Sunflower Bean and The Nude Party solidify the future of rock with their live performances
There’s only a handful of rock bands performing right now that can actually add something to the conversation that is rock music. The best of these do so by keeping one foot firmly in rock’s roots while stepping boldly forward with the other into the fertile soil of their own innovations on rock’s past. How lucky was I to get the chance to see two of these such bands in the same night and at the same venue? The Sunflower Bean/The Nude Party show at Snug Harbor showcased the future of rock, safely in the hands of two bands who know their roots, yet have skillfully nurtured those roots into something more than just another branch off the same old rock n’ roll tree.
Both Sunflower Bean and The Nude Party are fronted by a talented lead singer evocative of rock legends past, but have personas and vibes that are completely their own. The Nude Party’s frontman, Patton Magee, cuts a figure that lands somewhere between a sober Jim Morrison and a more svelte Mick Jagger.
Sunflower Bean’s Julia Cumming is a hard rock version of Debbie Harry minus the deadpan detachment. She’s also a talented bass player as well and handles both vocals and bass guitar duties on each Sunflower Bean song. On stage, Magee slides around easing the notes out of his guitar with all the grace of smooth rock star while his Jagger-esque mop top takes on a life of its own, framing his rock star good looks like a bona fide 60s mod-rock god’s crown. Cumming’s graceful presence is punctuated by pure hard rock headbangs and fist pumps. Both these band leaders would be perfectly at home on the catwalk (Cumming actually has done runway modelling), but are most comfortable, and inspired by, rock n’ roll energy and performance. Both bands are loaded with more talent than any band of a similar short existence should be blessed with, and sound just as great live as they do on their recordings… something else that is a rather rare occurrence these days in rock music.
The intimate confines of Snug Harbor suited both bands perfectly. Even though their sound is ready made for arenas and beyond, they sounded just as tight and sharp in Snug as they sound in your headphones. I honestly cannot think of a better place to have seen them both live for the first time. Songs like “Chevrolet Van” by The Nude Party and “I Was a Fool” by Sunflower Bean elicited sing alongs from the crowd along with plenty of rock n roll shakes and sways. There was a definite party vibe in the air, but both bands are way more than party bands at this point… if Sunflower Bean even ever was.
The Nude Party’s repertoire is definitely loaded with Rolling Stone’s like party anthem’s, but they are a far cry from the party band they were when they started out at Appalachian State University.
“Chevrolet Van” might sing the praises, and hint at the fleeting nature, of drunken escapades, but songs like “War Is Coming” veer them into “Paint It Black” territory, even if The Nude Party’s song isn’t nearly as bleak. “Crisis Fest” is a more direct commentary on the “sick show” that reality is in 2018 with its “missile tests” and “torn up dress.” At the heart of each band, there’s some definite solemnity, even if it’s buried under Stones-esque modding and New Wave via Hard Rock head banging.
Seeing each band perform reminds one that even though everything in rock music, or any music for that matter, is textual, or even contextual, new ground is being broken by a talented few every day. Bands who stay true to their original rock roots loves, but build upon those foundations as eloquently as they do as passionately are always inspirational live. The future of rock is assured, and better yet, safe in the hands of acts like Sunflower Bean and The Nude Party…oh, and so is the live rock show experience.