The first gig of 2014 and it’s a busy Camden venue who are set to welcome E.S.G. (Emerald, Sapphire and Gold). They’re originally from the South Bronx and were made up of four sisters, Renee, Valerie, Marie and Deborah Scroggins, and started playing together in 1978. They’ve since gone through various line up changes over the years, and now include the daughters of some of the original members. When they first started getting recognition in 1981, they became an influence on three important musical genres, Punk, House and Hip Hop. They were flown over to the UK to play at the opening night of The Hacienda (their first single “You’re No Good” was released on Factory Records and produced by Martin Hannett) and they have been heavily sampled in Hip Hop (their EP from 1992 “Sample Credits Don’t Pay Our Bills” telling it’s own story in the title).
Their minimalist sound has always been about heavyweight bass lines, funky drumming and percussion for a polyrhythmic dance beat aided by the unique vocals of Renee and this is what we get tonight. Their line up now consists of a bass player, drummer, percussion/backing singer, original member Marie on congas, original member Renee on vocals and another band member who spends practically the whole set leaping around, hyping up the crowd with his frenetic dancing and occasionally playing percussion, their equivalent of Bez from The Happy Mondays.
A lot of their set tonight comes from their classic debut 1983 album “Come Away With ESG”. We get to here the intense clave workout of “Tiny Sticks”, the rhythmic drumming on the song getting the packed dancefloor moving. A huge cheer goes up when they play “UFO” fairly early on in their set. The introduction to this tune is the most widely sampled E.S.G. track. It’s repetitive beat has always been slowed down in the Hip Hop world to make it perfect for MCs to rhyme over, but played at it’s original speed it’s still a hugely danceable and groovy tune. We also get to hear other old school favourites like “You’re no good”, “My love for you” and the housey thump of “Moody” (which was a big favourite of DJ Larry Levan of Paradise Garage fame).
Renee introduces a new song called “Watching” which she says is from their latest CD “What More Can You Take” released last year. It’s the classic E.S.G sound and goes down well with the crowd. They’ve always had a decent following over here so it’s good to see their newer stuff being appreciated too.
They encore with “Erase you”, the immediately recognisable Post Punk drum beat being met with huge cheers. It’s a great end to a danceable and entertaining set.