The suburban dad who's dragging go-go into the future
- Tom Oehser (Photo: Jay Westcott)
CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, Tom Oehser's Internet handle appeared as Tom Cat. It is Tomcat.
Local law enforcement jurisdictions seem to think that the Capitol Heights Ballroom is at 5401 Norfield Road, but Tom Oehser knows the street address is actually 5400. He also knows that Backyard and Raw Image aren't playing Marygolds on Sunday nights anymore — they're at Venus Lounge.
The D.C. Police Department’s controversial go-go report, which keeps track of shows around the DMV, contains those, and other, inaccuracies — things that would never sneak onto Oehser’s Gogobeat.com site.
“I don’t know why they’re so bad,” Oehser says of the police’s go-go listings. “It’s almost like only certain officers know about certain shows and are willing to feed the information back,” he says. “They can’t be reading a [go-go events] site like Go-Go Central, because they’d go nuts.
“They’d have to read through 6000 topics on which band is better: ABM or MOB? And if you do that, you’d just go mad and you wouldn’t be able to be a police officer and work on the go-go report,” he continues. “Maybe it’s just that simple.”
Knowing more about go-go than the cops offers no great bragging rights, but being able to singlehandedly compile a comprehensive list of events that is superior to what the police’s Intelligence Unit is putting together does. Especially since Oehser has never played in, managed, or promoted a go-go band, and isn’t a long-time follower of the music. He’s a 48-year-old white guy—a computer programmer, husband, and father of two — who really only got into go-go about five years ago but happens to compile some of the most comprehensive, easily navigable go-go listings in the city.
Oehser spends next to nothing to populate his site with the event listings. “My total cost aside from my own labor has been about $50,” he says. But time is another matter. Although his one-man operation does more than an entire unit of police officers, a few more hands would help ease his burden. Oehser originally envisioned Gogobeat.com as an interactive website where members of the go-go community could add their own events. That dream has largely been a bust.
“I had this vision that I could convince others in the community to update it and edit it and contribute and post their shows on it — yeah, not so much,” he says. “Right now, if I go on vacation or get sick, it mostly doesn’t get updated. I’m at the point where I have to get other people to update it. You wanna update it?”
Finding the Beat
Oehser’s go-go journey began as perhaps no other has: a stop at the Wilkes Barre, Pa., resort the Woodlands Inn, on his way to a family vacation in the Adirondacks.
While Oehser grew up in Glover Park, where “no one ever stuck a go-go flier on a windshield,” he remembers seeing go-go bands on the street beating buckets. As a young man, he was moderately interested but was more into “Grateful Dead, psychedelic stuff, and blues.” Besides, he saw it as something unique to street corners. “My first impressions of go-go were, OK, it’s non-electric, purely percussive and it’s cool,” he says, “But I didn’t make any kind of connection that you’d do it at 2 a.m. in a club.”
As D.C.’s Deadhead scene dried up, he started going to bars in Georgetown and Dupont Circle, which he found to be “small, and fairly uptight.” He gave up on discovering new music and started staying in. Until the Woodlands Inn.
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