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Tuesday 16 May 2023

Emerald Sapphire Gold

I got an offer from my brother who had a spare ticket for ESG at Band On The Wall on Saturday night- a sold out gig in a small venue by New York dance/ funk- punk legends. That's not something to say no to. The sun shone on Saturday, town was busy with shoppers, drinkers, fans coming and going to and from Old Trafford and the general buzz of the first nice day of the spring. Unfortunately having a drink at Night And Day meant we arrived at Band On The Wall at 8.45pm only to be told the group had been on stage since 8.30 so we missed the first few songs but walking in it was clear that ESG were delivering the goods to a very enthusiastic crowd. 

ESG's history with Manchester dates back over four decades, to 1981 when Tony Wilson saw the Scroggins sisters and friend Tito Libran playing at Hurrah in Manhattan. Three days later they were recording with Martin Hannett, a three track single released on Factory in June 1981 (FAC 34 catalogue fans). You're No Good had three songs on it, the title track, Moody and UFO, the last one recorded quickly because Hannett saw there were three minutes of master tape left unused and two minutes fifty four seconds of that tape went on to become one of the most sampled songs in hip hop history, its sirens, beats and descending guitar line recognisable in hundreds of records. ESG supported A Certain Ratio in 1980 when ACR played in New York (at least two Ratios, Martin and Jez, are present in the audience tonight) and Hannett was producing ACR's To Each... at the same time as the three ESG songs that came out on the Factory single. ESG played the opening night of the Hacienda. Accordingly they're welcomed here tonight like long lost relatives, honorary Mancunians. 

Renee Scroggins is centre stage, seated, rapping and singing in her unmistakeable Bronx twang, a spit and snarl where necessary- 'I got sampled so often I decided I was gonna sample myself', she tells us by way of introduction to one of her songs tonight. Around her is that skeletal but funky, New York, mutant No Wave dance/ punk funk sound, all bass, drums and percussion, with the basslines clear and crisp and sounding huge through Band On The Wall's sound system. Stage right Nicholas Nicholas plays congas, cowbell, shakers, tambourine and woodblock, frequently breaking away from the percussion to dance around and across the stage, arms raised and with a big grin. Moody, from FAC 34, is played mid- set and the years are rolled away as the bass pumps and the rhythms clatter.


It's as much a celebration as a gig, ESG clearly enjoying themselves and the crowd completely onside. There's very little in the way of treble or melody, it's all about the bass and drums, music stripped down to a minimalist sound, a gleeful kinetic groove. Towards the end an audience member is helped up onto the stage to dance. She brings her friend up and they co- ordinate spontaneously, switching places on stage. At the end, as Renee is helped off stage, the bass and drums continue, Mike Giordano rolling round the kit and bassist Nicole exhorting us to join in the chant of 'ESG, ESG'. 

1 comment:

JC said...

Went back and listened for the first time in ages to the three tracks on 'You're No Good' (only have them in digital form). Forgot how close in sound U.F.O. was to much of the Movement-era New Order.