By DAN MACINTOSH
Summer has arrived in Southern California, but this seasonal change didn’t keep the region’s large Goth contingent from dressing uniformly in sun-attracting black and complicated shoes. In attire much better suited for nightclub dance floors than festival fields, these pale music fans trudged back and forth across a golf course that featured stages at opposite ends.
In the shadow of the Rose Bowl, where another iconic British band (the Rolling Stones) recently sold out, these normally night owls braved the afternoon heat for the Pasadena Daydream Festival, curated by headliner The Cure. And it was so worth all the environmental cognitive dissonance.
One would be hard pressed to imagine another American city where The Cure could host an all-day music festival like this one. Alternative radio powerhouse KROQ helped transform The Cure into a stadium band, at least locally. The group’s 27-song set, which mixed in plenty of hits along with deep cuts (including plenty from Disintegration – arguably the act’s best full-length), this night was a celebratory overview of the band’s critically acclaimed career to date.
The group’s set opened with “Plainsong,” one of many from Disintegration, and closed by encoring with the early hit, “Boys Don’t Cry.” Songs like “Primary” and “A Forest” cemented The Cure as essential Gothic forebearers, but “Friday I’m in Love” and “Just Like Heaven,” the latter of which found leader Robert Smith strumming an acoustic guitar aggressively, is a reminder of just how fine a pop band it is. The group even performed the tongue-twisting “The Caterpillar” tonight.
This act was able to fill its setlist with so much variety because of its five accomplished musicians onstage. Long time member, Simon Gallup, held down the base, while relatively recent addition (since 2012) Reeves Gabrels brought the same guitar expertise he once provided David Bowie. Robert Smith, with his distinctive vocal whine, is also an underrated, innovative guitarist, and sang and played all his band’s songs with enthusiastic glee. With such an expansive performance, any patron that left disappointed, just wasn’t paying attention. This Daydream was truly a dream come true.
Throwing Muses headlined the smaller Willow stage, with Kristin Hersh fronting a power trio that meshed together, much like a jazz trio – only much louder. Every act on this stage featured female acts or female-fronted bands. The Joy Formidable was the best of these, bringing an energetic burst not always hinted at in this trio’s recorded music. This stage’s lineup was rounded out by Chelsea Wolfe, Emma Ruth Rundle and Kaelan Mikla.
The mainstage, which was named The Oaks, featured a much-appreciated set by Pixies, the is-it-Goth-or-is-it-hard-rock Deftones, the (mostly) instrumental Mogwai and Scotland’s The Twilight Sad, which suffered through horrible sound lapses that spoiled an otherwise stellar early set.
All the opening acts performed admirably, but this day was all about The Cure. The show was like a meal where you couldn’t have eaten another bite, but didn’t feel overly full after pulling away from the table. It amounted to the perfect way to experience a truly great rock band.