Updated: Mar 8, 2019
I cannot stress enough the importance of getting to shows early and watching opening bands perform. At Bass Concert Hall, New York City’s rock trio Sunflower Bean opened up for legendary band Interpol on September 28, 2018. I must confess that this is actually the fourth time I have been to a Sunflower Bean show, which is a funny coincidence because it was the fourth time Sunflower Bean had played in Austin in 2018 alone.
The band promptly came onstage at 8 PM as promised on their Instagram profile. They opened up their set with “Burn It,” the first track off their most recent album, Twentytwo in Blue. This album, barely their sophomore album, has been described as a noticeably more mature album compared to their debut. More interestingly, it is labeled as a protest album. The band has expressed their surprise at this classification, especially since only one song off the LP explicitly references the current political climate. Nevertheless, the decision to start off their set with this song demonstrated their commitment to a new direction.
Even the atmosphere created an experience that became an extension of their new direction. The band walked onstage in black and white outfits and performed among smoke and blue lights. Earlier that day, I spoke with the band (you can watch the interview here) and they talked about their belief in the idea that there is more to a band than just the music. Music is the creation of an alternate universe, where people can find refuge from the harsh realities of life. They truly proved their conviction in this idea. The magical stage they created that night became a newfound safe haven for all of us present.
While their new album is perhaps a more sophisticated and polished one compared to their first one, the live performances still provide some of the gritty, rock and roll that is characteristic of earlier Sunflower Bean work. For example, my personal favorite off the new album, “Twentytwo,” manifests itself differently in live performances in comparison to the tame studio recording. Onstage, Julia Cumming almost shouts the chorus, stressing the importance and desperation of her adamancy against going quietly into the night. Cumming even managed to get some crowd participation during the anthem, “Crisis Fest.” During the chorus, she had us all pumping our fists along to the “No, no, no”s.
They also did not forget to include some improvisation for the night. Old favorites like “Tame Impala” and “I Was Home” became extended versions of the studio recordings as they packed in some jams at the end of their performances of those tracks. “I Was Home” was their last song for their set that night, a crowd favorite with catchy lyrics that one could easily grasp and start singing along to.
While Sunflower Bean played to an older Interpol fan-based crowd, I hope they got some new fans by the end of that night. Their presence truly took hold of all of us that night. It was especially evident through the standing ovation that the crowd gave that night. If you ever have the chance to see them, please do so. And don’t forget: always get to shows early to support opening bands!