Black Alley Concert and Video release Party for Crazy Legs Presents: Don’t Matter Feat Kacey Of Black Alley and Chris of TOB 8-6-22 @ The The Fillmore (Silver Spring, MD.)
All photos by Johnny Johnson for Canary Acre Vizuals
Black Alley. Black, Alley, BLACK ALLEY! These two words are probably the most provocative and polarizing words in go - go today. Black Alley is almost more polarizing than the popular DMV food spot The Uncaged Chefs. The Uncaged Chefs are known for their unconventional approach to cuisine. They offer delights like “Dusse” Yams or my personal favorite, the breakfast sandwich with sausage egg and cheese on two honey buns. Mhhhmmm tasty! But all jokes and diabetes aside, the reason these two entities are synonymous, although one is obviously a restaurant and the other is a band, is they both have the same effect on the masses with their unconventional approaches to their respective crafts. Some sneer at them, some praise them. One thing that’s for sure is that they have people’s attention and interest.
So on a warm August summer night I made my way to The Fillmore in Silver Spring MD to finally see what all the fuss about Black Alley was. As I entered the venue on behalf of gogotix.co, (thanks to my man Malachai “Redds” Johns the show organizer as well as the producer of the “Don’t Matter” song and video. Thank you so much, my fair skinned brother*) DJ Set Fire was on the ones and twos doing his thing with the nWo championship belt on deck on the turntables (shout out all my wrestling fans). Two songs stood out during Set Fire’s set… He played the “The Intro” by Meek Mill, which the Twitter streets say needs to be retired from DJ sets. But in the record’s defense, it still rings off in the club and people sing it word for word like it’s the black national anthem. I mean at this point it’s pretty much a negro spiritual. Also the second record is Glorilla’s “Let’s go” aka “fuck nigga free” record. This record has been getting a lotta love and a lotta flack because it’s deemed “ratchet” and unsavory, but it’s slaps and you can’t deny it. With her Memphis Swag, Old school 3-6 mafia-esque flow and youthful exuberance it all works! I personally love it.
Back to the show!
After Set Fire’s set, the lights dimmed. It’s dark. Pitch black. All you hear is the kick of the bass drum. Then suddenly a spotlight is on Black Alley’s bass player JoshonBass… he starts to play.. then I see a figure, walking on stage slowly from the shadows. The figure steps into the light with a big beautiful smile. It’s Black Alley’s dynamic front woman, The Songstress “Kacey”. She greets the crowd. They start off with a mid tempo socket beat and I see a familiar face on the congos. It’s Pooh that used to play for Fatal Attraction and CCB (Critical Condition Band). I’ve always thought Pooh was underrated. One thing I also noticed was that this wasn’t your average go - go show and sound. The sound was amazing! I literally heard everything from the hi- hat, snare, bass, bass drum and vocals. Shout out to Douglas Hall (GoGoJesus) who was on the soundboard. If you know about go - go, the sound is always a cause for complaint. Tonight wasn’t one of those nights where a complaint was warranted. As they transition from the socket they hit an original song. I’m not sure the title of the song but it had a rock influence and slight percussion in it. It was dope. Then another groove. So here was the defining moment for me. I was saying to myself, “You know what? Those guys in “the go - go report” group on Facebook are right. This isn’t go - go. They sound good but they don’t have the same grit as traditional go - go. The drive and edge were missing.”
Then it happened…
Kacey signaled them to drop the song off and Boom! A fucking sonic explosion! Pooh is going apeshit on the congos. The 808 is booming. The drive of the drummer “Animal” is crazy and I’m saying to myself, “Oh shit!” Then Kacey started screaming, “I hate you so much right now! I hate you so much right now ahhhhhhh”’”,a rendition of Kelis single “Caught Out There”. “ I’m like this shit is cranking… then another transition into the Black Alley song “Helen Keller” I believe it was. I remember the lyrics was about not seeing or hearing bullshit like Helen Keller.. Again another drop off a drive this beat had a bouncy type rhythm. Think NEG Bochelle/down low beat.. the whole crowd is rocking and grooving to it. This feels like Martinis or Hangars club now. It doesn’t feel like this polished band now. It sounds gritty and edgy.
Then Crazylegz “The King of Beat Ya Feet” comes out with Lil Chris of TOB to perform their song “Don’t Matter” with the video of the song playing simultaneously on the screen behind them. The video was cool and chill. It wasn’t over the top. Iit was straight to the point but it was slick. You had dancers in the video beating their feet walking the city streets of dc… Chris does his thing, giving that authentic bounce beat vibe and feel with his “aye aye aye aye aye” chants over the bounce.
The last song I remember is their rendition of Tems “Free Mind” , the sample of the keyboard oooohhh oooohhh and then Kacey starts to sing and every woman in the crowd starts to sing along “ this is the peace you cannot buy!” ….and the show comes to an end.
My final thoughts are that people are right. Black Alley isn’t go - go. They are go - go and much more. They can crank with the best of them if that was their primary goal, but it’s not. They are reaching for new heights in this game and I love it. I love the ambition , creativity and bravery. I feel the rest of the go - go community should be inspired by them and support them instead of arguing over what’s authentic go - go and what’s not. Because truth be told from packed venues like The Fillmore, going to different markets to perform, selling merch and releasing singles and visuals, Black Alley are showing us that there’s more than one way to skin a cat and you can teach an old dog new tricks. Go - Go can either stagnate or evolve. Choose which side you’re on.
Written By Darius Olfus of Neo Noir Podcast and Indecent Xsposure Band. @Dvriusthegreat on IG and @neonoirpodcast on ig
*Disclosure, Malachai Johns also owns and operates gogotix.co