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piri and the tiktokification of the music industry

piri, (aka Sophie McBurnie) one half of soft drum ‘n’ bass duo piri & tommy, performed a sell-out show at Headrow House on Friday night, the second of piri's intimate "pop up" shows: the venue is announced a week before, leading to a near Taylor Swift level of demand for tickets (the first pop up in Bristol sold out in two minutes).

Piri's headline show unabashedly leant into the idea that her music reflects and further promotes the tiktokification of the industry. As she stated in an interview with Polyesterzine, "it's not my fault that my song [soft spot] blew up on TikTok." She maintained this distance on Friday night by utilising a pre-recorded intro that mocked industry bigwigs crunching their TikTok engagement targets. At the same time, piri performed the infamous sped-up remix (Sammy Virji's) and, harkening back to TikTok's origin story, choreographed the entire show with two supporting dancers, who impressively showcased their synchronised moves with piri for the whole show.

Speaking of the whole show, the entire performance was, like TikTok content, bitesize, lasting only thirty-seven minutes. Piri & tommy aren't exactly swimming in material; they only have one album out, froge.mp3, released in October of last year, which mostly comprises of pre-released singles. With a thirty-five minute runtime, piri performed the entire album (though not in order) along with a crowd-pleasing cover of Crystal Waters' now rave anthem Gypsy Woman (aka La Da Dee La Da Da). This led to the odd situation when the support act’s set was actually longer than piri's, playing for a full hour and ending with another club classic that also doubles up as an excellent vocal warm-up, as we de-do-de-dooed our way through Vengaboys' We Like to Party! (albeit until sound cut them off).

Piri's short-but-sweet set was jam-packed with energy and charisma. A costume change behind a glittery curtain half way through into appropriate swimwear (including armbands) for beachin' added some entertainment value as did the beach balls thrown around the crowd. Piri opted to keep her segues between songs brief, and ensured the momentum kept building from song to song. This momentum was reflected in a noticeable shift in the crowd's behaviour from the start to end of the set: from nodding and toe tapping to all-out dancing. When she did address the crowd, piri didn't shy away from the romantic break-up between herself and Tommy (they continue to collaborate together and all their music was already released under both piri & tommy and piri), amicably stating that a song about a loser ex was not about Tommy, but another, more wholesome one, was.

piri & tommy (credits: NME).

Piri's first solo show in Leeds was a smash hit; likewise, she claimed that we were one of the "best ever crowds, ever". Having been longlisted in the Radio 1's Sound of 2023 – alongside the likes of another Northern DnB artist – Nia Archives, piri & tommy are evidently on the cusp of something big, though I look forward to seeing them perform together, indeed they have booked the renowned Berlin electronic music festival MELT. Alongside critical and commercial success, this duo represents an important insight into the future of the sub-genre dance industry. A cynic may argue that piri's relationship with TikTok shows her having her cake and eating it, but I'm inclined to believe she's just having fun, picking and choosing the parts of TikTok she enjoys while upholding her right to critically examine its problematic side.

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