Following a 40th anniversary set at the famous British Summer Time events at Hyde Park, The Cure partnered with Goldenvoice in Los Angeles to headline and curate another celebratory event featuring a batch of bands either contemporaries of or influenced by their legendary gothic sound. Nestled in the field directly adjacent to the Rose Bowl, this event would be labeled Pasadena Daydream and featured an ultra-impressive roster of support acts including The Pixies, Deftones, Throwing Muses, The Joy Formidable, Chelsea Wolfe, Mogwai, Emma Ruth Rundle and more.
Cramming twenty thousand plus people into a field means a logistical nightmare even in the most skilled of hands, so after the requisite delays, we made it through security screen just in time to catch Emma Ruth Rundle’s set. Pulling from her recent, excellent album On Dark Horses and joined on stage by husband Evan Patterson, Rundle played a dreamy set that blended equal parts drone and singer-songwriter.
For those that follow mxdwn avidly, you will remember that we just covered Mogwai when they played at the annual Psycho Las Vegas festival. Much like their performance there—only a briefer set at thirty minutes total—this was a tour de force of instrumental majesty. Singer/guitarist Stuart Braithwaite led the band in the worst of the mid-day sun through gorgeous compositions and the yet again amazing power and grace of “Mogwai Fear Satan.”
Immediately thereafter (the good thing about Pasadena Daydream is that there was no overlap of any sets and 0 minutes in between each successive performance, making for a fully seamless experience) came a warmly received set from Chelsea Wolfe. A different flavor of singer-songwriter, Wolfe aims for the discordant thuds of industrial music and quasi metal evocative of Swans. She opened strong using one of her more famous tracks, the ominous tones and swell of “Feral Love.” She followed that up with a pair of stellar cuts from her last album Hiss Spun, “16 Psyche” and “Vex.” The crowd was particularly enthused for this set and the crushing “Carrion Flowers” and world-weary “Survive” rounded out and closed off the tight thirty-minute performance.
Nu metal heroes Deftones had brought a giant chunk of fans to Pasadena Daydream all by themselves. The significance of their presence was not lost on frontman Chino Moreno. “It’s a huge, huge, huge privilege for us to be invited to do this thing,” he said after performing one oof their best songs “Digital Bath.” The band leaned heavily on the best cuts from two of their most beloved albums, Around the Fur and White Pony. From those albums they led off their set with the one-two punch of “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away),” “My Own Summer (Shove It)” and the soaring anthem “Change (In the House of Flies).” Something was off here and it’s hard to put a finger on it. Deftones consistently deliver amazing performances, but either the sound was being muffled by a poor mix of Moreno was having difficulty hitting the notes on many of his trademark histrionics. Either way, not what one might expect given the reputation of the band.
The Joy Formidable, on the other hand, played their set that followed as if they were returning champions. The trio of singer/guitarist Ritzy Bryan, bassist Rhydian Dafydd Davies and drummer Matthew James Thomas dove into a spirited set of alt-rock bounding around the stage with the energy and exuberance that The Subways once were famous for only with far better songs. Bryan looked legitimately thrilled to be playing the show and gushed about being a part of the bill in spite of the dreadful heat. “I’m fucking having a great time,” she said. “I’m so happy to be here today. What a lineup. Fucking hell.” “Cradle” and “Passerby” kept the momentum going strong while Bryan remarked of the latter, “This is a song about feeling good about having a different from everyone.” They ended strong playing one of the song from their very first EP A Balloon Called Moaning, “Ostrich.”
Another band deserving of their own festival, The Pixies, followed The Joy Formidable back at the main stage (today called The Oaks stage). Historians will note, The Pixies opened for The Cure at Dodger Stadium in 1989, a whopping twenty-nine years ago. Having covered considerable ground since then The Pixies came armed with a giant batch of their most beloved songs. Opening with a trio of classic songs (“Gouge Away,” “Bone Machine,” “Wave of Mutilation”) the four-piece band starkly chopped into their set without any form of introduction. Notably, here, bassist Paz Lenchantin was deftly singing all the parts former member Kim Deal would ordinarily sing in the years she was a part of the band. “Isla De Encanta,” “Hey” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” came next, each upping the ante on artful lyrical wizardry. The unforgettable contrapuntal melodies of “Where Is My Mind?” find lead singer/guitarist Frank Black switching to an acoustic guitar and opening up a segment of the set where he sticks with the acoustic. “Death Horizon” and the charming “Here Comes Your Man” make use of that new template and are fun additions to the set. “Vamos” allows for the band to play loose for a time and guitarist Joey Santiago takes the opportunity to make a joyous racket of guitar noise. The set ends with a batch of Pixies classics including, “Caribou,” “I’ve Been Tired,” “Debaser” and everyone’s favorite alt-rock singalong, “Gigantic.”
Throwing Muses sadly didn’t seem to benefit at all from the late set time as only a sparse crowd gathered to hear Kristin Hersh, Bernard Georges and David Narcizo work hard shredding vintage alt-rock back at the Willow stage. For whatever reason, most fans seemed content to wait the entire hour back at the main stage for The Cure to begin.
Once The Cure finally took the stage, frontman Robert Smith used a good portion of opening song “Plainsong” to just stand smiling and observe the crowd as they cheered him on. Always cutting a distinct look in his ghostly makeup and elaborate bush-like hairstyle, Smith seems happy in his own unique way at the sight of so many thousands eagerly cheering him on. The set begins with “Plainsong” and “Pictures of You,” essentially the opening of one of their most beloved albums, Disintegration. This would be the spine of the show as several other cuts from Disintegration would echo out through the warm Pasadena night before the set concluded (amidst them: “Lovesong,” “Lullaby,” “Fascination Street” and the title track). In between those terrific songs they intersperse choice cuts from throughout their long career. Darting from “A Night Like This” to rocking “Burn” (which was made famous as essentially the centerpiece of the legendary soundtrack to Alex Proyas film The Crow) the band’s bass-heavy and delicate music had a legion of patient fans enraptured.
The band’s signature template was on display perfectly in their famous hit “Just Like Heaven” as bassist Simon Gallup frames the backbone of the song and then Smith comes in with a measured and angelic plucked melody peppering over the top of the bassline. Perhaps most impressive in this respect is early career track “A Forest” which takes the groove to heights of epic dissonance, the music itself almost more evocative than the lyrics. The set proper ends with pyromaniac loving “39” and the unusual and bound title track from Disintegration.
For their encore, they continued on with greats starting with “Lullaby.” Ultra poppy “Friday I’m In Love” makes an appearance as does even more big ‘80s number “Why Can’t Be You” before the seminal song “Boys Don’t Cry” closes the set completely. This was literally two hours and forty minutes after the set began. True to form and reputation Robert Smith had no intention of leaving his fans feeling unsatisfied. It was a fitting celebration for a forty-year career, as it highlighted well the darkest crevices the band has mined, the most fun singalong chants they created as well as the atmospheric ruminations that have captivated listeners for decades.
Pictures of You
A Night Like This
Just One Kiss
In Between Days
Just Like Heaven
From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea
Play for Today
Shake Dog Shake
Friday I’m in Love
Close to Me
Why Can’t I Be You?
Boys Don’t Cry
All photos by Raymond Flotat