Portals festival 2023 was held at EartH in Hackney for the first time this year and it made for a wonderful weekend full of experimental alternative music with easily their biggest lineup to date!

All three stages had their unique charm but it was the theatre stage that had the real WOW factor as you entered the massive room and just imagined what your favourite band would be like on this humongous stage over the course of the weekend!

We arrived a little late on the Saturday but just in time to catch Irelands Bicurious on the main stage. The math-rock duo bounded around the stage playing a nice mix of old and new songs which will definitely have made them a bunch of new fans and it’s a big jump from their previous portals set where they played the tiny Aces & Eights and you could tell they were buzzing to be playing to a packed room so early on in the day!

Bicurious – Photo Credit : Joseph Singh

Up next we Caught The Broken Islands who had travelled from Canada to record their new album over in the UK and to showcase their music to the Portals crowd in the lovely setting of the Bar stage, they brought a nice mix of relaxed post-rock/ indie to the proceedings.

Time for one of our favourites here at bUTTONpUSHER next EL MOONO, we’ve been obsessed with this lot since they released Temple Corrupted and they never disappoint live, they played a nice mix of older songs and some new ones from their forthcoming album which they’ve recorded with Small Pond in Brighton! Keep your eyes peeled for that later in the year!

Bo Ningen are an act we’ve not seen in a good few years now and they were just as good as we remembered them, crazy psych tunes that take you to a completely different world, there’s even some rap thrown in for good measure and the crowd were left captivated by them.

Bo Ningen – Photo Credit : Joseph Singh

The first of the difficult clashes was Lakes and AK/DK so we opted for a bit of both as we’d hosted Lakes on the Friday night in Nottingham, they played a great set full of emo bangers to a packed Bar stage before we moved up to the Theatre to catch the tail end of AK/DK’s double drummer party set along with some stunning visuals to boot.

I managed to catch a couple of AA Williams songs in the theatre but was flagging a bit and needed something with a bit more energy so headed off to see Irish boys A Burial At Sea on the Bar stage which got me back in the game and ready for some more bangers from And So I Watch You From Afar in the Main Hall.

ASIWYFA – Photo Credit : Leesha Williams

A welcomed rest in the theatre while we watched Nordic Giants, a band that should only ever play venues like this, they were spectacular as they blitzed through an epic set full of post rock twists and turns and the visuals worked so well on the massive screen behind them which made this show even more special especially for those of our crew who hadn’t seen the band perform before.

Nordic Giants – Photo Credit : Leesha Williams

This brought us to the penultimate act of the night, the inimitable Straight Girl who despite being on crutches managed to flail around the venue like a person possessed with their unique brand of electro dance punk, it was just a shame it wasn’t busier up in the bar but for those who were there it was just full on JOY!!

Finally it was time for BIG LAD to close the night, the duo are renowned for their high energy party bangers and they did not disappoint at Portals, there was dancing and carnage all around as the pair set up on the floor as the crowd gathered closely around them and danced their asses off for the remainder of the night!

Well done Portals for an amazing first day, the only real niggle of the weekend was the no re-entry after 4:30pm which meant you had no choice but to eat and drink at the venue with a super limited menu and expensive beers so hopefully that is something that will change next year given the cost of living is a big issue right now.

Sunday review coming soon….