Sho Yuh Right: New photo collection helps tell story of Go-Go in DC

Photographer Chip Py was going to a lot of music shows in the D.C. area in the early 2000s, and he had seen plenty of pictures documenting area hardcore punk shows.

“And then I started to think, well, this needs to be complete,” Py told WTOP. “And there’s this thing called Go-Go.”

Approximately 2,000 of Py’s photographs are now available online, as the D.C. Public Library has acquired Py’s collection, and posted it online, through Dig DC.

In 2010, Py was already well established as a photographer in other music circles, but he was no expert on Go-Go.

“I knew about Chuck Brown, but that’s all I knew,” said Py. “He was on the D.C. Lottery ads at the time.”

Other popular D.C.-area bands included Trouble Funk, Rare Essence, Experience Unlimited, Be’la Dona and Backyard Band.

“It’s great to go see a Go-Go band perform at Strathmore or the Kennedy Center, but an authentic Go-Go is an event,” said Py.

With performances in restaurants, suburban clubs, and outdoor gatherings, Py said Go-Go is powered by the interaction between the performer and the audience.

“The call and response that Chuck brought in from the church, that gets the people involved,” He said.


“There’s a lead talker in every Go-Go band whose job it is to engage with the audience,” said Py. Audience members “pass notes up on stage, about birthday call-outs and anniversary call-outs.”

Chuck Brown died in 2012, but Py said his legacy carries on in the Go-Go community.

“He took the beat of the kids playing buckets on the streets, and the congas from the Latino band that he was in, and that beat continues all night long,” said Py.

In the 1970s, Brown pioneered the genre.

In 2007, standing at the site of the Maverick Room at 4th Street and Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast, he told WTOP about the night he realized “Bustin’ Loose” was going to be a hit.

The D.C. Library’s Go-Go archive was created in 2012, after Brown’s death — Py’s contribution provides an up-close view of the scene, on and offstage.

“Derek Gray at the Go-Go Archive has said many times he hopes this acquisition and the attention its focusing on the archive will get people to pull out their shoe boxes and start sending some more photos,” Py said.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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