30 November 2018
The Junction, Cambridge

New York City has produced countless iconic bands in decades past from The Ramones to The Strokes, the list is ever-growing. The latest outfit to emerge who are really starting to make their mark globally are Sunflower Bean, a trio of uber-cool young musicians whose recent album ‘Twentytwo in Blue’, released earlier this year, is receiving widespread acclaim. This week their world tour wound its way to Cambridge and The Junction.

Since forming in 2013 Sunflower Bean have released two albums and shows with The Vaccines and Wolf Alice have helped introduce them to the UK market. They have become familiar with the Brits thirst for rock and tonight they were willing to deliver. An eager Cambridge Friday night crowd were ready to receive.

Lead vocalist and bass player Julia Cumming greets the Cambridge crowd, a lively bunch, with the invitation “Do you want to rock Cambridge?" They respond and scream in unison “Yeah!” (and not ‘Hell Yeah’ a response Sunflower Beam may be more familiar with in the States!). As they open their set, Julia takes the stage in her dazzling silver boots sporting a glamorous royal-blue country and western shirt, while drummer Jacob Faber beams with a grin that lights up the venue. Meanwhile guitarist Nick Kivlen, dressed in what can only be described as silk pyjamas, comes across as a kind of kangaroo/astronaut hybrid bouncing and gliding with ease. Nick spends the duration of the gig springing around the stage sprinkling arpeggios and ear-melting licks into the mix without ever missing a beat - he might be wearing pyjamas, but that boy can certainly play.

“We’re gonna play rock music all night!” announces Julia, launching into ‘Burn It’, from the new album. The record is foot-stomping and defiant, a reflection on the duality of living in Trump-era America, and the smaller picture of life and self-discovery as someone in their early 20s. Both aspects are showcased equally. As they continue with ‘Crisis Fest’, an explicit comment on current affairs and 70s infected ‘Twentytwo’ a pristine ode to youth, the Cambridge crowd are loving it.

Julia’s transformation as frontwoman is impressive. Once a shy and reserved character, according to reports, tonight she commands the stage with the confidence of a leader and engages with the audience between songs at every opportunity. At one point she hangs up the bass guitar and with mic in hand leaps into the crowd straight over the front barrier to get down and dirty with the Cambridge mosh pit. “What do you do at the end of the day? Gave you my heart and you walked away,” she soars over guitar-shredding highlight ‘Puppet Strings’ as green lasers and strobe lights entice the spirit of rock and roll from within the rapturous crowd.

Sonically, the group make 70s psychedelia with a noughties indie edge. ‘2013’ bristles, ‘Tame Impala’ fuzzes, ‘I Was Home’ has a gnarly Black Keys feel to it, and of course the Fleetwood Mac comparisons had to come from somewhere - funky and downbeat, ‘I Was A Fool’ could be a lost cut from Rumours. Their stage presence is electrifying, Julia and guitarist Nick repeatedly locking axes during mind-melting solos while beat master drummer Jacob – and his dodgy Mexican moustache – brings up the rear. Simply an unforgettable ninety-minute set of rock ‘n’ roll glamour. All hail Sunflower Beam! The rock gods shine brightly upon you.

Words and Pix : Dan Sly
Thanks to Thom at Sonic PR for fixing things up.