Words by Ashleigh Goodwin / Pics by Phil Drury
It’s Thursday night and our three day summer is still going strong. Approaching The Sunflower Lounge, you can see it has already built up a sizeable crowd that spills onto the streets outside, all of whom are enjoying drinks and cigarettes before the show begins downstairs.The crowd is awash with Dr Martens, plaid shirts and corduroy, singing along to various snippets of whatever is playing inside – speakers blaring into the road, through windows open to accommodate the hot weather.
The basement, however, is quiet upon entry. But as Birmingham based ‘psych-soaked four-piece’ Brain Food take to the stage people begin to file through the doors, dutifully taking their spot in front of the stage. The room becomes busy, with it getting so packed near the back that at one point I look like the final member of the most mismatched family trio; my bag and shoulders squashed together between an older man and a younger girl. People greet each other between songs, half jumping on their friends in hugs and adoringly ruffling their hair with one hand whilst sipping their beer in the other. One audience member reenacts the most vicious ‘Charlie Brown’ dance move I’ve ever seen repeatedly throughout the set, whilst bobbing his head to the thick bass lines as they go.
A smooth “howdy” from lead singer Liam Mckeown reverberates through the room and does nothing to calm the raucous crowd. Their setlist – which includes ‘Mindwinder’, a new single yet to be released from their forthcoming EP ‘Get One On’ – is a pleasant haze of swirling chord combinations and fuzzy riffs from rhythm guitarist Jakob Cusp and bassist Wills Carrot, against the smooth swagger of Liam’s vocals and Connor Doyle’s percussion. Brain Food provided the perfect opener for the evening by kicking it off with enthusiasm and getting the crowd going in such a short space of time.
The second band of the night are The Hungry Ghosts, and people begin to swarm in throughout the first song after their toilet, drink and cigarette breaks. Having only seen ‘The Ghosts’ once before from the back of a busy crowd, only now was I able to appreciate the enticing appeal of the five-piece. Their sound is hard to pin-down, and as they play favourites such as the effortlessly cool ‘Amerika’, ‘Lazaro’ and ‘Hummingbird’, I realised the full rock and roll sounding guitars mixed with the distinctive vocals and controlled screams of frontman Joe Joseph can only really be summerised by their self-description of ‘slaughterhouse blues and trash country’.
I try many variations to describe this in my notes, crossing out each one in frustration as this description is the only one that seems apt for their unique sound, which manages to incorporate elements of rock, punk, blues and psychedelia into one performance. The Hungry Ghosts give an unpredictable yet tight set, presumably due to their confidence and familiarity with the stage; each member puts on a solid performance, showing what a well oiled machine The Hungry Ghosts are without ever coming off as too polished, flat or boring.
Additionally, frontman Joe Joseph seems to possess a magnetism only present in a very small percentage of performers; he knows exactly what he is doing as he commands the small stage of The Sunflower Lounge. From his precise movements and calculated mannerisms, to his addressing of the audience as “brothers and sisters”, Joseph draws you into the performance and really helps solidify the bands overall image and presentation.
The Hungry Ghosts exhibit a theatrical and artistic nature that encompasses everything they do; from their stylised ‘Amerika’ video, to their carefully designed merch of stickers, t-shirts and badges which are set up in a battered suitcase to the left of the stage. This naturally extends to their performance and does make them mesmerising to watch, it makes you want to take note of what is being performed and it boats an indescribable allure. These factors, combined with the fact I had to cut out many notes to make this a somewhat readable size, are what made The Hungry Ghosts, for me, the highlight of the evening.
After The Hungry Ghosts, people stream in and out of the basement and rotate between the bar, smoking area and toilets upstairs, meaning the crowd has dwindled in numbers slightly. But when Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’ fills the room, the remaining audience members eagerly chorus the opening guitar whilst throwing their heads forward to the rhythm. The track is cut short for Captain Süün’s arrival to the stage, as they introduce themselves with a chaotic medley guitars and feedback before diving straight into their set.
Two songs in and lead vocalist Dan Brown asks into the crowd if they can borrow one of The Hungry Ghost’s guitars as there is a problem with Harri Newman’s, the band’s lead guitarist. A couple of minutes later and Billy OIllis swerves through the crowd and props his guitar on the speaker. A tense couple of seconds follow as Newman fiddles with the straps and dials on the body; you can tell there is an impending verse he needs to complete, and with what seems like barely a second to spare he nails it by launching into the riff with a satisfying vengeance.
Small but dedicated pits form from the second song onwards, growing when the four-piece play their EP’s title track ‘Beach Burrito’. Captain Süün sound completely on form, with their live performance lifting the sound of the more subdued, relaxed recording on the EP. The energy displayed by the four-piece and voraciousness of the guitars gives a wild and unexpected layer to their entire set, which the crowd pick up on as pits continue throughout the show.
This culminates in the last song, with the front section of the room throwing themselves into one another as red lights and mind-bending guitars fill the venue – a crowd member goes flying across the floor and people scramble to help them up instantaneously before carrying on in earnest. Not a soul is deterred from giving it their all as people fly into the speakers lining the front of the stage, and frontman Dan Brown has to prop his foot on one to ensure it doesn’t continue its journey across the floor.
Even from my position on the stairs the joy is infectious, and I can hear the shouts of enthusiasm and laughter from the crowd below. The previous two bands look on from the crowd, moving along with the beat whilst some are even part of the pit, whilst Brain Food’s lead singer, Liam Mckeown, unabashedly dances on the stairs.
The crowd are a real highlight of the Captain Süün gig tonight, with the headline set definitely the most interactive and responsive they’ve been all evening. And when time is finally called on the evening, people snake out with sweat soaked faces and huge grins and make their way to the bar upstairs – riding the high of Captain Süün for at least a little while longer.
Captain Süün @ The Sunflower Lounge 24.05.18 / Phil Drury
For more on Captain Süün, visit www.facebook.com/captainsuun
The Hungry Ghosts – supporting Captain Süün @ The Sunflower Lounge 24.05.18 / Phil Drury
For more on The Hungry Ghosts, visit www.thehungryghosts.co.uk
Brain Food – supporting Captain Süün @ The Sunflower Lounge 24.05.18 / Phil Drury
For more on Brain Food, visit www.facebook.com/brainfoodofficial
For more from The Sunflower Lounge, including full event listings and venue details, visit www.thesunflowerlounge.com