This post covers the rest of The Cure’s cabinet of curiosities, better known as the Pasadena Daydream Festival, which took place at Brookside Park, essentially a golf course adjacent to the Rose Bowl, at the conclusion of last month. It goes without saying that it’s taken me awhile to get this one sorted and flushed out, with me taking the month off and all. But you know, better late than never. And it does wrap up Sept. on a particularly high note, even if there’s only been a couple notes to choose from.
Anyhow, there were nine bands that preceded The Cure’s headline performance, all selected by frontman Robert Smith himself, some who’ve played before with this seminal monumentality of alternative rock, others who are new to the opening line-up. In case you’re curious, you can read all about The Cure’s fantastic set here.
Admittedly, for one reason or another, I didn’t cover everyone. But I managed to get a healthy selection from six of the nine acts. Throwing Muses unfortunately didn’t make the cut, despite my extreme interest in wanting to see them. They had the undesirable billing of second stage, immediately preceding The Cure. So in order to secure a reasonably good viewing spot, I had to sacrifice that one. Bummer.
Although, I caught most of The Twilight Sad, they also had an unfortunate time slot, scheduled as the first act to grace the main stage. As such, they also reaped the pitfalls of early technical issues, with their sound cutting in and out during their entire set. They were good sports about it, and persevered nonetheless. But it made for a challenging listening experience.
And the act I was least familiar with, The Deftones, I just chose to sit back and bask in the slick wash of grunge metal they had to offer. I was probably in the minority on that one, since everyone else seemed primed for their performance. But I think I was in a different headspace, when these California rockers were in their prime.
So without further delay, let’s get started ….
Boston-based The Pixies have been experiencing quite the resurgence in recent years. They reunited back in ’04, after a separation of nearly a dozen years, with a series of lively back catalogue performances. But when it came to recording new material, original bassist Kim Deal chose not to continue with the band, and newcomer Paz Lenchantin stepped in as replacement. She turned out to be a great addition, always looking totally stoked, as if in utter disbelief to be playing as a member of The Pixies. And she could definitely play. Plus, her voice worked out rather comfortably for all of Kim’s parts.
That was six years and three albums ago, their latest being “Beneath the Eyrie,” of which they played a generous helping. Honestly, I wasn’t familiar with a lot of those tracks, since the LP hadn’t been released at the time of the fest. I think a couple of singles hit Spotify. But again, I missed them prior to the show.
For those wondering, this newer material skews a bit different, perhaps more mature, less unbridled. I’d have to give it a more focused listen before saying for sure. Live, it did sound good … just unfamiliar. But the 20 song set did plenty to offset any of those moments. And a lot of that has to do with frontman Black Francis, who can still belt out the lyrics with the same youthful ferocity and howl we’ve all come to love.
Below are three classics filmed from the VIP section, which if I’m being completely honest, wasn’t worth the extra money or effort. Viewing angles weren’t great and the sound was a mixed bag. But out of their hour and fifteen minute set, these three seemed to fair well … “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Planet of Sound,” and forever my personal favorite, “Where is My Mind?”
The Pixies perform “Monkey Gone to Heaven” at Pasadena Daydream at Brookside Park on 08.31.19.
The Pixies perform “Planet of Sound” at Pasadena Daydream at Brookside Park on 08.31.19.
The Pixies perform “Where is My Mind?” at Pasadena Daydream at Brookside Park on 08.31.19.
Next up is the first act to perform at the festival, Icelandic darkwave synth trio Kælan Mikla, who probably fare better visually during the night. They were totally good sports about it, kicking off a fearsomely energetic and mildly theatrical start to the day’s festivities.
Funny thing, I actually featured the track “Nornalagið” from these girls back in March, and totally forgot about it. If interested, here’s the link to that. And when I entered the festival grounds, looking to escape the scorching 95 degree heat in the nearby tented stage, that was also the track I encountered first. It took me a moment, but when it clicked, I was smiling glad that I arrived early to check them out.
So if you know nothing about their sound, Kælan Mikla definitely has the goth-electro-industrial thing going on. It’s fairly dancey stuff, with all the chilly synths and echo-ey vocal howls that come with the territory. But it’s also surprisingly catchy, with plenty of atmosphere and cool space to breathe.
I’ve got two songs from their half hour set. Unfortunately, I missed the aforementioned “Nornalagið.” I was just entering the tent as they were performing it. But I did get “Draumadís” and “Næturblóm.” I actually wasn’t all that familiar with their material beyond the one I knew, so I just randomly recorded these two, which I ultimately ended up liking the both.
Kælan Mikla perform “Draumadís” at Pasadena Daydream at Brookside Park on 08.31.19.
Kælan Mikla perform “Næturblóm” at Pasadena Daydream at Brookside Park on 08.31.19.
The Joy Formidable
Probably my favorite act of the day, not including The Cure, was Welsh trio The Joy Formidable, who offered up a rousing 45 minute set of blistery, blustery power-pop and shoegazed wall of sound tunage. I’ve seen them perform a couple of times in the past. But I don’t ever recall them being this unabashedly awesome on stage.
