I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you don’t find music, music finds you. In the case of Sunflower Bean (E: “Beam?” Me: “Like black or pinto — Bean.” E: “I don’t trust Chipotle anymore.”), I felt more seduced than found. A friend floated their name past me: “They have a song called Tame Impala.” A seed successfully planted just in time for the emergence of spring.
NCAA madness is brewing, the clocks are skipping forward, warmer weather reveals itself, baseball’s back and so is South by South West, which means I’m crashing at a friend’s place in Austin. Lucky me, it’s the week he’s ordered two more speakers and a subwoofer to round out his 5.1 set up. In keeping with the company I prefer to keep, he’s a fellow music junkie and I’m the type of guest who wants to leave something behind to commemorate the good times. What better than some 12” wax discs to flex the new subwoofer muscle?
The scene: Waterloo Records, Austin, TX. A band plays in the parking lot out front as I flip through the electronic vinyl section. I’ve decided on the bass friendly, emotionally charged, deep house debut of Bob Moses – Days Gone By. At the cash register, while I’m paying, I notice a stack of records: Sunflower Bean, “Human Ceremony.” Me: “My friend just mentioned these guys to me.” Waterloo dude: “That’s who’s playing out front right now.”
A misty, mid-SXSW, mid-day set before a hungover, disparate, zombified crowd more into their beers and smart phones than the music. Despite the darlings (read: droll devils) around me, the Beans grabbed me with their brand of fuzzy, psychedelic garage, jam rock providing the base for black and pink pixie haired bassist and singer Julia Cumming’s vocals to float above. Once the set concluded, before I took my first step, I received my order confirmation for their next LA show.
That show was last night. The Thursday “Friday night,” all ages crowd at The Echo put the lazy listeners in Austin to shame and moved Julia to tears. After the unremarkable reception at SxSW, the amped up fans singing her lyrics back sparked something in her. As her eyes dried, she jumped down off stage and jammed her way into the pit. The bouncing bodies didn’t miss a step, while simultaneously forming a cocoon around her so the bass rocking could continue unaltered.
The confident performance felt like a (young) career defining moment — a sold-out show where a contagion indiscriminately infected 500 lucky souls at the heart of a big city. Consider yourself warned.