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ESG Say Goodbye
Final show next Friday in Chicago

Next Friday, September 21, at Chicago's Abbey Pub, a strand of post-punk history will reach its conclusion, as the influential sister act ESG will play what they are calling their final show ever.

It's part of the unfortunately named-- but nonetheless laudable-- Estrojam festival, which will also host a "Music Biz 101" workshop at the same venue earlier in the evening, featuring ESG frontwoman Renee Scroggins doling out advice. (Other acts performing at the six-day festival include Marnie Stern, Yo Majesty, Kristin Hersh, Bettye LaVette, Bahamadia, Psalm One, and Margaret Cho.)

When asked why ESG are calling it quits now, frontwoman Renee Scroggins said, "It's been a long career. We were able to play a good 30 years in the business. I'm just really tired right now. We love our fans, and we appreciate 30 years of support." She added that she's turned her focus to producing other artists; her first act is a singer named Marquetta.

For those unfamiliar with ESG, here's a crash course:

ESG have more cred than a bank. In the mid-70s, the mother of the Scroggins girls (Renee, Valerie, Marie, and Deborah) bought her daughters musical instruments to keep them off the South Bronx streets; by the early 80s, the sisters had tumbled head over heels into the post-punk/hip-hop/house nexus that was the downtown NYC music scene at the time. Their first single, produced by Martin Hannett, came out on Factory Records in England and 99 Records in America. They opened for the Clash, Gang of Four, Grandmaster Flash, and Public Image Ltd. They played the opening night of Tony Wilson's Hacienda and the closing night of Larry Levan's Paradise Garage. They've been sampled by Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, and, um, Liars, among many, many others, often uncredited and uncompensated.

Of course, cred doesn't necessarily buy you a sustainable career, and ESG have bobbed in and out of periods of activity for the past three decades. In 2000, Soul Jazz's Universal Sound imprint revived interest in the band with the release of the phenomenal collection A South Bronx Story. If you don't own it, buy it now. NOW. (A sequel, A South Bronx Story 2: Collector's Edition: Rarities, came out just a month ago.)

With a revived lineup that included Renee's and Valerie's daughters, ESG released two new albums this decade-- 2002's Step Off and 2006's Keep on Moving-- that were just as raw and minimal as the band's earliest singles. They also toured a bit.

I've seen ESG play several times over the past few years, and every time, they've blown their younger, "hipper," opening acts off the stage. And I'm not talking about no-names here. I'm talking about people like TV on the Radio and Out Hud.

Let's hope that the show next weekend isn't really the end of ESG. There's a whole generation of bands that needs to be shown how it's done.
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