Established in 2002, the Sunflower Lounge has been on my radar for years. Friends at university would go on a Thursday night for the famous open mic night – the golden prize of the Live and Unsigned Music society (LUMSoc). As a venue known for supporting local music and talent, I’m excited in my 30s to finally see what the fuss is about.
I turn up and firstly don’t expect to be on the side of the bustling Queensway Road, opposite Snobs; another Birmingham living legend. I go to the bar where the staff are munching on bourbon biscuits behind the counter. It’s dark, relaxed and friendly. It feels like your local. I’m handed my wine spritzer in a pint glass, and I just know I’m in for a treat.
There is no pomp or fancy about the Sunflower Lounge. If that’s what you’re after, then you’re in the wrong place. If however you’re looking for an authentic and gritty pub gig in the centre of what is increasingly a slick and shiny Birmingham centre, you’ve hit the jackpot.
Yumi delivers her characteristically soothing vocals to a heavy and emotive rock backdrop. She has come with her own sound engineer and they read each other like clockwork.
I walk downstairs into the dark pit of a venue, and I’m taken straight back to teenage years of grungey pub gigs. I’m excited. I try to guess what I’m in for by the audience – an eclectic mix of what could be Radio 6 and Radio 1 listeners, with a few die-hard regulars – and I’m left guessing.
The first band, Eastfields, enter stage. They bring the raw teen energy of the Courteeners, but with a Midlands stamp. This is reliving your youth but without feeling remotely old or out of place. Their sound is loud, and you can tell they’re enjoying.
The second support arrive within swift succession. There’s a momentum and energy to the night which is fun. Snowflake Generation are a 5-piece local band with a short and catchy style, and quickly get the intimate crowd involved. The gig is their big goodbye to Foli, their bass player, who is moving on after 3 years with the band. It’s a nice moment to be a part of, and we’re all fully invested now.
After a quick trip to the bar, Yumi and the Weather (Ruby Taylor) enters stage. There is an air of quiet and humble confidence about Yumi. You feel immediately at ease. She clearly knows herself, and her life experience filters through her lyrics. It all feels authentic; an artist self-releasing music on her own label, MIOHMI Records.
Yumi delivers her characteristically soothing vocals to a heavy and emotive rock backdrop. She has come with her own sound engineer and they read each other like clockwork. The sound fills the small room and you’re quickly wrapped up in a moody, heavy, rhythmic haze. Her latest single – It’s All in My Head (Sept 2022) – has an unmistakeably indie synth-rock sound. What she brings to it live is a raw and almost angry energy.
Yumi shows you can embrace the feminine without compromising strength. She is very much a front woman, but the band work as a whole. She is strong, at times refreshingly dorky, and brings a welcome touch of dry humour. I want to be Taylor. Yumi and the Weather call you to action without at any point making you feel self-conscious or lacking.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I haven’t enjoyed a gig as much as this in a long time. Raw and authentic, I feel inspired. I’m looking forward to Yumi and the Weather’s upcoming album, titled the same as the leading track (All in My Head). I will most definitely be back at The Sunflower Lounge sometime very soon.
Words & photos by Emily Birkett for Grapevine Birmingham.