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The Best Live Shows Of 2019: Billboard Staff Picks


Sunflower Bean

I was prepared for the embarrassment of being an aging music writer continuing to frequent concerts by artists a decade or more my junior, with crowds that were mostly even younger than that. What I wasn’t prepared for was the increasingly common shame that comes with seeing one of those younger artists live, when the majority of the crowd are also your age, with barely an actual kid in sight, like when I saw teenage U.K. psych-pop duo Let’s Eat Grandma in 2018 and the crowd seemed like it was 90% 30-something music writer types. That show was great, and the band didn’t seem actively put off by the disparity, but it nagged at me that the dynamic between artist and audience was very much not what it should have been, and that it was a problem I was actively contributing to just by being there. 

That’s one of the many reasons I was grateful for the Saturday night (June 1) of Governors Ball weekend this summer, when after playing at the New York City fest in the daytime, rock power trio Sunflower Bean graced the late stage at undersized lower Manhattan venue Mercury Lounge. I feared the band — a streaming-unfriendly rock outfit with more critical acclaim than radio hits — would draw largely (if not entirely) folks like me. But while there were a fair share of potential critics in the building, there were easily more high school- and college-age fans, many of whom got on stage by show’s end to join the band in dancing and singing along to their life-affirming jams, kids that could have been me or my girlfriend 10 or 15 years earlier (if we were a little more extroverted at the time). The show was for them, and I was thrilled to just get to watch it from the sidelines. 

I don’t anticipate this problem will exactly go away for me as I get older — and so does the age of this average rock fan. But for the night at least, I was overjoyed that there was still a next generation to let me off the hook while I enjoyed one of the best bands in America in full effect, without feeling guilty just for showing up. — ANDREW UNTERBERGER