Gig Review: Sunflower Bean, Scala

Guest blogger, and seemingly serial gig-goer, Rob Howlett is back with a review of New York trio Sunflower Bean’s set at Scala, in Kings Cross, last Thursday.

From the moment Sunflower Bean meandered onto the stage something seemed slightly askew. Lead singer Julia Cumming’s slender frame took to the mic with a furrowed brow that suggested their live set may not be a completely accurate representation of their acclaimed debut album Human Ceremony – this would prove to be no bad thing.

Human Ceremony is an album that flits between genres and influences. Easier Said and Creation Myth are melodic shoe-gazey pop songs that have Cummings’ delicate voice cooing over Nick Kivlen’s jangling guitar, whereas This Kind of Feeling and Wall Watcher see the jangling melodies torn apart by distorted grunge riffs. Although sometimes pulling in different directions the album manages to hold itself together, leaving behind a feeling of abstract melancholy.

But tonight Sunflower Bean showed no desire for melancholy. Cummings’ willowy body spat its way through songs. There was a curl to the lips from the start and a hint of menace as she broke into the initial lyrics of human ceremony (‘I want you to stay here/I feel so much better on my own’). After a brief pause they quickly launched into a vicious rendition of This Kind of Feeling which set the tone for the rest of the gig.

Jacob Faber’s tight drumming took far more dominance live and fronted by the strutting head of Cummings and the fuzzy fretwork of Kivlen, Sunflower Bean had the onstage attitude of a garage punk band, rather than the neo-psychedelia many were expecting.

This was exemplified by Cummings, whose delicate form was in contrast to the strutting persona that saw her surfing the crowd, egging on Kivlen’s more virtuoso prog-guitar solos and screaming at the crowd.

Sunflower Bean look like a band that are in love with what they are doing, and are relishing every moment of their album’s success. This comes through in the enthusiasm they show throughout the set, and with the thanks the band throws upon the crowd for their support.

Looking around the room some of the audience looked confused, and a couple of the more fragile members slipped out before the encore, but by far the majority didn’t. Many sang along with the songs and threw themselves full throttle into the circle-pits that formed at the end of Cummings’ angelic snarl.

Buy the album and fall in love with their psychedelic pop songs and glam grunge riffs, then watch them live and mosh as they throw a far heavier, harder version back at you.

Get a taste for yourself by watching Wall Watcher below.

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