One of Birmingham’s most loved parties, Portal have been bringing raucous groovy house and techno parties to some of the city’s best venues since 2014, starting off at Next*Door and moving on to The Rainbow Venues, Black Box and Spotlight. This year they’re widening the net to take the rave train to Malta for Annie Mac’s Lost & Found Festival, and to London’s spectacular new venue Printworks to host Room 2 on Hot Since 82’s Knee Deep in Sound showcase. Check out their playlist and canny interview with promoters Andy Bell and Jon Reidy.
Firstly, how did you both meet?
We met back when Andy was throwing a successful weekly Thursday party in Solihull, SNO, it was around that time that John was getting into house music more and more... we would host SNO terrace sessions in the summer to play house & techno outside. A large group of us and our friends would travel far and wide across the country to Manchester (Warehouse Project), London, Liverpool and abroad Ibiza, Barcelona, Serbia, Miami as there was only a handful of parties in our home town playing the sound we loved.
When did Portal begin? Where, why and how?
The ethos of The Portal brand was already subconsciously imprinted in our heads as a result of all the travelling to see our favourite artists play the music we loved so far and wide; going religiously to places like Warehouse Project, Fabric & DC10. At the time of the opening of our first home for the brand Next*Door (an intimate 350 capacity amphitheater with 3D visual mapping) we were both already putting shows on at The Rainbow Venues. Andy originally came to The Rainbow Venues to run Steve Lawlers ViVa Music parties providing Lawler with a show for his label in his home town, bringing in artists such as Joris Voorn, Darius Syrossian, Leon & Tiefschwartz and as things progressed went on to run 02:31 with Tom Shorterz & Lee Mcdonald. John was also running his own party down there with good friend and other half of Paradox City Jon Brady called ‘Dolce Vita’; spotting Patrick Topping and giving him one of his first gigs outside of Newcastle and also booking Lee Foss, Anabel Englund & more… When the chance came about to start an event where the music policy could be upbeat, groovy, fun house & techno that nobody was doing in the city it was a no-brainer.
What is special about the Birmingham scene?
First of all were extremely proud to be from the city of Birmingham, people really know how to party here (even if our accent gets some stick). It’s crazy to think back about 6/7 years ago that there wasn't much of an underground scene in Birmingham however we have seen (and hopefully helped) it grow. The way that the Rainbow has developed and expanded is amazing, the Digbeth area is now thriving as a result with thousands of people descending upon the area even for events not related to underground electronic music, for example Digbeth Dining Club - a street food event that takes place weekly Fridays. Digbeth is without question Birmingham’s answer to Shoreditch’s Brick Lane - full of creatively minded people and businesses, a real social hub with a unique buzz about it.
You’ve worked with some massive brands - what have been your favourite parties over the years?
We enjoy working on projects with other brands that we believe in or fit within Portals ethos - Elrow has to be one of our personal favourites. The hedonistic madness, vibe and energy that comes with these shows is testament to why it is now one of the the world’s largest clubbing brands. There have been other special collab brand shows with major players in the music industry such as Hot Creations (Textile Factory show), Amnesia (Rainbow Warehouse show), ViVa Warriors (Rainbow Warehouse & Blackbox show) and Roush Recordings (Next*Door show). Every party we throw we genuinley feel it gets better and better and are always asking ourselves at the end of the night - how are we going to top that one?!
Tell us about some of the tracks in the playlist - why are they significant to Portal?
The whole playlist is special to us – but particularly Illicit ‘Cheeky Armada’, this became one of our favourites after hearing Derrick Carter play it on the terrace at DC10. You’ll always hear something from Jesse Perez at our shows, so we love ‘Fake’ and the video that goes with it. Finally, as DJ’s we have solidly supported all of the Solardo guys releases, then this bomb came along!! Their track ‘Tribesmen’ needs no introduction - track of the summer 2016 for us! It was a big hands in the air moment when they played this for us at our Halloween show.
Photo credit: Here & Now