Something Unhurd: Showcasing the Energy of Emerging Talent
It’s almost incumbent on underground-adjacent platforms to put their money where their mouth is, and exalt the underground talent and sounds that characterise what is such an amazing movement of music.
With their first ever showcase, this is exactly what Unhurd did - remembering that ‘talent’ isn’t just a noun but a true adjective. By day Unhurd offer a range of music marketing tools and strategies with an overt use of data at the forefront of what they do, but what’s less advertised is the fact that they have this uncanny knack to reach into the various shrouded avenues and back alleys of the underground to connect in a genuine way with the people and sounds that are there to be discovered - Unhurd, by name and nature.
First up to the stage to kick off the showcase was Gigi Moss, opening the night with a sound of pop really ready to, well, pop! Her set was a good show of considered melodies and pace throughout, with her faster tunes settling in well and her slower ones at just the right pace to get slightly lost in; the kind of songs you catch yourself wondering to; thoughts guided by the music.
On stage it was a fairly simple affair with just her and her backing tracks, presenting a sound not laden superfluously with extra elements and layers when it didn’t really need to be. In that was something alluringly simple - reminiscent of an old-school kind of pop present in the early parts of the last decade that didn’t feel that bit offensive to listen to. In many ways those few layers reached deep, with her track ‘Dreaming’ an ode to where she hopes to get herself addressed to a loved one with her no longer, with the emotion reaching through the relative simplicity and injecting itself into how you saw the world in those moments. It resonated.
Pair this with an artist you see on stage that still stumbles through the inbetweens, talks openly about the difficulties of performing, and that rattles through her socials almost apologetically because “I have to do the promo”, you get this feeling that as Gigi finds her way and gets into it herself, other people are going to feel compelled to do the same.
Followed by short but sweet interjections from Liv Dobson, looking to make her own way in the world of presenting and entertainment (again given a platform by Unhurd), came Kwoli Black.
His entrance to the stage, though it was just a step onto an elevated platform, quickly felt like the coming of something significant. There was this instant vibration from the crowd. The room suddenly came to life with everyone taking that half-step forward, and everyone’s phones getting a little higher.
From the get-go he was so, so smooth with it. Not in an unjustified bravado type of way, but more just being visibly comfortable with his own music. You could see this in massive proportion during his slower and more poetic tunes that started and finished the setlist; Kwoli was willing and open in letting the concepts and lyrics rest where they needed to in a room that seemed to have been given infinite space with his words. At these points in the set you got excited at how Kwoli is developing his own sense of his own artistry, as well as the quality of the live performance itself.
But peppered between the solemn moments was an evergreen and always high energy. Between the songs Kwoli would laugh, chat and joke in what became a back-and-forth between him and the audience, who became deeply invested in what he had to offer.
And this was matched with the other side of the Kwoli Black performance - that of passion in abundance. Coming straight from the heart, he was unafraid in delivering his music on the night; in a way liberated by the songs themselves and the catharsis that came from their content and the transmission of that.
The normal running of Kwoli’s set was halted when none other than Kojey Radical, who just the night before was at the MOBO’s with three nominations (including album of the year), hopped onto the mic, dropped an impromptu verse, and shared a beautiful moment of connection with Kwoli, who had been on tour with Kojey not long before.
The gravity of it was unending. It wasn’t only that this was a man who places himself firmly at the forefront of creativity in his music and beyond, having just released a project that peaked 11 on UK album charts and was Mercury nominated still giving time to a 150-cap venue stage. It was also that it felt like it could be, in years to come, one of those artefact-like captured moments we watch today, like the original videos of BBK, or the pixelated recordings of other artists in their early days. A moment in relative private that could, easily, define a whole scene.
And even after all of that, it didn’t stop there. Benny Atlas came to close the night, and what a closer it was.
It couldn’t have been easy to follow what came before, but Benny approached the stage with a grace and overt want to have himself and everyone around him as good a time as possible through his music. From the very first seconds of his set Benny presented the kind of voice that sounds hand-crafted close to perfection; it appearing an impossibility that whatever his vocal cords could produce could be wrong. It was just a simple pleasure to hear.
It made sense that paired with that voice were some of the most smooth and salacious nu-soul undiscovered tunes you would’ve heard on that side of the Thames that night. Silver and dulcet tones on the go, with a beer in hand - it was infectious as anything.
The band behind Benny delivered too, with Benny telling us after the show that they were new performing together, having only rehearsed a handful of times. With the silk of Benny’s songs matched only by the silk with which they were delivered, the potential shortcomings of this were immediately put to bed. The dynamic that emerged between Benny, Dani Diato on guitar and the crowd itself became a focal point of the performance and pulsed the feeling of fun and groove right through the set and beyond.
And then after a special display of music and so many individual moments of brilliance, Unhurd’s showcase came to an end. It was a night that felt scene-setting, and was a coming together of so many of the different powerful energies that emit from the underground. We hear other showcases might be on the cards, and if tonight was anything to go by, we’re all much the better for it.