Photos (c) Paul Samuel White

From the moment you were greeted at the Exchange’s door, you knew you were in for something a little different

Unapologetically fabulous yet warmly welcoming, with tongue firmly in cheek, Thorny was a night unlike any other in Bristol. From the moment you were greeted at the Exchange’s door by the night’s resident drag queen Roxytoxin, wearing an incredible blue spray-painted outfit that made her seem even more statuesque, you knew you were in for something a little different.

The evening started with the frankly magical Wenonoah, whose sparse piano and unique, almost operatic vocal style of chamber-pop captured the hearts of everyone watching. Raw, emotionally honest lyrics, imbued with dry wit, (such as “She’s so fucking precious, I’m sure that she shits diamonds”) had the crowd hanging on her every word.

Following an exciting short film from photographer Stephanie Third, focusing on Roxytoxin and the Old Market drag scene, things were completely turned on their head when performance artist Liz Clarke took to the floor in a pink body stocking and wig. She inflated heart-shaped balloons and let them go, buzzing over the heads of the audience. Inflating a huge red balloon with a leaf blower, she half-crawled into it, changing her wig while inside to a triumphant emergent ta-da! Performance poet Tom Marshman then used his dark humour to rework Abba lyrics to highlight our modern ecological conundrums – from which brands to choose to the mundanity of household chores.

Things took a darker turn with a mysterious performance from Johnsmith. Dressed in homage to Frida Kahlo, with floral headdress and strong brows, this enigmatic drag king performed an eerie, heavily distorted cover of Blondie’s Heart of Glass. Initially performing to a hand-held mirror with back to the crowd, he turned to the captivated crowd, slowly unfurling bandages and revealing mirror shards stuck to flesh, before pulling out and holding aloft a real, actual bloody heart.

Finally, headliners Candy Darling took to the stage to complete a night of theatrical brilliance. Bringing rock and roll glamour, front-woman Emily Breeze rocked a pair of thigh-high PVC boots, along with a ton of attitude below her thick black hair. All slick guitars and anthemic drums, they finished Thorny with a suitably defiant swagger, leaving the crowd satisfied.

Bristol is a diverse city, yet Thorny managed to provide something different to the usual, confidently sashaying along the line between live music and art performance. It drew a large, open-minded crowd, up for watching something they may not usually see at an ordinary gig. Here’s hoping that there are many more to come.

Check out Candy Darling’s ‘Going Straight’ right here: