This Saturday sees the convergence of two types of DC music in one place – longtime DC dance-punk favorite E.D. Sedgwick is playing with longtime DC soul favorites N’Digo Rose & the Nekkid UndastandN, at Ras Restaurant & Lounge on Georgia Avenue.
What seems like two groups from divergent genres actually have something in common. JosaFeen Wells sings for both, and will be performing with both bands Saturday night. She is also the one who put together the show, through her company Elliott Entertainment and Consulting Group, LLC, in what she hopes will be the first of many affordable showcases for local music. She calls this go-around “Enter the Artmosphere Vol. I”.
E.D. Sedgwick is a four-piece band led by Dischord and Touch & Go records veteran Justin Moyer, whose previous band Supersystem helped put DC on the dance-punk map back in the Oughts when that music was a big thing in indie-rock-land, alongside acts like the Rapture, !!! and LCD Soundsystem. While Moyer has been performing under the E.D. Sedgwick name for many years now, with several CDs under his belt, his sound only in the last few years has taken its current shape, evolving from Moyer alone in the studio and on-stage (in drag with an iPod), to a four-piece, with jagged guitar bursts, rhythmic percussion rounded out by his unique speak/singing vocals and lyrics, interacting tightly with Wells’ up-front gospel/r&b inflected singing. The E.D. Sedgwick live show is one of the funnest shows you might see in this city. And it works on their recordings too, as Moyer is a master engineer – the last one, Love Gets Lovelier Every Day is a fine example of the current sound, and the next one, which is coming out in November on Dischord, should be even better.
N’Digo Rose & the Nekkid UndastandN is led by keyboardist/crooner Tony Hicks, whose 70s-influenced soul/R&B was a mainstay in U Street clubs, back when there were more clubs featuring local soul music, like Kaffa House, State of the Union and Metro Cafe. Hicks’ vocals invoke a classic 70s style – think Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions – but his production is one of headphone-worthy atmospherics and texture. Throw in a live show that has three backup singers, including Wells, and the house may come down Saturday with something as heart-felt and authentic as you would want from your local soul.
Hicks is reuniting with JoseFeen Wells and his two other singers from that period, Ginger Bleu and Deborah Bond, who is a well-known soloist in her own right. Bond will be DJ-ing as well on Saturday.
As the organizer and nexus for a show that should be as diverse at it is funky, JosaFeen Wells is proud of her roster for this Saturday’s show, and proud to be singing in both. Her roots are in the gospel church-singing of her childhood. She is also a veteran of DC’s Go-Go scene, having performed with Lil Benny and the Go-Go All-Stars, Potential Groovers and Untouch. She was also in a three-girl singing group that made it to Showtime at the Apollo, and, as Carla Elliott, she recorded vocals for some dance tracks for Rich Morel‘s “Pink Noise” project, that were unreleased. While she was working as a singer for N’Digo Rose & Nekkid UndastandN, she met Justin Moyer, who was doing work with them as an engineer, and later joined E.D. Sedgwick.
Jonathan Druy: You sang with N’Digo Rose & Nekkid UndastandN for quite some time, but they haven’t played out in ahwile. How is this show special?
JosaFeen Wells: This show is actually a reintroduction to Tony’s music. He hasn’t played since December, 2010. The crazy thing is it’s the original band: myself, Ginger Bleu, who’s flying in for this show, and Deborah Bond, who has her own thing. She has a video on VH1, on current rotation. This show is going to be a very special experience. I don’t think that this could come together any better, not only for being the first representation of Elliott Entertainment, but for just a blend of soul music. E.D. Sedgwick is one of the funkiest motherfuckers I know!
And Tony’s a genius to me. He plays the keyboard, and he sings as well. He knows how the guitar is supposed to be, how the bass-line is supposed to be. Tony is a product of his whole life – a 70s baby, an 80s baby, a 90s baby. He has the roots of Stevie. He has the “umph” of Tribe Called Quest. Jodeci. He knows all of that. You can’t even put a label on it.
JD : When did you start singing with Go-Go Bands?
JW : Go-Go has always been an outlet for me to actually show my vocal ability – I grew up in the church, my mother is an evangelist. My mom used to have us sing and my mother sang and my father sang as well. My father had an Eddie Kendricks type of sound and my mother sounded like Mahalia Jackson. So we would sing, sing, sing, and so after the whole church part of my life, it’s just in me. I used to just lock myself up for hours and I just would sing. Singing was always an outlet for me. I could express myself – I really really do consider my voice an instrument.
I actually did not go to an actual Go-Go show until I was about 19 years old, but I sang with Go-Go bands before then! I used to sing a lot in my high school, Richard Montgomery, and people would hear my voice, and it was just word of mouth. Also, I ended up being on the Showtime at the Apollo, and if you can find this tape, I love you, because I can’t get it. I sang on the Apollo when I was about 16 or 17, I would say mid-90s, with a four-girl group, around the time Destiny’s Child was blowing up.
JD : How did you join up with E.D. Sedgwick?
JW : What attracted me to Justin was the fact that when I split from this girl-group I met a gentleman named Rich Morel. I recorded some things with him. He’s awesome. You see, I’m a bass person. To me, this is my own philosophy. Bass-lines connect everything. To me if it has a fat bass-line it can cross over to many different ears. If a song sounds good, you don’t even have to know the language. If you like it you’re gonna sing whatever you think they’re saying. So bass-lines to me are like a foundation. So I hooked up with Rich Morel because he had so many wonderful dance tracks, then when I was recording an album for Tony and Justin let me hear his own stuff, I was like “wow”. I know this, I like this, it’s all music. If I feel as though you are giving your heart, I can tell.
JD: What kind of experience did you have, touring with E.D. Sedgwick, both in Europe and through American to the South By Southwest festival in Austin?
JW: I loved it. I loooove Texas, now. If I have to move somewhere, I’ll go there. There’s still those secret places, secret pocket places where people come to hear the underground. I think there’s a movement going on with the underground.
What I felt when I was there is that everybody just wanted to do what they want to do, especially the artists that weren’t known, every artist is hungry. That’s the overall vibe that I got, that people were excited to be there. It’s not a particular type of people, it’s all age spectrums. It’s just people that just love music! The only thing you have to do is have an open mind.
JD: What do you, as a singer with a soul/R&B background, bring to the dance-punk style of E.D. Sedgwick?
JW: We get classified as punk. And we probably are. E.D.’s been doing this for years. But if you hear it, it’s a combination of punk and other elements, so if anybody takes the time to have an open mind – if you sit back and play from the soul you strike a chord and it’s universal.
I listen to the music and I connect with it. I try to go beyond whatever lines. I call everything soul music that I feel has a pulse to it. Because I don’t throw it into a category, I bring what I feel is my best representation that goes with what it is Justin already has. So what happens is it’s just a mixture of something you can’t put a label on, but you like it.
Enter the Artmosphere, Vol I, featuring
N’Digo Rose & the Nekkid UndastandN
Saturday, August 25
Ras Restaurant and Lounge
4809 Georgia Ave. NW
Doors at 8:30pm. $10