On the 21st November, I was lucky enough to see Sunflower Bean as they returned to Brighton for another headline gig, this time at The Old Market.
The New York City based band consists of Jacob Faber (drums), Julia Cumming (vocals and bass) and Nick Kivlen (vocals and guitar) – when touring, however, they are also joined by Danny Ayala. Since forming in 2013, the trio has released two albums: ‘Human Ceremony’ in 2016 and ‘Twentytwo in Blue’ in March of this year.
A surprisingly diverse crowd attended the show with there being a range of teens, twenty-somethings and a fair amount of older music lovers. Opening with ‘Burn It’ the band immediately brought life to the venue; Cumming becomes a glam rock queen as she stomps in her sparkly boots, confidently leading the group. On her right, Nick Kivlen bounces around in a satin shirt and trousers, occasionally joining his bandmate as they play their guitars together. They slow the pace slightly, with the more mellow title track ‘Twentytwo’ following. It highlights the lead vocalist’s impressive skills and the poetry of Dylan Thomas is alluded to in the chorus – “I do not go quietly into the night that calls me…”. As they play, the crowd begin to get more carefree, swaying in time to the euphoric song.
Throughout the gig, Sunflower Bean’s love for music and performing is evident. I haven’t seen a performer look as happy as Julia Cumming did on stage in a while – or possibly ever. At times, she appears to act out the lyrics, but almost always loses herself in the moment with her expression softening into a smile. At one point, she tells us all how much she loves Brighton and how she’d move here if she lived in the UK. Conscious that people would presume it was an insincere line she used at all shows, she defended herself, claiming that she truly meant it.
The show reaches a climatic point about half-way through with ‘Crisis Fest’, a song commenting on student debt and the band’s belief in young people sparking change. Call-and-response involves the audience with fists raised and passionate yells of “no, no, no!”. Faber’s energy on the drums adds to the atmosphere as jerks his entire body around, giving his all. The level of spirit remains high for the remainder of the gig and their latest single ‘Come For Me’ gets an enthusiastic response as a few people begin to mosh. I get more involved too, moving closer to the stage for one of my current favourites. There’s a certain edge to the new track as it questions, “do you really wanna come for me?”. The band’s uniqueness stroke genius is also evident through additions such as an old telephone that Kivlen sings into; it’s most effectively used in “I Was a Fool” as he responds to Julia’s verses. The band ended their set with ‘I Was Home’, but were quickly begged back for more.
Their encore consists of ‘Harvest Moon’ (their take on the Neil Young composition), ‘Memoria’ and finally ‘Wall Watcher’. It takes them a couple of attempts to ace the intro of the song, but it’s endearing in a way and reminds us all that they’re just young musicians doing their best – which, for the most part, is an incredibly high standard.
Sunflower Bean’s new EP ‘King Of The Dudes’ is set to be released in January 2019. You can stream ‘Come For Me’, ‘Twentytwo in Blue’ and ‘Human Ceremony’ now.