Dana Margolin, singer and guitarist of Porridge Radio, makes my blood run cold with one phrase uttered at the very start of their Yes show this evening. ‘We’re going to play mainly new stuff’. That’s it. That’s enough to dampen my enthusiasm for this show on a mild Monday evening in December, the promise that for an hour or so I’m not going to know any tunes, lyrics will be wholly unfamiliar to me, and there will be no flicker of recognition as one of my favourite Porridge Radio songs start up. There is the promise of ‘some old stuff at the end’, but now I know I have to get through an hour of new material before we get there. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool when bands play new stuff, they have to test new songs out on the road and it’s nice to hear them in and amongst the familiar tracks you’ve come to hear. But a whole hour of brand new tracks? Better strap in.

That this was one of the most enjoyable gigs of the last couple of months is as big a surprise to me as anyone. Porridge Radio’s brand of widescreen, anthemic emo has produced two of the best ‘indie’ albums to come out of the UK in recent years in 2020’s Every Bad and 2022’s Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky. Margolin’s heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics about break ups, self criticism, and love lamented are tailor made for emo kids to scream back at them, backed by soaring melodies that often start out quiet before exploding into massive emo-bangers. It’s a winning formula, and has garnered them widespread critical acclaim and earned them a fervent fan base. The new tracks they play this evening are maybe a little more subdued, a little more nuanced than their familiar songs. There are less shout-out-loud-in-a-cathartic-way type lyrics (although there’s still some gems in there, including one that starts ‘I’m sick of the blues, I want to be loved’ or thereabouts, repeated across the song to winning effect) and slightly less of the ‘start quiet and explode’ musical dynamic. They are, however, utterly enthralling, which is quite the win for a bunch of songs no one in the room had heard before.

There are cute false starts here and there, but goodwill abounds from the crowd (it all gets a bit too much for one member who faints in the oddly warm room, the band stopping until he’s helped to his feet and is ok), with one person audible sobbing after one of the most memorable songs of the night, a real slowburner that builds to something spectacular, in the same vein as ‘The Rip’. Enthusiastic applause and cheering greets every song, very much so from me, as I forget my silly early misapprehensions and settle into watching one of the best rock bands in the country treat us to work in progress songs that sound every bit as good as their existing tracks, with a clear evolution in their sound for good measure. Margolin is such a magnetic presence, emotion pouring out of her as she pours her heart out to us. The drummer is ridiculously tight, propelling songs forward, and keys player and harmoniser extraordinaire Georgie Scott cuts a calm presence to the side of the stage, holding things together whilst pouring out the red wine.

After the new songs are done, Margolin promises us ‘a couple of older ones’ that turns out to be an extra half hour or so of audience requests, featuring a ripping ‘Sweet’, a brooding ‘Jealousy’, and an ecstatic ‘Back to the Radio’ to finish things off, friends in the crowd wrapping their arms around each other, hands raised in the air, fists pumping and legs jumping. It feels like a victory lap for both the band and the audience, a room full of such love for the band from people who have seen something pretty special this evening. A totally joyous, uplifting night; I will not sigh so heavily next time a band wants to treat us to their new music.