29th November | SWX
Photos: Jessica Bartolini
As the year is drawing to an imminent close and we collectively reflect on the year’s finest musical moments, Sunflower Bean returned to Bristol to tease the upcoming King of the Dudes EP, and give fanfare to their triumphant, sophomore album Twentytwo in Blue.
Early attendees got to see Jesse Jo Stark and band in their first Bristol show. The singer-songwriter has released a slew of singles over the past few years, and if she’s not on your radar yet, she probably should be. A sort of diamond-in-the-rough talent, effortlessly blending aggressive punk influences, bluesy guitar-rock, and slow-burning country vibes, her set was an exciting way to kick off proceedings in the intimate upstairs room of SWX. Throwing in an arresting cover of ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ for good measure, it seemed Stark had a cautious audience – that may not have been familiar with her material – on side by the end.
Next up, the wonderful Miya Folick graced the stage, performing in the wake of her debut album Premonitions. For anyone going through a rough time or simply needing a pick-me-up, Folick provides a comforting voice of understanding, reason, and empowerment. Ranging from contemplative ‘Thingamajig’s through wild ‘Freak Out’s, her set on the evening was nothing short of spectacular, fully encapsulating her talents as a frank, confessional lyricist, and powerful live performer.
By the time Sunflower Bean took to the stage at 9:30, the room was pretty much full-to-bursting and anticipation was high. Launching straight into a tight rendition of ‘Burn It’, a song that pretty much wears the band’s rock’n’roll influences on its sleeve with Julia Cumming’s grooving bass line and Nick Kivlen’s streaky guitar solos. The band was here to rock and that’s precisely what they did.
‘Twentytwo’ followed, dedicated by Cumming to all the ladies in attendance that evening. Arguably one of the band’s best songs, Cumming offered up a genuinely touching vocal performance that reflected the more delicate side of the Bean’s canon to date.
Though as the band lapsed from Twentytwo in Blue material into some of their back catalogue, it’s clear that the band still shines brightest with their more psychedelic offerings. For its repetition, there’s a wonderful state of fluidity to the band’s mechanic present during ‘Tame Impala’, lacking all the inhibitions that come from performance and simply letting go in the moment. Songs from their debut album, Human Ceremony – ‘Easier Said’ and ‘I Was Home’ – likewise struck with the greatest appeal on the evening overall, following in this same vein.
However, indisputably, Sunflower Bean are one of the most impressive live bands of recent years. They sound more elevated than on record, their performance is extremely tight, and they clearly love what they’re doing. The energy in the room was consistent throughout, and certainly when Cumming dipped into the audience during ‘Come For Me’, the crowd could barely contain their excitement. If you want to get the true Sunflower Bean experience, this is the way to do it.
See Sunflower Bean perform ‘Twentytwo’ live here: