What Decade Is This? A Review of Sunflower Bean at Chop Suey

I walked into Chop Suey last Thursday knowing it was 2016. Donald Trump is running for President of the United States, Britain left the European Union, and Gaga just released her fourth #1 album. My confidence in knowing the date quickly washed away as soon as The Lemon Twigs walked on stage, and by the end of Sunflower Bean’s set I was seriously questioning my hold on reality.

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Photo by Anna Kaplan

Local Duvall band, Revel, opened the show, which also happened to be their second show ever. Not bad opening for Sunflower Bean on your second bill, right? The group played pretty dreamy, melodic tunes, who I actually caught again Friday night at the KXSU In-Studio, and I can tell you they’re only getting better with every performance. Keep your eye on them.

If you’re unaware, The Lemon Twigs are a sibling duo from Long Island. The brothers, Michael and Brian D’Addario, also look like they’re straight out of the ’70s. Brian was clad in a green and white sports-type zip up jacket, and green plaid flare bell-bottoms. Michael also sported denim bell-bottoms, and hair that can’t really be described (be sure to check out the videos). They bounced on stage and started playing “I Wanna Prove to You,” which is one of their most popular tracks. The crowd at Chop Suey immediately warmed up to the group, and graciously accepted the invitation back to the ’70s.

The double-edged sword of The Lemon Twigs is that their music is so nostalgic that you feel like you’ve heard it all before. There’s so much influence by The Beatles and Queen that you could probably interchange a couple of Lemon Twigs songs with them and not even notice if you weren’t paying attention. Songs like “Haroomata” and “Baby Baby” have the same sort of theatrical feel that doesn’t sit perfectly well on the recorded versions, but works especially well in a live setting.

“These Words” and “As Long As We’re Together” were the highlights of the night, along with both Brian and Michael’s superior leg kicks. They have most cheerleaders beat without a doubt. Their set was full of leg kicks and fun, and their stage presence in between songs only added to the goodness. Throughout the set Brian kept on telling the crowd, “You’ve been a very good audience,” and the awkwardness really works for them in a way that I’m not sure would work for any other band. They put on a performance that was very pleasing, and I’m looking forward to catching them again when they’re headlining, as opposed to opening.

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Photo by Kasha Bradford-Adams

Fellow Long Island trio Sunflower Bean graced the stage very shortly afterwards to a packed house at Chop Suey. Vocalist/guitarist Nick Kivlen is the spitting image of Bob Dylan, and walked out decked in all white (also sporting bell-bottoms…what does this mean?). If The Lemon Twigs took us back to the 70s, Sunflower Bean was a one-way ticket to the 90s. Shooting guitars and sharp drums shook the venue, as a mini-mosh pit would occasionally break out. When vocalist/bassist Julia Cumming (who just happens to by my current Girl Crush) started singing the words to “Human Ceremony,” the title track off of their debut record, the crowd sang them back, but the party didn’t really start until they immediately moved into “This Kind of Feeling.” The mini-mosh began, along with lots of dancing.

The contrast of Kivlen and Cumming’s vocals was one of the most interesting elements of the show. “Tame Impala” had the entire crowd trying to screech like Julia manages to on the track, while “Easier Said” brought an eerie softness compared to the rest of the set. “Come On” and “Wall Watcher” combined the best of Sunflower Bean: two vocalists, complex chords, and hard-hitting drums. It was easily one of the best tracks of the night.

The band left the stage for a brief moment, and then came back for the encore. They asked the crowd what song we wanted to hear, and “2013” was shouted almost in unison across the venue. Kivlen effectively destroyed the song at the end, raising up his pedal board and messing with the settings so that only a long screech was left playing as the trio left the stage. It was almost to the point of overstimulation, but in the best way.

I left the venue with ringing ears, a buzzing head, and one question: what year is this?


ANNA KAPLAN | Oh, I Just Don’t Know | KXSU Music Reporter

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