Thekla | 13th September

Sunflower Bean‘s second Bristol show of 2016 sees them headlining the city’s iconic Thekla venue after a summer of playing european festivals. The show is not quite sold out but there is a lot of people packed into the venue in anticipation for tonight’s headliner. Support slots from Wiltshire shoegazers Rain and London’s Husky Loops both deliver solid sets of noisy indie, warming us up nicely for the headliner. Anticipation is high as excited youngsters struggle to mix their sneaked-in drinks and find somewhere to safely store their bags.

Sunflower Bean casually take to the stage as the group’s guitarist, singer and Bob Dylan look-a-like Nick Kivlin picks the hypnotic opening bars that belong to their album’s title track ‘Human Ceremony’. It doesn’t take
long for the audience to start jumping around excitedly to the more upbeat tracks such as ‘This Kind of Feeling’ and ‘Come On’. The band’s co-vocalist and bassist Julia Cumming sees this as an opportunity to get off the stage and continue playing directly in the middle of fans who clearly idolise her and push to be closer to the action. Sunflower Bean are a clear hit and everyone present seems to be enjoying themselves judging by the grins on their faces.

The young band are relatively shy onstage with few words uttered apart from the usual thank yous, but manage to ooze confidence when playing together. A year of constant touring has seen the three piece hone their live show to a blistering hour or so, with added guitar solos and a relaxed stage presence, despite the music having more oomph live than on record. There is never a dull moment and the excitement never lets up as tracks from the debut album as well as last year’s Show Me Your Secrets EP are played as if their lives depended on it. A new song is previewed which fits nearer the poppier end of the Sunflower Bean spectrum – not a massive departure in sound but things are looking good for a sophomore album.

The band adopt the influence of two of indie rock’s most prominent musical revivals of recent times, that being the psychedelic revival of bands such as Deerhunter and Tame Impala (Sunflower Bean even have a song named after the latter) and the early nineties shoegaze sounds of Lush and Ride. A lot of the time they manage it seamlessly within one song and sometimes there is a purposeful contrast between songs adding freshness and variety to the set, such as partnering the sweet melodic indie of ‘2013’ with the stoner sludge of early single ‘The stalker’ whose classic rock riffage ends the evening on a high.

Sunflower Bean may not be the most original band around but their enthusiasm is infectious and connects with a mostly young crowd who share a similar musical upbringing to the band. An injection of energy and enthusiasm give a freshness to sounds that should sound retro and dated. After a mere three years together and a handful of releases to their name, Sunflower Bean are becoming a formidable live act to be reckoned with.

Watch Sunflower Bean’s video for ‘Wall Watcher’ below.