A millennial watching millenials: A review of Sunflower Bean at the Majestic Cafe

click to enlarge MT intern Jack Roskopp at Wednesday's Sunflower Bean gig at the Majestic Cafe. - Photo by Jack Roskopp
Photo by Jack Roskopp
MT intern Jack Roskopp at Wednesday's Sunflower Bean gig at the Majestic Cafe.
I had zero expectations when I went and saw Brooklyn’s buzziest band around, Sunflower Bean, at the Majestic Cafe last night. I mean, their name is Sunflower Bean. I was expecting a sort of hipster-folk band where every song featured a mandolin solo. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Never did I expect to see a young trio (no one in the band is over 21) play psychedelic rock that draws inspiration from Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

The band took the stage around 11:30 p.m. and launched right into "Human Ceremony," the title track from their new album. Guitarist Nick Kivlen and drummer Jacob Faber can really play. Kivlen is a gifted guitarist who plays with distortion while looking like a young Bob Dylan (it’s the hair). And nothing prepared me for bassist and lead singer Julia Cumming. At 19, she's the real deal and keeps great rhythm, with clean and fresh bass lines. Her voice can go from an angelic falsetto to screaming alongside Kivlen. And Cumming has more than a passing resemblance to Tina Weymouth. 

As the show went on, I noticed that Sunflower Bean truly like to play with each other, something that I think is lacking in a lot of bands today. They didn’t shy from jamming out for a few minutes at a time, giving the show a spontaneous feel. 

Personally, I love when bands talk to the audience. I want to know what shitty boyfriend inspired this track, or find out that the singer was hungover as hell when they wrote that song. It gives us a story and context to fit the band around. All I got from Sunflower Bean was the occasional "You guys good?" and then "thank you." I'd love to find out more about the band's personality between songs. 

At the end of the set, when they played "Easier Said," I became a fan. The song has a great, cloudlike dream-pop sound floating above distorted guitars and thumping drums that creates a wonderful contradiction.

And then I understood how Sunflower Bean works. They are full of contradictions, themselves. Uber-young millennials playing '70s-inspired rock? A band named Sunflower Bean and no acoustic guitar? It’s all wrong and it feels so right. Keep an eye out for this band as the months go on. I expect big things from them.