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  • PRESS

    "Friday night's concert at Capital Centre was heralded as "A Tribute to Go Go," and marked the first time that a bill made up exclusively of local bands played that arena. It was an evening of home‑grown funk done in grand style. When Experience Unlimited's Sugar Bear chanted, "Who funks the best, y'all?" the answer was obvious. The show included DC Scorpio, Hot Cold Sweat, the Junkyard Band, Little Benny & the Masters, Experience Unlimited, Rare Essence, and Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, all in fine form. Rare Essence, which has been pioneering a new go‑go beat of late‑‑‑a kind of rhythmic Morse code gone crazy‑‑‑provided the evening's highlight. Much of the band's set incorporated that beat, perhaps most effective when alternated with vocalist James Funk's melodic chants. And they offered some humor as well: A grandfather clock was brought on stage to help answer the ubiquitous funk question "Do you know what time it is?"

    -The Washington Post

  • PRESS

    "As long as go‑go depends on live musicians, it will outshine even the best of rap acts, which depend on prerecorded tracks. The difference is the difference between a real orgasm and a faked one. Home‑bred and ‑brewed, go‑go is all boisterous percussion and ecstatic polyrhythm, dance music as insistently communal as it is energizing. Witness Capital Centre performances Saturday by Junk Yard Band and Rare Essence. The latter group took the stage at nearly 1 a.m. after often desultory sets by a number of nationally renowned rap acts; suddenly it was New Year's Eve as the crowd of 10,000 released pent‑up emotions and fell headlong into the group's relentless go‑go swing. Melody was an option, slogans substituted for lyrics, and keyboards were for coloring: This was drums, congas, cowbells and popping bass lines swirling, scintillating and, best of all, live, real‑time rhythm with the human edge, most evident in the one and only solo of the five‑hour show, by percussionist Go Go Mickey, who rose to the occasion (literally, as a riser elevated him in the midst of his solo)."

    -The Washington Post

  • PRESS

    "Rare Essence, "Get Your Freak On" (Sounds of the Capital). The Bar‑ Kays' "Holy Ghost" was one of the greatest funk hits of the '70s; nonetheless, longtime go‑go heavyweights Rare Essence have managed to improve on it. With soul‑shaking percussion and majestic horns, "Ghost" is the best of the seven cuts here, though the rest is by no means filler. Recorded live last November at the Landover nightclub Rhythms, the album includes several Essence originals, which serve mostly as a framework for the band's relentless percussion, party chants and the audience greeting 'roll call'."

    -The Washington Post

  • PRESS

    "Rare Essence: Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (Sounds of the Capital). Greatest indeed. Only its competitors would take issue with the assertion that Rare Essence is the greatest go‑go band Washington has produced. But this album is proof positive. Almost all of RE's material has been released on the band's own Sounds of the Capital label, and much of this collection has until now been unavailable on CD. The early tracks featured, "Body Moves" and "Back Up Against the Wall," serve as a bridge between '70s funk grooves and the powerhouse percussive go‑go of "Shoo Be Do Wop" and beyond; like Grandmaster Flash's much‑heralded "The Message," 1983's "Back Up Against the Wall" captures ghetto desperation: "I can't get no money/ Gotta pay the bills/ Gotta get the dollar before I lose the will . . . Seems like there's just no hope at all/ Now how you gonna do it with your back up against the wall?"

    -The Washington Post

  • PRESS

    "The chant starts with one or two folks, just as it always has. "Wind me up, Funk!" Almost immediately, more people join in ‑‑ "Wind me up, Funk!" ‑‑ and in less than a minute, it sounds like every person crammed into the Reeves Center's Club U is urging James Funk to turn up the party. Hundreds of arms are outstretched; their waving hands seem to be swatting the go‑go beats. "Wind me up, Funk!" As the Rare Essence band turns out a fusillade of percussion, James Funk bobs in front of the mike and surveys the crowd. "A lot of old‑school [expletives] here tonight," he says. Then he launches into another singsong chant: "If you feelin' old‑school, get your hands up! Get your hands up!"..."

    -The Washington Post

  • PRESS

    "The 2 o'clock hour is slipping into 3, and Rare Essence is deep into its second set at the Hyatt. Snapshots of Quentin "Footz" Davidson are projected onto two large screens flanking the stage, while the band eulogizes its former drummer, who was slain in 1994. ("Put ya' hands up for Footz, y'all!") The crowd summons a similar roar at the mention of Anthony "Little Benny" Harley, the veteran trumpet player who died in his sleep in May. But it still feels like a party. Women clutch their stilettos and tiptoe barefoot around the shrapnel of broken champagne flutes. Men pump their fists to the earth‑quaking rumble of "Lock It." The beat somehow gets louder. The air somehow gets thicker. Suddenly, all 28 musicians are squeezing onstage to take a bow. The lights go up. The fire marshal is upstairs and it's time to go home. Another sweaty Saturday night in a lifetime of sweaty Saturday nights has come to a close."

    -The Washington Post