Sunflower Bean just might be saving Rock & Roll, and I’m not sure how many people know it. When they first formed in 2013, High School would have been their current occupation or at least a very recent memory, meaning that much of the music that made it onto their debut album Human Ceremony would have been written in those late teenage years when life is filled with so much angst and helpless energy. The album and the band stayed just below the radar enough to not be overburdened with the task of living up to the hype on their sophomore effort, leaving them free to explore as songwriters. The first suggestion of growth on their new album is first single “I Was a Fool” that could be a Rumours B-side—Sunflower Bean had always mined the 70s for inspiration—and is what brought them to new Brooklyn venue Elsewhere and me to Brooklyn.
The opening acts in Navy Gangs and Beverly were an interesting combination, and almost diametrically opposed in many ways. The former were frenetic, full of energy, always futzing around on stage or nervously chattering away into the mic to avoid awkward silences in between songs. Their songs are short, or episodic, and because of that their songs are like shooting stars in the night—did this band just play that song? Their sound was almost as if Like Flies on Sherbert had reassumed their full form in the mid-90s. Looking them up on their (two) bandcamp page(s), I found a few songs they played live like “Just Kidding Not” that is one-minute-and-fifty-eight seconds of just good song, while another ended with the line “some day you will die, but that’s alright.” Time: playing more gigs like this, might push this band in the right direction. They certainly have what it takes, and are a band to keep an eye out for.
Beverly, on the other hand, came out on stage fully formed and ready to rock to the crowd. As they launched into their set, the first thing I thought was that this band was looking to get a gig at the Roadhouse in Twin Peaks, and musically, they weren’t that far off from landing a try-out gig. Even as middle openers, they demanded more from the audience in terms of attention with their Siamese Dream-esque brand of pop-rock (think “Today”). If there was anything distracting about this band that drew your attention away, it was the amount of guitars on stage. There were three Fenders—two Strats and a Tele—in addition to a bass, when it didn’t sound too much like there were that many guitars. At least one of them was seemingly being used as a prop. They are ready to be stars, and they are ready to prove that to anyone who will listen.
If it was anyone that is on the cusp of stardom, it is Sunflower Bean, the band everyone in the venue was there to see. It’s a hometown crowd, and they have put the work into cultivating this audience. People who know this band love this band. They are bubbling just under the surface, videos and articles silently proclaiming that they are the next big thing. Having just seen them open for Pixies, it was nice to see them headline and really take ownership of the moment for themselves. They played songs mostly from Human Ceremony, and a short set that I would have preferred lasted for at least a few more hours, but alas, when you only have one full album, there isn’t much to draw upon.
What they did play amounted to a premature “Best of” setlist, running out of the gates, and bassist Julia asking somewhere in the first song for people to stage dive. She was obliged by a crowd in the palm of their hands. “I Was a Fool” sounds as brilliant and beautiful live as it does recorded, and apparently most of the cast from the music video was at the show. The penultimate song was their first demo “I Want You to Give Me Enough Time,” and it’s incredible to see how far they’ve come from that first track, how far since 2013 or “2013.” With Sunflower Bean, the talk of time is inevitable. For fans, it’s like waiting for a band that’s always been around to finally coalesce, to welcome the might-be saviors of Rock & Roll into their deserving starlight.
Article: Christopher Gilson