Show Review: Sunflower Bean Brings Passion to the New and Reverence to the Old

Photography by T.J. Grant

By T.J. Grant, Staff Writer

Artist: Sunflower Bean

Venue: Brighton Music Hall

When: Saturday, April 30th


Before Sunflower Bean's show at Brighton Music Hall on Saturday night started, it began. Olive Faber walked onstage for a quick soundcheck and gave a glimpse into the fury she held between two closed fists behind a modest 4-piece kit. She wailed into her drums as if she were alone in her parents' basement, zoned into every piercing rimshot, flam, and the occasional reflection of herself in her cymbals if she hit them hard enough. When the remaining members joined her, the hand which guided Julia Cumming and Nick Kivlen through the music of Sunflower Bean became adorned with the snuggest glove. 



Drummer Olive Faber’s unwavering energy throughout the show was not only audible, it was visible. The missing bits from both of her cymbals told a story of an enthused drummer who not only kept steady time but propelled the rest of the group forward without negotiation. As Sunflower Bean’s set progressed, her already tarnished cymbals became more chipped and nearly transformed into golden half-moons.

She added vigor to the performance and fluctuated well between old and new songs stylistically. Brighter tracks from Twentytwo and Blue, such as “Easier Said” and “I Was a Fool,”  came across as firm and driving because of her strong use of dynamics.



Cumming and Kivlen took chances with their older numbers by changing around forms. An extra guitar solo during “Wall Watcher” from their 2016 LP Human Ceremony added variety and openness not heard in the recorded version. 

While the newest and unreleased titles from Sunflower Bean’s upcoming album, Headful of Sugar, sounded thrilling and exuberant, the band’s comfortability with their older material couldn’t be hidden. Their choice of an encore —“Somebody Call a Doctor,” the leading track off of their very first release in 2015, Show Me Your Seven Secrets — reflected the trio’s love of their older pieces. They played around with the tempo of this song by speeding up and slowing down progressively. Faber’s role in this exciting change of pace led to an exhilarating final remark of the show. 



Though the remainder of Headful of Sugar has yet to come out, the four singles released thus far project a refreshed sense of self for them. The once high schoolers have stepped into their adult selves and fully embraced maturity. 

The theme of growing up can be especially heard in their latest single, “Roll the Dice.” The refrain, “Nothing in this life is really free,” bears a particular realism that comes with adulthood and the expenses of everything — financially, emotionally, and otherwise. 

Sunflower Bean has taken a more cynical turn compared to their 2018 LP, Twentytwo in Blue, which floats dreamily and avoids reality, projecting a particular naivety that comes with youth.



The heaviness and change of attitude in the Headful of Sugar songs were amplified two-fold in concert. “Baby Don’t Cry,” sounded abrasive in all the right ways when played live. The power in Kivlen’s heavy-handed strumming matched with the slaughtering of Faber’s opened hi-hats. Together, they gave way to an entirely nuanced understanding of the song. 

Through headphones, the narrator of the song comes across as sympathetic and understanding, but onstage they took no prisoners and exercised tough love frequently. A concerned phrase of affection turned into frustration and impatience. 



Sunflower Bean’s intensity and urgency resonated with the crowd as if everyone grew up together alongside them. A strong sense of connectedness held the gaze of the smaller audience, and much of the credit for this goes to bassist and lead singer, Julia Cumming. She made the crowd feel warm with her hospitality, and between sips of Red Bull said, “I wish we were here when the album was out… it just means we’ll have to come back again.” And it was clear she sincerely meant it. 

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