).

Rare Essence emerged not long after go-go itself did, beginning as a group in 1976 in Washington D.C. Ever since the group has kept a steady schedule playing around town and around the world — they have ten shows scheduled for the month of July alone.

At the Tiny Desk, the group’s closer brought everyone home — much too soon, no matter how late — with “Overnight Scenario,” a classic. Sing along when you hear it…

Three in the morning, the Pancake House
Four in the morning, we’ll be rolling to my house
Five in the morning, the lights go out
Six in the morning, you can hear her start to shout
Seven in the morning, she’ll be calling a cab, calling a cab…
Eight in the morning, talking ’bout the fun she had
Nine in the morning, she just getting home
Talking about the overnight scenario, scenario…

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Set List
“Down For My Niggas”
“Rock This Party”
“Freaky Deak”
“One On One”
“Bad Bad”
“Lock It”
“Overnight Scenario”

Musicians
Anthony Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson (guitar, vocals); James “Funk” Thomas (vocals); Charles “Shorty Corleone” Garris (vocals); Leroy “RB” Battle, Jr. (keyboards); Calvin “Killer Cal” Henry (vocals); Michael Baker (bass); Kenneth “Quick” Gross (drums); Samuel “Smoke” Dews (congas); Kym Clarke (trumpet); Derryle Valentine (sax, flute)

Credits
Producers: Suraya Mohamed, Niki Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Niki Walker, Tsering Bista, Morgan Noelle Smith, Colin Marshall; PA: Jenna Li; Photo: Liam James Doyle/NPR.

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