I’m happy to put my hands up and say I wasn’t totally sold on Porij before Friday’s gig. I loved last year’s instrumental release ‘150’, but was less convinced by the poppier singles that followed.
Maybe it’s just the ‘first gig back’ effect, but, reader, I am ready to admit that my previous assessment of Porij was mistaken.
It was my first time at the White Hotel, and after the sketchy AF walk, past the excellently named ‘Kieran’s Car Park’, through a dark and semi-abandoned industrial estate off Bury New Road, I wasn’t filled with hope. Entering the venue however, was transformational: I smelled the smells of cigarettes and smoke machines and chortled at the hastily scrawled ‘Andy Burnham is a power bottom’ graffiti above the urinals. Live music was back, and Porij hadn’t even started playing.
There was something of ‘first gig back’ about the band’s demeanour too. They were clearly absolutely loving it, and boy was it refreshing after the longest gap between gigs I’ve experienced since my first ‘proper’ gig nearly 21 years ago.
I know very little about the band’s background, but I’m convinced they are trained jazz musicians that decided they wanted to make people dance. The quality of playing on show, particularly from the telepathic rhythm section and flawless close harmony of the two singers, was a genuine surprise. One of the ideas I had in mind about Porij before this gig was that their sound was all production and they couldn’t possibly recreate it live. Once again I was wrong. These guys are serious musicians.
Porij are a very new band so I was expecting to hear a fair few songs for the first time at this gig. Their set list was heavily front loaded, with crowd pleasers ‘Closer’ and ‘Nobody Scared’ front and centre. I was concerned, amid their post-ironic rock’n’roll poser guitar raising and sweaty t shirt removing, that they had peaked to soon. The guitarist even appeared to fall off stage, only to later admit that his erstwhile burrito had now exited his stomach. Rock and fucking roll.
Without hesitation they launched into one of the best cover versions I have ever heard live – Disclosure and AlunaGeorge’s ‘White Noise’. I was simultaneously relieved to hear a cover at a gig that wasn’t originally by Kate Bush (still love you Kate) and dismayed to realise that the original was nearly a decade old.
On then to new material – latest EP, Baby Face, was released just two days prior. It being a homecoming gig of sorts, there were plenty of fans [friends?] shouting back the words to ‘Divine’ that the rest of us were yet to learn by heart – ‘and when we reach those pearly gates we’ll say / bitch, I am divine’. The new tunes continued and sensing a lull, I headed for the bar, only for the band to break into my personal favourite, ‘150’. I rushed back, pint in each hand with little concern for their contents, and danced like 2020 never happened.
The enjoyment on display was infectious, resulting in a moment of collective gig-gasm among the crowd when the band returned for their encore, almost unbelievably performing the remix of ‘Nobody Scared’, the unadulterated version of which we had heard earlier in their set.
This is not the first time that seeing a band live has changed my mind. Live music has an inherent power and it’s so good to be reminded of it. Porij are here to stay, ignore them at your peril.
Words by James Spearing.