Sunday, March 05, 2006

The party's over, but what a party

All week, we've been wondering where are the people. On Friday, CIAA fans and revelers slammed Charlotte like a hurricane. It's Sunday morning and uptown is nothing but idling cars and partiers crowding sidewalks.

After the Chuck Brown show, I stroll over to the Westin, which is the unofficial after-party. At least 1,000 people fill the lobby and lounge. It's the place to meet up with your friends and recap the night. Folks are chillin' so hard that a couple of men and women play spades -- at 3 a.m. Bobcats Emeka Okafor is there too.

The party didn't last as long as I expected though. The fire alarm goes off about 3 a.m. An automated voice tells people to find the nearest exit. No one does. Finally, a police officer walks around and politely asks everyone to leave. We drift out slowly, still not ready for the weekend to end.

I stop by a 24-hour diner off Central Avenue near Eastland Mall. I figure San Remo will be empty. Once I get there, I don't bother going inside. It's full. Heading home I spot a taco vendor at Central and Kilborne. Can I tell you, I ate the best burrito I've ever had. It was huge and only $5. It had onions, some kind of yellow sauce, chicken and rice. If this trailer was uptown it would give the chicken-on-a-stick stand, at Sixth and Church, serious competition.

Where did you go last night? My Paid to Party scouts tell me the LIEU Cool J event at the Convention Center was nuts. I hear Bob Johnson and Charles Oakley were at the No Grease party at Founder's Hall. What else happened last night? Post your replies below.

Wind Me Up Chuck!

The floor inside the Hilton Center City is actually bouncing.

It's 12:15 a.m. and we're in a third floor ballroom with at least 1,000 people for the Chuck Brown show. When the Godfather of Go-Go starts playing, fans dance so hard that the floor bounces. I briefly worry the floor is going to cave-in. Then I throw my hand in the air and shout "Wind Me Up Chuck" along with everyone else. It's almost like I'm home in Maryland.

If you have never been to a go-go, you've missed an experience. Go-go is percussion-based music with a distinct beat that is the base of every song. Bands often cover contemporary hits, such as the Ashlee Simpson's "Pieces of Me" or Jill Scott's "It's Love." Bands also write their own material that becomes huge as well. For example, Jay-Z's "Do It Again" was basically a cover of the go-go band Rare Essence's song "Overnight Scenario." Go-go is also all about call and response. All night, Chuck would ask "Are ya'll tired yet?," and the crowd shouted "Hell no!." The last component is shout-outs. Fans handed Chuck slips of paper with the name of their crew and their neighborhood. He would read the information as part of his songs.

Chuck, who is at least 70, is to go-go what James Brown is to soul. I hadn't seen him live since I was in college and attended a huge festival in Wilmer's Park back home. That's why I couldn't miss Saturday's show. And the hundreds of people packing the ballroom with me didn't want to miss it either. The good thing about seeing him here is that the audience was a mix of young and old and I didn't have to worry about neighborhood beefs like you do in the D.C. area.

Instead of keeping one eye out for a potential fight, we could focus on sweating and dancing for two hours as Chuck and his full band pumped out hits such as "Run Joe," "Moody's Mood" and more. Most young go-go bands focus on original songs and remaking hip-hop tunes, but Chuck is a jazz artist at heart. So, he'll do jazz standards as well as hip-hop. His original songs though are narratives of street life, such as "Cat In the Hat," about a junkie.

One fan stood in the back of the ballroom shaking a tambourine as he danced. Couples dance together, men grooved in pockets of friends and women did the same. To the side of a stage, this older white guy did this sort of ballroom style dancing with an older black woman (something I've never seen at a go-go). Fans crowded the stage and Chuck blasted one guy for pushing women to get to the front. Chuck shook hands with people as he performed and after his set he hung out onstage and continued greeting fans.

Chuck Brown in Charlotte. I can't believe it.