Labor Day weekend 2019 turned out to be very memorable thanks to the Daydream Festival rolling into the Brookside at the Rose Bowl. The event, which was different in that it was promoted as an all-day spectacle curated by The Cure’s frontman Robert Smith, featured as headliners that UK band as well as the pride of Massachusetts, The Pixies.
My day started off pretty normal. I arrived at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, Aug. 31, to an insanely long line. My guestimate was it took about two hours to get in. I also noticed the mercury was topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit but, even with the extreme heat, there were Cure fans decked out in all black. Crazy right?
Noting out of the ordinary happened as I passed through the entrance, but it didn’t take long for that to change. As I stood in the media line, I noticed a few people off to the side of the box office. When I checked in, there was an issue with my press credentials: My name wasn’t on the list. (It happens sometimes.) I ended up on the side of the box office while this was getting straightened out.
As I commiserated with other ticket-challenged patrons, I heard their stories. Some of the reasons they were there were silly; mostly it was due to lost licenses or someone had “alternative ID.” For me, this was a minor inconvenience compared to others. It turns out that by the end of the night, this experience would turn out to be one of the most memorable moments in my concert reviewing life. You see, I noticed two ladies among us that were upset. I asked if they were OK, they answered “yes.” They were upset because they had just arrived from France and were having problems with their tickets.
Truthfully, I couldn’t imagine traveling that far for a show, so I had to ask them why they did it? Their answer was as direct as the day was long. One lady answered for both when she said music has always been a big part of their lives. The Cure and The Pixies have always been there for them in one way or another. As they were telling me this, I thought about all my friends who love a certain band and how they’re that act’s biggest fan. As the women went on with their story, my reason for being held up paled in comparison to theirs. They revealed they are sisters, and life hasn’t always been a pleasure cruise for them. They’ve experienced heartbreaks and losses of family and friends; music has helped when they needed to feel again. Then, there were the moments when they just wanted to forget about life for a while; The Cure and The Pixies helped them through that. When this show was announced, they had to come. Call it a pilgrimage or whatever, but it was their chance to see these bands at the same time. As they finished telling me their story, I got the e-mail I was waiting for and had to bid them farewell. I wished them luck and left. After I got my passes, I looked back to get their names, and just like that, they were gone.
As I ventured in, I saw the enormity of the crowd. I knew this was going to be epic. I first headed to the backstage area; it was crazy-insane with the who’s-who of the entertainment industry back there. Lady Gaga, who is a huge Cure fan, was even taking in the show. It didn’t take long for me to catch up with my long-time friend Leeza London. She and I go back a way to my old KROQ days. Between the two of us, we covered music at that station from 1989 through 2014; definitely good years for music. Leeza is no stranger to evaluating talent. She worked alongside Rodney Bingenheimer for years as the American in London. She brought many of those UK bands we love to the airwaves though the original Rodney on the Roq show. Together, Leeza and I headed out to the festival. By then, the heat index was somewhere between perdition and WTF!
The openers were great, the kind of bands needed to get things going. To the venue’s credit, there was no down time between sets. As one band ended, the other went on. It didn’t take long for the temperature to get cartoon-level hot once the Deftones took the stage. Chino Moreno was on fire; they were loud and entertaining. They played the songs the crowd came to hear, including “Tempest,” “Gauge” and their uber-hit “Change (In the House of Flies).” As for the next band, Leeza and I were impressed by the vocal talents of Ritzy Bryan of The Joy Formidable. Leeza felt this band commanded a lot of power, and they had amazing stage presence, more like a main-stage band. The crowd reaction to their hits “Cradle” and “Whirring” was almost deafening. This was one of the nice surprises of the day.
Another band that impressed was Throwing Muses. They’ve been inactive the past five years, so there was lots of interest. The band was originally a four-piece, but Tanya Donnelly was not playing, so for this show, three was the magic number. The change gave their sound a different dynamic. Those who are used to seeing lead singer Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donnelly together were trying to evaluate the performance. For those not familiar with the band, they sounded great. Hersh’s raspy voice went over well, with “Shimmer” being a crowd favorite and closer “Pearl” sounding fantastic.
Up next was The Pixies; these cats have a new album on the horizon and came ready to entertain. They looked and sounded great, defying the laws of gravity by taking the insanity up a notch. They opened with “Gauge Away” and before you knew it, they were pumping out the classics, including “Wave of Mutilation,” “Head On,” “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Where Is My Mind?” “Here Comes Your Man,” “Debaser” and the fan favorite they closed with, “Gigantic.”
As the sun descended behind the picturesque San Gabriel Mountains, The Cure took the stage. The light show was unreal, the band was tight, Smith’s vocals were strong and lead guitarist Reeves Gabrels and bassist Simon Gallup killed it. Overall, the band was electrifying. The 2.5-hour set list was designed for the hardcore fan as opposed to those not as familiar with their catalogue. They came out to “Plainsong” and kicked it into high gear with hit-after-after-hit. The crowd flipped out over “Pictures of You,” then “Lovesong,” “Fascination Street,” “Never Enough,” “In Between Days,” “Just Like Heaven,” “A Forest,” “Primary,” “Disintegration” and “Lullaby.” They also played some of my personal favorites, such as “The Caterpillar,” “Close to Me,” “Why Can’t I Be You?” and, with Smith beginning by quoting The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?”, “Friday I’m In Love.”
As the show was ending, Leeza and I made our way to the rear of the grounds. She hung out with a few fans, and I stood behind a big tree taking in the sights and sounds with about 1,000 of my closest friends. As I stood there, I noticed a guy who seemed out of place. He had just about every credential imaginable on his wrist, and he was checking out my wrist bands. He asked me, “Why are you back here?” I replied, “I like being around people.” I then asked him the same question. He answered, “Me too, and I love this band.” He went on to say “when I look back on this day, I don’t want to remember how clean the bathrooms were or how good the food was in the VIP area. What I want is to remember this moment, standing here by this tree with all these good people listening to my favorite band.”
Stan from NorCal, your point hit me. The Cure matters to so many people because they’re like family. As “Boys Don’t Cry” started piercing throughout the venue, Stan looked at me, said “Later, bother” and dove straight into the crowd and started dancing like a madman. That made me smile.
As I was getting ready to call it a night, I looked to my left and saw the two French girls in the distance. They were singing, dancing, crying and they looked so damn happy! I was relieved they got in. For once, the Music Gods got it right! They looked down favorably upon two of their most devoted daughters, and that made my night.
What does good music compel people to do? It summons them to fly from Europe or walk away from the VIP area to dance; that’s the power of music. I left the festival with a new found respect for bands that continue to inspire us and bring happiness to all through their music. We all know that some shows don’t live up to the hype, but the Daydream Festival did … just for a few reasons I didn’t initially consider.