Sunflower Bean Brings Their Stately Psych-Punk Back Home to Brooklyn

If there's any sentiment that millenials have given up on harnessing the power of the unordained rock 'n' roll trio, Brooklyn's Sunflower Bean burn it down with smiles on their faces. Their stately, glammy psych-punk rocks with no sycophantic grandstanding, no overwritten bloat or parade of egos. 

Last week marked Sunflower Bean's first hometown show since last April at the much more intimate Rough Trade, and the band marked the occasion by peppering their tight, nine-song set with several new tunes likely to appear on their soon-to-be-announced sophomore LP out early next year. 

There's a genuine warmth that emanates from a room whenever the band onstage is playing to their own friends, and obnoxious though baby-faced budding hipsters shouting to their famous friends may be, the band telegraphed a genuine feeling of comfort and ease for being back home. 

IMG_5259.jpg(l-r) Nick Kivlen, Jacob Faber, Julia Cumming are Sunflower Bean

This might be the calm before the victory lap that will be next year's new LP. Sunflower Bean's debut, 2015's Human Ceremony, propelled them to a level of international notoriety that defined front woman and bassist Julia Cumming's status as a superstar far more than her modeling career, which she likely won't have to fall back on ever again. The band has traveled the country with the likes of Diiv and Pixies and just got back from touring Europe. They've moved high up on the billing at several summer festivals just on the strength of that first record. But perhaps most impressively, they've figured out how to get a stereotypically ineffectual generation of young adults to dance.

Seriously,  until you've seen a kid in a Drake t-shirt moshing, it doesn't fully register just how potent Sunflower Bean's powers are. In a trio, there can be no weak links, and everyone onstage — Julia Cumming, guitarist and singer Nick Kivlen and drummer Jacob Faber — completely locks in. You'd have to know their old LP well to know that they even played any new tunes that night, as new songs like "Burn It," "Capo (22)" and single "I Was a Fool" were already tight and seamless additions to their growing oeuvre. 

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The show was held in the main hall at Bushwick, Brooklyn's newest venue Elsewhere, a multi-room complex in the neighborhood's industrial borders that reminds this guy of the old DIY dance clubs I frequented in my Miami youth — an elegant, minimalist notch above a basement venue, but decidedly devoid of the pretension and elitist arrogance that has long defined club culture.

Elsewhere is the brainchild of the owners of former Williamsburg waterfront venue Glasslands (blame Vice's offices for its closure), and their dedication to protecting the audience experience with good sound and sightlines remains intact, if not expanded, by the bigger complex. Here's to more homecoming shows from local artists whose origins couldn't have happened anywhere else but here. 

All photos by Justin Joffe

Justin Joffe
Justin Joffe

Justin Joffe is SHIFTed's Deputy Editor. He's also an award-winning arts and culture journalist whose work has appeared in several outlets including Vulture, The Observer, Noisey, Spin, Flaunt and the print quarterly journal of American Roots music, No Depression. He has recently written the liner notes for the recording of a Leonard Cohen tribute show, out now on the Royal Potato Family label.

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