The anticipation in the air at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland, Saturday night was fitting for the 52nd birthday celebration of one of the true icons of the go-go culture — but you’d never know by the look on the recipient’s face.
Stephen “Buggs” Herrion was sitting in the dressing room with his wife, Amy, as if was just another of the thousands of shows that he has done that made him one of the most feared and respected man to grace the microphone.
There is no band that wants to face Junkyard Band in a battle of live performances. Buggs has his mob ready at all times to give their best, and Saturday night would be no different.
Watching the Wizards get drubbed by the Heat didn’t seem to alter his mindset before the show, though he’s a huge Washingtonian sports fan. He was relaxed and gracious with all the birthday wishes that were being bestowed upon him.
Buggs has established a family atmosphere with his band, as they all joked with each other about how they looked in their opening-set outfits. Prior to the show, they decided to come out in button-up dress shirts and ties in blue and gold — the colors of Ballou Senior High School, of which many current and former Junkyard members, including Buggs, are alumni.
As they graced the stage, the energy of the over 1,000 anticipating patrons was intoxicating and overwhelming. Buggs and Amy were given a table on the stage set to the side next to one of D.C.’s premier radio personalities, WPGC’s DJ Flexx. Junkyard came out with T-Bob leading the band, as he has on many other occasions in the past when forced into action. The opening song, “Still Smokin’,” a Mystikal remake, was warmly received but when the legend Sugar Bear of EU did his classic, “Um Bop Bop,” the love affair for Buggs was really getting started.
When Bear finished, the two legends came together in a moment of respect and admiration for each other and embraced. As T-Bob continued to lead the band through Junkyard’s extensive catalog of hits, Buggs sat with the pent-up energy of a ballplayer that had been benched by his coach to teach him a lesson. He couldn’t wait to get on the mic!
As the band came back from a break with Big Tony Fisher of Trouble Funk leading them in his classic hit “Let’s Get Small,” the crowd was subdued yet respectful and responsive.
Finally Buggs was let loose, and he took his rightful place as bandleader.
As no one in the history of go-go has done, Buggs has stayed relevant since the early ’80s of go-go, but remained a dominant force while doing so. He has birthed the current generation of go-go lead mics from Big G to Rappa Dude on down to all the bouncebeat bands. They all have him to thank for his style and grace, which he has delivered over 38 years. And on Saturday, he showed everyone why he is the G.O.A.T.
Junkyard’s groove “John Wayne,” one of the band’s staples, showcased what seems to be missing totally in today’s go-go: showmanship. They are one of the only go-go bands today that actually give the fans a complete show with dance steps and entertainment, which was the genre standard in the ’80s.
But when the band went into their acclaimed hit “Ruff It Off,” the energy from the crowd seem to go to another level. KC, Junkyard’s lead singer and rapper, must have felt it as well. He took the opportunity to put on a dancing display outside the band’s normal choreography, causing even Buggs to step back and admire.
By midnight, the band had already given the people an awesome show, but the audience wanted more. They gave the crowd an encore with two of their classics, “Go Hard” and “Clap Your Handz.”
You would think that Buggs had given his all, but like the true professional and classy artist he is, he took time out afterwards to go out to the crowd and take pictures and acknowledge everyone that stood there and asked.
On a day where he should be the recipient of being showered with love, he gave of himself. This is what’s missing from today’s go-go — stand-up, classy men like Buggs that carry the torch for the culture, giving more of himself than he’s received.
Happy birthday, B.U., and thank you for being YOU.
Washington Informer contributing writer Nico “The GoGo-Ologist” Hobson is co-host of “The GoWin Radio Show,” which broadcasts live from The Shops at Iverson 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. EST Tuesdays and Thursdays on GoGoRadio LIVE and WINDCRadio.