Every once in a while, a band rolls through town with a sound that transports one back to yesteryear, the heyday of rock n roll, when the animalistic larks took precedent over technical prowess. But time being what it is, public tastes alter, but never fully change, trading one sensibility for the next, until the former rolls back around in the great cycle that is pop culture, and more specifically – music revivalism. So lo and behold, when Sunflower Bean came through town for their first Middle Tennessee show since Bonnaroo 2016, the 70s rock and roll resurgence was prepped and ready for yet another fantastic amelioration at the vaunted room that is better known as Exit/In.
Following two magnificent sets from the equally evocative American Wrestlers and the hyper frenetic The Lemon Twigs, Sunflower Bean came out to a highly enthusiastic (and considerably youthful) crowd. Despite the late start time (10:45), Sunflower Bean came out crushing the lead (and eponymous) single off their Fat Possum debut, Human Ceremony. It was an interesting sight to see, as bassist/vocalist Julia Cumming’s presence is so naturally magnetic, that its hard to take one’s attention away from her fascinating presence, but the musicality of Nick Kivlen on guitar and Jacob Faber on drums manage to do just that.
An incredibly tight unit, Sunflower Bean hop in between pysch rock, post-punk, and indie like they’re one in the same, as front row gawkers admire the throwback sensibilities of Cumming’s pantsuit and Kivlen’s Dylan-esque pompadour. The front row gawkers continue to admire Cummings’ beguiling talents fronting the band, though Kivlen gives her a run for her money on backing vocals and the occasional back and forth verse exchange. But in the end, the glue of Sunflower Bean – as is most bands – is Faber, whose rhythm makes for a tireless marathon of transitions and decrescendos that go virtually unnoticed, as there’s little banter in between songs, outside of Cummings or Kivlen’s occasional recognition of thanks and gratitude, before Faber drops into the next song with seamless precision.
The lack of banter certainly didn’t seem to be borne out of contempt for their audience or anything, it was simply that Sunflower Bean’s music was of the utmost priority (and it was evident) – that being said, when the band did take more than a moment to share a fleeting “thank you” or exhibit other forms of gratitude, there was great depth to what they expressed.
Following a solid run of “Wall Watcher,” Julia took a moment to address the crowd in a brief, but poignant moment – “You guys, thanks for not giving up on music on what may be the saddest day in history that we’ve ever seen. Music will get us through.” That sentiment, though brought up at a seemingly innocuous moment – in the middle of Sunflower Bean’s set – managed to imbue extreme gravitas upon the Exit/In crowd, who were all undoubtedly emotionally raw and ravaged by the surreal results of our nation’s Presidential election.
For as substantially talented Sunflower Bean is and was touring in support of Human Ceremony, that moment within the set was so disarmingly wise and sage beyond Julia, Nick, and Jacob’s relatively young years that a sense of peace and contentment in knowing that music will get us through what will be an unprecedented four years, and if Wednesday night’s set was any indication, Sunflower Bean could very well become one such bastion of progressivism for the duration and then some.