Sunflower Bean are still a very young band, but they’ve been making a name for themselves for the past several years at home in New York City, being named the “hardest working band” in the city by Oh My Rockness in 2014. Their first EP, Show Me Your Seven Secrets, came out early last year and showcased a heavy, psychedelic sound, with churning hard rock grooves and distorted vocals. The band followed up in February of this year with their first full-length, Human Ceremony, a much more refined affair that took them in the direction of indie pop, with Johnny Marr- and Robert Smith inspired guitar work and Lush-inspired vocals (and the occasional hint of The Velvet Underground) throughout much of the record. In a surprise release in September, the band put out another four-song EP, From the Basement, containing covers of The Modern Lovers, Neil Young, Spiritualized, and T Rex. There’s little doubt that the trio has a vast knowledge of music between them, and they want to play all of it. In many ways they’re still finding their own sound, but even watching this growth is an exciting ride.
The band played a co-headlining set at the Black Cat back in March with Mass Gothic, but their show at the Rock and Roll Hotel on their current tour was their first full headlining appearance in Washington, DC. Live, the band still displays much of the raw energy of that first EP even on the new songs, letting loose with Black Sabbath-influenced riffs and driving beats even on some of their more restrained tracks. The setlist featured some of the best songs off of the album, including the title track, “Wall Watcher,” and “Space Exploration Disaster,” along with “Tame Impala” and “Somebody Call a Doctor” from the first EP and their cover of T-Rex’s “Life’s A Gas” from their recent release.
Sunflower Bean may wear their influences on their sleeves right now, but they do such a good job of combining such disparate genres that it almost doesn’t matter. There’s a vitality to their live show that they haven’t quite managed to capture on recording yet, and while the records so far are well worthwhile, they remain a band best experienced live.
Another up-and-coming group, The Lemon Twigs – the duo of brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario – opened the show with a high energy set that combined influences ranging from Big Star to 70s glam rock to punk. They recently released their debut album Do Hollywood on 4AD, and will be returning to the area for their own headlining show at DC9 on January 18th. Based on this performance, you would be well advised to check them out. NYC indie pop band Kissing Is a Crime also opened.