The music sounded like a marching band being swallowed by an earthquake.
The dancing looked like a teenage stampede on a 64,000-square-foot trampoline.
It was Saturday night at the inaugural DMV Bounce Beat Teen Awards, where nearly 2,000 fans gathered beneath the pockmarked ceiling of the D.C. Armory to celebrate the sound of bounce beat - a younger, wilder, goose-bumpier strand of Washington go-go music.
The scene's leading groups - TCB, TOB, Reaction Band, XIB and ABM - each delivered 45-minute sets in concussive slow motion, transforming go-go's dotted rhythms into a sludge that skewed more toward heavy metal than Chuck Brown.
TOB opened its set with a cover of Bill Withers's "Lovely Day" but quickly obliterated any melodic sunshine with a tempest of thunderclaps. Boys in baseball caps, kufis and aviator hats jumped up on chairs. Girls in fur vests, turbans and halter tops gyrated beyond their years.
This wasn't "Bustin' Loose." This was a whole new kind of go-go rapture.
(Continue reading this review and view a complete list of award winnners, after the jump.)
It's been over three decades since Brown minted go-go as Washington's official dance music. And while the genre never found the national audience it deserved, it finally has its own generation gap. Old-school go-go fans have dismissed bounce beat as discordant, chaotic, defiantly slow and nightmarishly loud. They're right. And that's exactly what makes it some of the most thrilling live music you could ever hope to experience. (Don't bother with YouTube. Just like the decades of go-go that preceded it, bounce beat sounds best in person.)
Know how techno or house DJs tend to speed things up over the course of a set, accelerating the tempo until it's almost impossible to keep up? The inverse idea fueled all five sets at the armory on Saturday, each troupe slowing the beat down until they approached the rhythmic equivalent of absolute zero.
ABM got the closest. The group opened its juggernaut set with a sugary take on Rihanna's "What's My Name," but quickly plummeted into a beat so slow, so raucous, the song threatened to disintegrate.
The 13 members of XIB were more dynamic. Spaceman, the band's lead vocalist, barked out mutant phrases from Kanye West's "H.A.M." while his band swerved from tempo to tempo in perfect sync, like a flock of birds suddenly changing direction in flight.
Each group featured at least two keyboard players - one to sketch out melodies, one to trigger electronic percussion. The conga drums, a sonic hallmark of go-go, were used sparingly, often replaced with rattling timbales and rototoms. There were no horns, but each band boasted at least four vocalists - the lead vocalist, or "lead mike," often loomed in the background near the drum kit.
Fans would incessantly compete for their attention, waving Hanes T-shirts with the names of their neighborhoods scrawled on in Sharpie. Those in the front row would type their address onto a cellphone screen and pass the device onstage in hopes of getting a shout-out. (The bands would always hand it back to the rightful owner.)
And as the music downshifted to its slowest, most glacial thump, fans would throw their hands over their heads, as if tossing a soccer ball into play. When the songs came to an end, no one would applaud - an eerie contrast to the dance-floor convulsions that came just moments before.
Like the original go-go scene, this generation has its own fashion sense, dance steps, rituals and codes. The musicians often go by one-word stage names and many bands' names are loose acronyms - XIB (Extreme Intentions Band), ABM (All 'Bout Money), TCB (Taking Care of Business), TOB (Take Over Band), etc.
The DMV Bounce Beat Teen Awards included a more obvious acronym - the "DMV," which stands for the District, Maryland and Virginia, of course. Local promoters said they created the fan-voted awards show in hopes giving go-go's young heirs a sense of validation.
DJ Angie Ange at WKYS (93.9 FM) and local comedian Billy Tha Kidd doled out plaques between Saturday's performances, frequently citing bounce beat creator and TCB leader Reggie "Polo" Burwell, who has been in a coma after suffering a brain aneurysm last April.
Fittingly, TCB won the award for best band. XIB won best song for "I'm in the Kitchen." And Rick Ross of Reaction Band won best lead mike. It was one of the four trophies that went to Reaction, but the band got the evening's most lively response for its hulking bounce beat anthem "Start Up the Train."
The beat thumped like the Godzilla's footsteps. Fans didn't form a conga line. They went skipping across the dance floor in a mobile mosh pit.
You could feel the beat pounding in your stomach and the floor wobbling beneath your feet.
Winners of the 2011 DMV Bounce Beat Teen Awards:
Bounce Beat Band of the Year: TCB
Show of the Year: XIB vs. ABM
Bounce Beat Promoter of the Year: Crazy Wear Tae
Bounce Beat Lead Mic of the Year: Rick Ross (Reaction Band)
Bounce Beat Song of the Year: "I'm in the Kitchen" by XIB
Bounce Beat Male Singer of the Year: KB of XIB
Bounce Beat Female Singer of the Year: Ms. Binta of Reaction Band
Bounce Beat Best Percussion Section: Reaction Band
Bounce Beat Manager of the Year: Rick Ross
Bounce Beat DJ of the Year: DJ Steve-O
Bounce Beat Mid-level Band of the Year: UEB
Bounce Beat Up & Coming Band of the Year: Heavy Impact
Bounce Beat Sound Man of the Year: Shawty L
Bounce Beat Venue of the Year: DC STAR
Bounce Beat Host of the Year: Tee J the Smoothe Dude