I mean, I’ve always liked them. Their performance has always been on the stronger side. Yet here, in the daytime festival setting, they seemed to thrive, exuding an energy I don’t recall ever witnessing in the past. They’ve come miles ahead in their game.
Below are four tracks, all relatively early bits from their debut EP and album, “A Balloon Called Moaning” and “The Big Roar,” respectively. “Ostrich” features a new take on an old song, completely sung in Welsh. And “Whirring” has a ridiculously rousing and indulgent outro that brings new meaning to ending a set on a high long note. The other two tracks, “I Don’t Want to See You Like This” and “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” are personal favs.
The Joy Formidable perform “I Don’t Want to See You Like This” at Pasadena Daydream at Brookside Park on 08.31.19.
The Joy Formidable perform “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” at Pasadena Daydream at Brookside Park on 08.31.19.
The Joy Formidable perform “Ostrich” at Pasadena Daydream at Brookside Park on 08.31.19.
The Joy Formidable perform “Whirring” at Pasadena Daydream at Brookside Park on 08.31.19.
The Joy Formidable:
These Scots are mainly known for their sprawling guitar-infused instrumentals. Having been around since the early to mid ‘90s, they also bear the honor of being one of the original post-rock acts. So naturally, the one track I filmed was one with vocals, titled “Party in the Dark.” It also qualifies as one of their more recent tracks, from the ’17 album “Every Country’s Sun.”
In hindsight, I probably should’ve captured the epic “Mogwai Fear Satan,” which maxes out around a transcendent fourteen minutes of reverberating feedback. I mean, it sounded fucking amazing. But I had to make it back to the tent stage to catch the aforementioned Joy Formidable … which I don’t regret one bit. So I opted to watch half of it, and listen to the rest on the run. I’ve got other recordings, so perhaps someday I’ll feature it in a separate post.
That said, “Party in the Dark” just kinda hits all the right shoegaze notes, even if it’s the one song that seems uncharacteristically Mogwai. It may not be their most remarkable or noteworthy track. But it works just the same for me.
Mogwai perform “Party in the Dark” at Pasadena Daydream at Brookside Park on 08.31.19.
Chelsea Wolfe at this fest makes a whole lot of sense. She skirts a fine line between darkwave, coldwave, metal, goth, and a whole lot of other shadowy stuff. She possesses an insane intensity and severity to every performance she does, seeming dreamlike and nightmarish all at once, a balancing act of cacophony and ethereality, even if its all a bit of a growl and grind.
Also, like many of the day’s performers, I’m guessing she probably wished she had the cover of darkness to complement her half hour set.
I kind of wish she played longer, and maybe introduced some of her newer material from this year’s “Birth of Violence.” But that will come in due time, when she hits the Palace Theatre in DTLA mid-November. For the fest, she kept things short and bittersweet, with a 6 song set, mainly comprised of “Abyss” and “Hiss Spun” material, with “Feral Love” as the sole offering from “Pain is Beauty,” as well as it being her show opener.
I’ve got that one featured below, as well as “Carrion Flowers” and “Survive,” both from “Abyss.” Enjoy Chelsea Wolfe’s darkness in the bright blistering heat of Pasadena day.
Chelsea Wolfe performs “Feral Love” at Pasadena Daydream at Brookside Park on 08.31.19..
Chelsea Wolfe performs “Carrion Flowers” at Pasadena Daydream at Brookside Park on 08.31.19.
Chelsea Wolfe performs “Survive” at Pasadena Daydream at Brookside Park on 08.31.19.
Emma Ruth Rundle
Lastly, although not performing in the order of this post, was Kentucky’s Emma Ruth Rundle, who I’ve really come to enjoy as a live listening experience. She tends to fly under the radar in the indie circuit. But her shadowy twang and epic drawl make for a delightful dirge and six-string sprawl of musicianship.
She’s almost like coldwave country and/or dark grunge folk, with a bit of post-rock thrown in for good measure. I wouldn’t go so far as to call her goth. But I could see how some might make the association.
Anyway, I really like her stuff. And she even opened her half hour set with the first song I heard from her, “Medusa,” which incidentally is also one of my favorites. Also, as a fun fact, this track was one of the earlier posts I whipped up when I was first starting this blog. Back then, I clearly kept things briefer, without all the rambling verbiage and colorful language. But hey, what can you do? Here’s a link to that post, for those curious.
Below, I’ve got “Medusa,” as well as another from the “Marked for Death” album, which is also the title track.
Emma Ruth Rundle performs “Medusa” at Pasadena Daydream at Brookside Park on 08.31.19.
Emma Ruth Rundle performs “Marked for Death” at Pasadena Daydream at Brookside Park on 08.31.19.
Emma Ruth Rundle:
So after a lengthy hiatus, and an equally lengthy write-up, that wraps up my long overdue post on the Pasadena Daydream Festival. If you’ve made it this far, I do hope you’ve found something worthwhile to enjoy. If not, oh well …
I’m going to throw the setlists for these performances in another forthcoming post that will hopefully follow this one in a timely fashion – i.e. tonight. That’s all for now.