Inside Paris’ cosy Point Éphémère, nestled in the 10th arrondissement by the Canal Saint Martin, opening act Gussstave were an absolutely lovely surprise. I wasn’t entirely sure where they were from, as they spoke in what sounded like both native French and native English – but after some investigation, I find out that the band describe themselves as “wannabe jazz-pop of an English guy and his band of Frenchies, inspired by the 70s of the future.” You see why I liked them, then. (Their Facebook bio, in case you were interested, simply states “Electric eels, marmalade and music.” Lovely). The lead singer sort of looked like a cross between Peace‘s Harry Koisser and member of Wham!, dancing around the stage with wily-hipped enthusiasm, and it was refreshing to see a band achieving the holy triad of having good songs, playing them well and actually enjoying themselves onstage. I swear to god, if I have to endure another gig with a po-faced band looking like they’re being made to sit through an episode of One Born Every Minute, I will give up altogether. Give Gussstave a listen, they really are great.
Sunflower Bean then took to the stage of a relatively well-filled Point Éphémère, where they unleashed their brand of taut, brash rock-n-roll. With her cropped velvet jacket and wild peroxide hair, lead singer Julia Cummings is sort of a grinning, smiling, lovely, fierce icon. Midway through the gig I say to Jake, “Gosh she is so lovely, I just want to live inside her ear like Sophie in the BFG.” The earlier comment about appreciating bands who look like they are having a good time applies with Sunflower Bean as well – I get the feeling that the audience were maybe more subdued than the band are used to, but they didn’t let this piss them off; still fresh and giddy from the success of their recent album Twentytwo in Blue, they were clearly having the time of their lives.
Julia Cummings is just so cool. And don’t worry, I’m not going to go all male-journalist-writing-about-female-singers on you (“her sultry gaze penetrated the room, oozing sex appeal as her long legs seduced the crowd etc etc etc”). Her voice is astonishingly powerful and tuneful, which for me was brought to the fore in new song Twenty two – which is also the age of all three band members. I’ll try not to cry at how little I’ve achieved compared to them all (Julia Cummings is also a Saint Laurent model and muse to Hedi Slimane). Her bass playing was tight and faultless – in fact, all three of them play so effortlessly. As a unit of three, they’re utterly solid, as were their new songs: insouciant, melodic, and expertly crafted. A particularly lovely moment was when they covered Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, which – probably annoyingly for the band – garnered the biggest audience reaction. Guitarist Nick Kivlen (think lovechild of Bob Dylan and Simon Amstell) seemed like he had springs in his shoes, bounding up and down like happy child on fruit shoots. His impeccable licks and improvs were just as colorful as his mondrian guitar strap.
Sunflower Bean‘s youthful yet robust songs are something I feel like I’ve been waiting to hear for a while, and their nods to 70s sound and style undoubtedly draws me in. They’re genuinely one of the best live bands I have seen in a long, long time.