ESG - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

ESG - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

by charles filtness Rating: Release Date:
ESG - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
ESG - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

ESG are legendary, a hugely influential and inspirational band that are as relevant today as they were some 40 years ago at the start of their career. 

Originally formed by four sisters who were encouraged by their Mum to pursue music, partly as a way for her to ensure her younger children didn’t follow a path of crime or drugs like many others did in the area of the South Bronx where they grew up.   That setting was also to be a major factor in the sound of the band.  Renee Scroggins who is the vocalists and only original sister to play live has talked of growing up in the projects, of opening up the windows on a summer night and hearing the music, “they’d be playing congas and timbales in the park… I mean there are some beats I have memorised in my head to this day, it was a good thing and it influenced the Latin Style of our music”.  James Brown was also another major influence, “it was just that giant bass and the drums…... it would just have that funk and that drive”.  Their music is often described as punk-funk or no-wave, but labels aren't something Renee is particularly comfortable with, “if I had to put a label on it…. we consider it music to make you dance, not dance music…. I think with it just being bass and funk and primal it has no time”.  Certainly, it is music that has endured and doesn’t feel dated or tarnished by an ‘80s sound or production, elements that can diminish some music from that period.

esgSuccess was relatively swift, formed by the teenage sisters in 1978, by 1981 they had caught the attention of Factory Records boss Tony Wilson after opening for A Certain Ratio.  Within a matter of days they were in the studio with Martin Hannett recording their first EP including the tracks; ‘You’re No Good’ and  ‘Moody’ plus perhaps more famously the song ‘U.F.O’, only recorded after the first two tracks were completed in one take meaning there were 3 minutes of spare tape to use up.  That song has gone on to have a life of its own being one of the most heavily sampled tunes by artists including Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, N.W.A., The Notorious B.I.G. and many more.  A situation that hasn’t always been the most rewarding for the band.  One of their early 90s come-back singles ‘Sample Credits Don’t Pay our Bills’ speaks for itself.  Whilst Renee is on record as expressing her dissatisfaction with some rappers using their music in a negative connotation or "saying horrible things against women". “I still find it totally offensive and that hasn’t changed” she said in a recent interview.

 So tonight they play the community room of the Brudenell, one of only 2 dates on this tour billed as their last in the UK.  On stage as on record the setup is fairly minimalist; bass guitar, drums, percussion and Renee on vocals is all that is needed to literally bring the house down.  It’s a party, carnival style atmosphere that they create; energetic, life-affirming music that has the whole place moving.  They basically just smash out the hits with no let-up, it’s all about the bass and drums, and they sound fantastic, the whole thing grooves.  The various percussion, cowbells, whistles and more serve to intensify the tunes, everyone on stage seemingly enjoying the experience as much as the crowd. It is a memorable show.  When they leave the stage having said this is the last song twice already it seems the night is done, the lights and music even momentarily go up.  But they reappear for one final and presumably impromptu encore, it feels special.  I’m certain everyone hopes they change their mind about this being the final tour, perhaps the band also.   

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