two bars, three stars: familiar faces at adams morgan day festival

10 Sep

A few months ago, I moved into a new apartment and became an Adams Morgan resident. I had already spent a ton of time in the neighborhood previously, given that my office, yoga studio, and favorite drinking establishments are all in the area. Naturally, the move was a perfect fit, and I’ve fallen more and more in love with the neighborhood ever since.

I could write endlessly about why I consider AdMo my favorite neighborhood in DC, but a lot of it is nuances that you’d probably have to live here to fully appreciate. For instance, the architecture. Next time you’re stumbling around 18th street searching for a drink/empanada/jumbo slice/falafel, try looking up. It’s subtle, but if you look closely, the buildings in Adams Morgan (particularly up 18th street and along Columbia Road) are so fantastic- each is unique, and full of color and kitschy details. I’ve also slowly learned more about the neighborhood’s long history (and status as one of DC’s oldest neighborhoods), and I’m starting to understand why so many people who call Adam’s Morgan home choose to stay. That’s not even mentioning the most obvious draws of Adam’s Morgan- great food, great nightlife, great shops full of interesting art and clothes, and numerous places to enjoy live music.

Today, all of AdMo’s best traits were on full display at the annual Adams Morgan Day Festival, the oldest neighborhood festival in DC. The festival surpassed my expectations, and I was thrilled to see large crowds of Washingtonians enjoying my neighborhood and all it had to offer. The businesses along 18th street (as well as businesses from all over the city) pulled out all the shops to put on a great festival- there was a plethora of food, art, performances, and joie de vivre to go around.

I was particularly impressed by the music, which was set up at the top and bottom of the 18th street strip- one stage at Vernon, one at Columbia. I walked into the festival at around 5 p.m. from Columbia Road, and I walked straight into the crowd gathered in front of the music stage. There was a go-go band playing, and they had the whole crowd moving.

I was pretty stoked to stumble upon a live go-go performance, because go-go is a genre of music that can be fairly elusive to a recent DC resident. I’ve casually investigated opportunities to see live go-go, especially given that it is such a quintessential DC art form, but I’ve been discouraged at what I’ve learned. Basically, go-go has been somewhat marginalized as many of the clubs that hosted the shows have been shut down. The performances have edged more and more to the peripherals of the city (or even Prince George’s county), and thus would be nearly impossible to attend without a car.

As soon as I got home, I checked the Adams Morgan Day website to find out the name of the band I’d seen. As it turns out, the band was no joke- it was Familiar Faces, a well-established 13-person go-go outfit that includes six members of Chuck Brown’s band, including his daughter. I can’t pretend that I love every go-go song I’ve ever heard, but their stuff is pretty great.

I absolutely appreciate and understand go-go a bit more after finally seeing it come together in a live performance. The way the performers weave together so many disparate beats and sounds into an old school dance tapestry is incredibly energizing- you can’t help but move to it. And I have Familiar Faces to thank for facilitating this experience for me- I’m hoping it won’t be the last live go-go I get to see.

Familiar Faces, “Thank You”

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