‘The Let Out’: Documentary Highlights Evolution of Go-Go Culture

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By Micha Green
D.C. Editor
mgreen@54.204.251.142

While Go-Go has always been true to D.C. since its inception in the 1970s, the resurgence of it as mainstream has been particularly pertinent in the final months of the decade, with the Long Live GoGo and Don’t Mute D.C. movements that arose in Spring 2019. However, even before droves of Washingtonians were hitting the streets and signing petitions to advocate for Go-Go’s cultural sustainability, filmmaker and D.C. native Ayanna Long, was cooking up a project of her own to highlight and memorialize the indigenous sound of the nation’s capital, and its trajectory over the years. On Dec. 21, Long’s first documentary project, The Let Out will air at Eaton Hotel, 1201 K St. N.W., as part of Long Live GoGo’s Moe Ho Ho Holiday Jam.”

The Let Out traces collective memories of D.M.V. natives to tell the story of the cultural role that Go-Go music plays in Washington D.C.’s changing landscape,” Long said in an exclusive interview with the AFRO. “With a focus on the later era of the music that emerged during the early 2000’s- the bounce beat- The Let Out follows how the sound has evolved throughout the years.”

During the past decade, D.C.’s indigenous sound had not been as widely prevalent, after shutdowns of Go-Go clubs following an uptick in violence that was associated with the venues, which ultimately criminalized the genre. A native of Southeast, D.C. now living in Brooklyn, Long began working on The Let Out because it was near to her heart, and started production far before Go-Go’s resurrection this year.

Ayanna Long’s new film The Let Out, which airs on Dec. 21 at Eaton Hotel, highlights Go-Go’s major contribution to D.C. culture. (Courtesy Photo)

“When I started this project in 2017, I had no idea that there would be this ‘resurgence’ of Go-Go in mainstream consciousness as it is now. I honestly didn’t pursue this project because it was ‘on trend.’ This is a culture that I’ve always recognized and have been able to find beauty in, being that this is where I’m from,” she said.

Long has been doing showings of the film in both D.C. and New York since February.  However, the timing of The Let Out’s showing at Eaton couldn’t have been better as Go-Go is having a major moment; this week alone has been huge for the genre.  

On Tuesday, Dec. 17, the District of Columbia City Council unanimously voted that the legislation to make Go-Go the official music of the nation’s capital had met the qualifications to have two official votes.  As the entire Council co-introduced the legislation, the bill will likely pass when it’s officially voted on in January. 

Four days after the Council’s landmark vote, when The Let Out is showcased as part of Moe Ho Ho, Go-Go will be on full display, and similarly to Long, those involved are not simply “on trend.”  Long Live GoGo, Moechella and Million Moe March organizer, Justin “Yaddiya” Johnson has been involved with the genre for over a decade. Even before the success of the widely celebrated Moechella, events, Johnson was recognized as a pillar in the recent sustainability of Go-Go culture, and was an early participant and champion of the The Let Out film.

“The organizer, Justin ‘Yaddiya’ Johnson was an early supporter of the film and is featured in it,” Long said.  “I’m happy to be included,” the filmmaker added, in reference to being featured as part of the Moe Ho Ho celebration.

What’s even more special about The Let Out is its title, as it relates to a very specific and unique piece of the D.C. and Go-Go cultural experience.  

“The ‘let out’ is that moment after the Go-Go ends where everyone hangs out and shares their experiences of being inside with each other,” the documentarian said. 

The native Washingtonian emphasized the importance of the ‘let out,’ as it relates to D.C.’s Black community, particularly considering the effects of gentrification, and the vanilla swirl that has made its imprint in “Chocolate City.”

“It’s just another way that Black people take up space in the city- make our presence known- which I think is important as the city changes,” she said.

Long said she hopes that people who see the film, who have not been exposed to Go-Go in its totality, will be inspired to further dive into the genre and culture by attending an actual performance.

“My only hope is that people go to a Go-Go after seeing it,” she said.

For those who go to The Let Out’s showings on Dec. 21 at Eaton Hotel,  which are at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m., attending a Go-Go after won’t be hard, as Moe Ho Ho will also include a Holiday Jam featuring the bands TCB and UCB from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.

If interested in taking part in any of Moe Ho Ho’s programming, such as The Let Out’s airings, the Holiday Market by the Really Big Pop Up (from 1 p.m. – 8 p.m.), the live recording of the Tequila Talk Podcast, or the Holiday Jam visit MoeHoHo.eventbrite.com.