“Now THIS is a Sunflower Bean show,” I thought to myself as I darted through a crowd of eager, moshing fans towards the front of the stage. I’ve seen Sunflower Bean more times than I can count, and when they played the Moroccan Lounge a few months ago, I was disappointed by the lack of animation in the 21+ audience. Friday’s show at the Teragram Ballroom was all ages, and the difference in energy was astounding.
The band opened with “Burn It”, the first song off their sophomore album Twentytwo In Blue, an ode to The band’s hometown of New York City with a driving bass line and guitar that cuts through the mix to create a beautifully woven fabric of sound.
Afterwards, they played an old fan favorite. This time, powerhouse frontwoman Julia Cumming (vocals, bass) and prodigal guitarist Nick Kivlen encouraged the audience to dance their asses off, introducing “Come On” with an invitation to the audience: “First person to stage dive gets a prize!” The audience accepted the invitation more than willingly. Not only did I lose count of how many bodies dove into the crowd that night, I was one of the first to join them. I completely fell on my ass, but I’m a trooper and that didn’t stop me from dancing the rest of the night. In fact, I might see a chiropractor this week because I think I gave myself whiplash from dancing so hard.
Sunflower Bean’s mix of psychedelia, old school New York punk energy, and classic Fleetwood Mac vibes created the perfect soundtrack to the chaos. Later, Cumming also joined in the madness, surfing elegantly over the crowd while continuing to play bass like a pro. She felt weightless on my fingertips, there were so many people clamoring to hold her up.
That’s the beauty of Sunflower Bean, and what I had missed so dearly at their Moroccan Lounge show earlier this year. They really, really know how to work a crowd. The best shows are the ones during which mob psychology takes over, allowing each audience member to completely lose their self-awareness and escape the typical anxiety of social situations in the oneness of the mass.
Throughout the night, even during the band’s slower songs, people of all shapes and sizes and genders and ethnicities were moshing, jumping up and down, and screaming their heads off. Sunflower Bean played a career-spanning set, including songs such as “Twentytwo” (off the latest record), “2013” (off their early EP Show Me Your Seven Secrets), “Easier Said” (off debut record Human Ceremony), and “Harvest Moon” (a Neil Young cover off their covers EP From the Basement).
When announcing their last song of the night, Cumming hinted, “if you don’t want this to be our last song, you know what to do.” After Sunflower Bean rocked the house for seemingly the last time with breakup anthem “I Was A Fool”, the crowd rabidly demanded more, cheering and chanting for the band to play one more song.
I ruminated on the idea of mob psychology as Cumming belted the lyrics of “Only A Moment” during the encore. “It’s only a moment, you don’t have to hold it in your hands…You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.” These words felt especially poignant to me tonight, cutting through the sweat-drenched air, the entire room singing along; As somebody who deals with quite debilitating anxiety on a daily basis, Sunflower Bean shows are a chance to break free and lose myself in the moment. I’m certain I’m not the only one. For many of us, this downtempo ballad is a much-needed reminder to live in the now.
As their set ended, Cumming and Kivlen handed out pieces of the backdrop to enthusiastic audience members, giant, metallic gold balloons spelling out the band’s name. Show-goers are sure to treasure these mementos for a long time, because Sunflower Bean’s show at the Teragram was certainly one for the books. I’ve been to many shows in my 23 years of life, but this was among the best. Don’t miss this band next time they come to town; it’s certain to be a night to remember.
Two local Los Angeles favorites provided support to the show. Jesse Jo Stark worked the crowd with the finesse of an experienced performer, proving why she has the eyes and ears of many in the local scene. Pearl Charles kicked things off with a classic rock sound that complemented Sunflower Bean’s newer material.
Photos by Justin Higuchi — full gallery at the bottom