Thorn: Unbound

By Tom Watling & Ashleigh Goodall

The paradox that is ‘unbound’ is an easy one to acknowledge but infinitely harder to understand, and I might be inclined to say that Thorn didn’t quite make it past the former.

Held at Empty Shop HQ, a venue attracting more people by the week, Thorn boasted an assortment of poets and musicians all adhering to the chosen theme of ‘unbound’. Whilst the idea of this theme seemed inherently nonsensical, I was interested to see and hear what the artists had to say and as the event broke for interval around 9, I can’t say I was any closer to understanding the theme than I was before I arrived.

The paradox that is ‘unbound’ is an easy one to acknowledge but infinitely harder to understand

The two musicians that played in the first half of Thorn were Danny Booth, a solo keyboardist, and a duo of Sander Priston and his friend Fin, who make up two of the three members of Senza Frame. Danny Booth played a notably shorter set to the others but produced a fluid string of synthesized songs certainly unbound by any actual ideas and somewhat lacking in the kick it needed to be afforded the role of opening act. However, in the interest of staying positive I bought another drink, not necessarily to avoid the spoken word, and returned for Sander Priston and Fin. In keeping with my opening comment, Priston and co. epitomised what it means to acknowledge but not understand, improvising for a lengthy half-an-hour and never quite breaking past the form of background instrumentation. Whilst their interplay was congruent, there was not much more to be said.

After a short interval, however, circumstances started to look up as Olivia Clark took to the stage. Despite apparent nerves, she projected an outstanding soul/blues inspired performance with just her voice and the keyboard: it’s a mean feat to be able to fill the room (even one as small as Empty Shop) with just these two resources, but nevertheless, Olivia managed it. She performed three original songs, each one filled with powerful, emotion-filled vocals that served to captivate the audience – who, at this point, had suspiciously diminished in numbers.

Mo Hafeez & Armaan Sandhu

After the departure of two more spoken word artists, Mo Hafeez made an appearance. Supported by Armaan Sandhu on guitar, Mo performed a half-hour set consisting of an eclectic mix of genres: the set started off with an electronic R&B sound, featuring scattered synths and reverbing vocals, shortly followed by a couple of guitar-only songs with a psychedelic Mac DeMarco vibe. To conclude the set, Armaan took over on vocals as the pair played a couple of stripped back alternative rock songs, featuring some well-executed guitar riffs. Although the versatility and variety in Mo Hafeez’s set was interesting and refreshing, I feel he perhaps tried to cover too much ground in such a short set time.

To conclude the evening, Soham De took to the stage to perform an acoustic set. In my opinion, Thorn really did save the best until last when it came to Soham: he absolutely blew me away. Soham is clearly a very talented guitarist and vocalist – he was absolutely pitch-perfect throughout, even when hitting some eye-watering high notes, and his performance was emotional and mesmerising. Apparently, the rest of the audience was lost for words too: you could have heard a pin drop at the quiet moments. I can really see Soham De making it as a professional artist, which is a wonderful concept, especially when you take his sincerity and humbleness into account.

Soham De

After a perplexing and chaotic first half, Thorn really picked up the standard with the later acts: although the relevance of the theme of ‘unbound’ still managed to escape me, overall, the evening was pleasant and enjoyable.

Photographs by Tamsin Bracher

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