The epic double billing of ESG and Sister Nancy brought immaculate and hard hitting vibes to Elsewhere Space for a grooving Friday night.
Each a legendary act in their own right, to see both the dancehall queen Sister Nancy and the dance-punk pioneers ESG together in the same evening was a truly special thing and made for an unforgettable night full of vibrant grooves and slamming rhythms. Taking the stage first was Sister Nancy who immediately got the crowd to bounce and jive to her bright and tropical beats as her DJ pumped things up with spritely guitars and warm steel drums. Instantly, her voice commanded the attention of the room, her range as impressive now as it was on record forty years earlier. Moving all over the stage, her energy was staggering as she kicked and shook her hips to rapturous ovation, never once losing the beat and constantly revving the crowd up for more. Constantly thanking everyone for their love, Nancy beamed with pride and relished in every moment, "you're all so young, how do you know who I am?" she asked with a laugh, a somewhat inner disbelief that she could somehow have gained so many new fans over the years, her legacy growing with time as she welcomed her new fans with open arms. Ensuring that her fans were consistently entertained, she was non-stop with her story telling and remarkable vocal work that displayed her mind blowing talent with what appeared to be absolute ease. "I'm proud to be 61" she told the crowd, embracing her legacy as one of the most influential figures in dancehall music and basking in the glory of her forty plus years of bringing the spirit of Jamaica to the masses. Her love for her country and bringing the good times was ever so apparent and it was positively charming to see her shine with such joy. "This song has been used, abused, but never refused. I love this song with all my heart, the only thing I love more is my daughter. I never thought when I recorded this song that it would be what it is, but I'm so grateful for what it's become." As expected, she closed her set with "Bam Bam," a resounding track that burst with euphoria and lit up the club with pristine satisfaction. A truly blissful moment, the song was full of passion, its buoyant groove brimming with ecstasy as smiles filled the room while hips swayed with the timeless sound.
As if the first set wasn't enough (it easily could've been a headlining performance as the caliber was top-notch), the legends of the South Bronx, ESG wasted no time locking into their air-tight grooves of drum and bass that got the crowd ready to go and never let up. Originally made-up of three sisters, the latest incarnation of the group is still a family affair with lead singer Renee's son and daughter filling in for her Deborah and Valerie and there's no denying that they carry the torch in an electrifying tribute. "Come Away" built up a killer groove as Renee's vocals proved their endurance, sounding almost identical to the records from forty years prior. "Dance" was another early high energy number that picked up the pace, upping the ante for the crowd to let themselves fall for the groove and let loose. The fusion of dub and disco was prominent throughout the set and it was incredible to see how expansive their sound could be with only a rhythm section leading the way. The drum and bass combo was mesmerizing, the interlocking of the two creating iconic after iconic riffs, each one truly inspirational without ever sounding anything close to redundant. Cowbells and woodblocks added more texture to the band's deeply percussive sound and Renee's vocals were uniquely radient. "This next one is our most sampled track" they said before launching into "UFO," a track that become the backbone of countless hip-hop and R&B jams for decades, it's significance one for the ages that felt larger than life when performed live. "You Make No Sense" and "Moody" kept the vibes high, the night slowly building to a triumphant climax of brilliant grooves. Standing up and rising to the occasion, Renee stood for the last song as she led her family to a rocking performance that saw the crowd form a mosh pit and fully give in to the band's dance-punk nature. It was an equally enthusiastic and cathartic moment that saw the night reach its monumental peak. Bringing together so many musical elements can be a risk, but ESG took parts of post-punk and mixed with with disco to lead the way for so many legacy acts in their wake. To see the originators was a real dream, but for them to defy expectations made for something really magical, a night filled with endless possibilities built around pure joy and positivity.