Yesterday was Foo Fest here in Providence, the annual birthday block party for AS220, the open gallery/performance/artist's/living space downtown. The Baronette and I went down a couple of times, first in the early afternoon to visit the Anarchist Book Fair, where we bought a few things from the AK Press booth (I got this and this, she got this and this, if you're wondering). I had a nice, admittedly sort of vapid (my fault) short conversation with the woman working the booth about how all the best writers are anarchists. Then we kind of meandered home and shelved the books and relaxed for a while.
Then, later on in the evening, we walked back downtown, an extremely pleasant three mile walk through about seven different types of city environments, to see fucking ESG, who played to a packed, blocked off street full of people enjoying the hell out of it. From the moment I heard, a few months ago, that ESG was going to be playing Foo Fest, to the moment the sisters got on stage, I had a hard time believing I was going to actually see them. And then I saw them. And they were phenomenal.
The bands I'm used to seeing around here are all kind of the same, and I'm sick of it. It's usually a bunch of self-consciously scruffy 20 or 30-ish white guys* playing an update on either stoner metal or no wave, to my ears adding very little to either field. So in contrast it was refreshing to see a bunch of ordinary women who looked like no one so much as the people I ride the bus with every day creating extraordinary music with nothing but a standard drumset, a hand drum set, a bass, some other various hand percussion objects picked up from time to time, and vocals (and, for one beautiful song, one note on a guitar, over and over).
It didn't sound like their records, and I didn't expect it to. It's thirty years later now, and, obviously, Martin Hannett wasn't there. And he didn't need to be, of course. ESG was there. And they were obviously thrilled to be there, or anywhere, playing to an audience of people who are loving it, who are calling out the names of songs they want to hear, thirty years later, twenty years after releasing an EP titled Sample Credits Don't Pay Our Bills**.
It may seem strange for me to say this while idolizing this one particular band, but: we can all create beautiful things. We don't need to rely on other people to do it for us. I don't mean to say to stop listening to other people's music or looking at other people's paintings or reading other people's books or anything; there should be dialogue, always, and dialogue involves at least two parties, not just one. But one of those parties should always be us.
The best shows I've been to in recent years (The Homosexuals, ESG, the Girls Rock RI show last month that I meant to write about but didn't but which was fucking amazing) have all reminded me of this. Art that only dazzles, that only makes you want to applaud the artist, is shitty art. Art that makes you want to live and create is good art. This was good art.
*Which unfortunately describes me as well.
**Not to say that playing Foo Fest means they're financially set now or anything. But it must feel so wonderful to be recognized for the brilliant people they are.
UPDATE This post of Richard's applies, and I wish I had read it before writing this instead of right after!