All photos: Chris Chen
Miles off the radar of popular music during the early ’80s, Trouble Funk energized their D.C. home with the sound of go-go music, an uproarious blend of swinging, up-tempo ’70s funk and a ’60s-style horn section. The band formed in 1978, and the lineup coalesced around drummer Emmet Nixon, percussionists Mack Carey and Timothius Davis, guitarist Chester Davis, bassist Tony Fisher, trombone players Gerald and Robert Reed, trumpeter Taylor Reed, keyboard player James Avery, and saxophonist David Rudd. Trouble Funk earned a loyal fan base for their notoriously can’t-miss live act, a raw, party friendly version of dance and funk with few songs but plenty of extensive jams organized around audience-friendly vocal tags and call-out hooks.
The first go-go record released outside of D.C., Trouble Funk’s 1982 debut Drop the Bomb appeared on Sugar Hill, the same label then championing early hip-hop. (The two styles had very similar origins, in the breakbeat culture of urban block parties.) Though the band’s second album, In Times of Trouble, appeared only on the local label D.E.T.T., Trouble Funk earned national distribution with a prescient concert record, 1985’s Saturday Night (Live from Washington, D.C.), released through Island. After taking the live act nationwide and even worldwide (they played the 1986 Montreux Jazz Festival), Trouble Funk returned in 1987 with the boundary breaking Trouble Over Here, Trouble Over There, featuring sympathetic heads like Bootsy Collins and Kurtis Blow. It was a bit of a stylistic misstep, however, and Island released the group from its contract. Undeterred, Trouble Funk kept on grooving around the city, playing often, even into the ’90s, for nostalgic party goers as well as the musically curious.
Here are Chris’ photos from the event last Sunday at 9:30 Club: