(Un)Lock It: the Percussive People in the Go-Go Pocket | Thomas Sayers Ellis

by Thomas Sayers Ellis
August 5th – October 7th 2011

Artist Statement:
This project takes its title from a term (“Lock It”) used by the Go-Go community to describe a perfectly played (or “locked”) Go-Go Pocket. Go-Go is a non-stop, vernacular dance music unique to Washington, D.C. and the Pocket is the percussive interlude between or underneath Go-Go grooves and songs. The Pocket is also the audio-grammar of Go-Go and a conversation via lead talker, drums, congas, rototoms, cowbell and tambourine between the various neighborhoods that make up the map of D.C.. The Pocket is the safest place to put your hands after you take it to and cross the bridge. Its goal is Home Rule and its Golden Age anthem is “Bustin’ Loose,” Chuck Brown’s classic freedom-cry. In a city as Capital as Washington, this work is a percussive attempt to reclaim the pictorial power of photography for D.C residents, the “folk” who (as Walt Whitman once wrote) do the real living and dying in this land.

The photographs are a documentation of the recent history of Go-Go, its vanishing folk culture, the onstage and off struggles to prevent itself from being evicted from the city in which it was born more than 30 years ago, the effects of gentrification on the community, and its contribution toward Home Rule.. Taken at band practices, band reunions, small local venues, block parties, private parties, weddings, funerals, political rallies and on the streets of D.C., these photographs (while celebrating Go-Go) also ask, Can Go-Go and Statehood for D.C. coexist?