Portico Quartet and Juffage: Queens Social Club, Sheffield

It’s always good to step out of your comfort zone. Watching the crowd fill up a potential bingo venue, it’s clear that tonight is going to be different to the usual beer-filled, rock’n’roll night.

First, we are enticed into the world of Juffage. This Chicago-based, Leeds-bound one-man band is fascinatingly brilliant. Using a loop pedal, he layers drums, guitars, keyboards, melodicas and eery vocals.  Walking through the audience, self-consumed in his own lyrics, his Radiohead vibe becomes addictive at the end of his set.

The night progresses from one level of intensity to another as Portico Quartet unleashes their talents onto the stage. Where the audience had once been sat on the floor watching Juffage, they are now standing following the request of the contrabass player, Milo Fitzpatrick.

It is true what they say, Portico Quartet do not sound like anything you’ve ever heard before. They ride through their compositions with an edging grace. Communicating through counter-rhythms on instruments that have never before been combined as a collective.

They are all jazz musicians but they are certainly not a jazz band. The 2008 Mercury Nominees hammer home why they deserve such attention. Three albums down the line and here they are, experimenting with sounds familiar to white noise in the first track of their third album ‘Window Seat’. Their use of the hang still remains as authentic as it was when they were first released. The Swiss-invented instrument represents the group’s core belief to step out and try everything. When they play ‘Ruins’, each member of the band looks as if they are creating the music for the first time, despite having gigged around with it for months.

The silence of the audience during ‘4,096 colours’ is almost as stunning as the song itself. The ringing out of the saxophone in free time echoed by the distorted, bending effects being manipulated on a little DJ box by the drummer is, quite literally, breathtaking. At times, the only way to describe Portico Quartet is “hypnotizing”. Their psychedelic, Avant Garde vibe can be enjoyed by anyone if you just let go and listen. Drawing the night to a close with a well-deserved, inevitable encore of ‘Dawn Patrol’, the audience walk away looking elated.

It’s always good to step out of your comfort zone. A night with Portico Quartet is the perfect way to do it.