Sunflower Bean @ Petit Campus – 4th May 2018

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There’s an expression “don’t judge a book by its cover.” The equivalent in music is “don’t judge a band by its breakthrough song.” Maybe. I probably just made that up. Anyway, we all know those bands where the song that leads you to them ends up being the exception to their sound, and not the rule. For me, that was the case with New York’s Sunflower Bean. Drawn to their 2016 debut Human Ceremony by the breezy sunshine indie-pop of Easier Said, I was greeted by a record of “post-punk revival/psychedelic rock” (thanks Wikipedia for that description, better than I could have come up with…). But it was great, nonetheless, and I was hooked. I’ve been waiting for a headline show for a while, and tonight is finally the night.

sunflower bean montreal

The band bounds onto the stage to a raucous reception and blaze into new song Burn It and the garage rock of oldie Come On to get things going with a bang. Frontwoman and Bassist Julia Cumming then proclaims “we just put out a new record and we’re excited to play it,” in reference to their sophomore record Twentytwo In Blue which dropped a few weeks ago, and which accounts for 9 of the 14 songs played tonight. They then launch into Twentytwo from that record, which really showcases Julia’s Brody Dalle-esque vocals, whilst simultaneously radiating a Courtney Love vibe in her half-wedding-dress-half-cowboy-shirt outfit and peroxide-blonde hair; pure rock and roll cool from head to toe.

The rumbling bass intro of the classic 2013 leads her into a vocal duel with guitarist Nick Kivlen (whose vocals are distorted as if coming through a megaphone), maintaining a moody rumbling vibe before exploding into that furious outro, led by the ferocious crashing drums of Jacob Faber. Julia requests some crowd participation on Crisis Fest, who duly oblige in providing fist pumps and the “No No No!” refrain at the chorus.

After the catchy hooks of Memoria, Human For takes things down a much grungier path, with flashing stage lights illuminating the guitar solo. Julia and Nick then vocally duel again on Puppet Strings over a backdrop of Black Keys beats and Queens Of The Stone Age riffs. Julia excitedly then announces “thanks for coming out, I forget the last time we were here,” as if it’s been a few years. Some guy in the crowd calls back “it was in September, with The Pixies!” Everyone laughs, and Julia looks surprised: “oh really?! Wow, time is a blur…”. Amen to that!

The arrival of the wonderful Easier Said gets the floor dancing once more, before things get altogether more bluesy with a cover of Neil Youngs Harvest Moon, with Nick trading electric for acoustic guitar. After Sinking Sands swiftly picks the pace back up, Julia announces “this is our last song…but not really, if you clap and stuff!” The bass-driven I Was A Fool thereby closes out the main set, with the band leaving the stage for about 10 seconds, before coming right back. Julia jokingly feigns surprise, saying “oh, Hi!” as if the encore was unexpected, eliciting a few more laughs around the room. The mellow Only A Moment and the rocking I Was Home wrap up the show for good after around an excellent hour. The band were clearly loose and enjoying themselves… and the same could be said of the crowd. A great night had by all!

sunflower bean setlist


Burn It
Come On
Crisis Fest
Human For
Puppet Strings
Easier Said
Harvest Moon (Neil Young cover)
Sinking Sands
I Was a Fool


Only a Moment
I Was Home

Review & photos – Simon Williams

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