PASADENA DAYDREAM FESTIVAL
May 3rd, 2019 will forever be remembered, not because of the untimely death of Star Wars’ Chewbacca actor, Peter Mayhew, or even New York mayor Bill De Blasio’s announcement of his 2020 presidential run, but because that Friday afternoon marked the first time we heard Robert Smith—frontman of the legendary goth-rock and newly inducted Rock N Roll Hall of Fame band, The Cure—would be putting together a music festival in Southern California this summer. Considered the “Father” in the Holy Trinity of darkwave indie music (see: Depeche Mode and The Smiths for “The Son” and “Holy Spirit”), The Cure has inspired countless number of bands, genres, looks, and perhaps most telling, more calls for new albums than perhaps any other band since Zeppelin. Smith had previously announced in March of this year that The Cure were recording what he called a “very intense” new album—the first in over ten years—to be released in the fall, but the announcement of The Pasadena Daydream festival caught everyone by surprise. Finally, not only The Cure’s first North American tour since 2016, but an eclectic hand-selected curation of Smith’s favorite bands, including proto-grunge rockers Pixies, alternative metal band The Deftones, experimental Scottish post-rock band Mogwai and alt-rockers Throwing Muses, along with The Joy Formidable, Chelsea Wolfe, The Twilight Sad, Emma Ruth Rundle, and Kaelan Mikla. The festival, to be held on August 31st, promises to be the best darkness to hit Los Angeles since 2017’s total solar eclipse. Here are some bands you should be excited about…
Of course, the star of the show is the band that went from post-punk to new wave to goth rock to romantic pop, all without losing their rabid fandom. It’s true that 2008’s 4:13 Dream faced release date delays and the promise of a “companion album” which never materialized, but that hasn’t stopped Robert Smith from using the Obama/Trump years to create a brand new opus. After touring a Disintegration 30th anniversary show in Australia this year, Smith has promised that the new album, slated for release in the fall, will be “fucking great” and will mostly include “doom-and-gloom” tracks upwards of 10-12 minutes each. Saying of the album, “It’s not really festival music…” don’t expect too much in the way of brand new songs, however, with their mile-long catalog of hits, singles, b-sides and soundscape journeys, everything is on the table and SoCal wouldn’t have it any other way.
David Bowie remarked that Pixies should have been known as, “The Psychotic Beatles,” for their catchy basslines, surf-punk licks, earworm harmonies, and wall-of-sound melodies. After their breakup in 1993 and subsequent regrouping in 2004, Pixies missed most of the alt-rock and Nu Rock Revolution of the late nineties/early aughts, which borrowed heavily from them. Fans were left wondering if 2016’s Head Carrier was the final chapter of the Pixies, however in January 2019, singer Black Francis announced that a forthcoming album would be released this coming September. Having replaced Kim Deal and Kim Shattuck permanently with Paz Lenchantin (of A Perfect Circle, Zwan and Queens Of The Stone Age fame), the godfathers of grunge are ready to give us a gigantic taste of what we’ve all been waiting for.
THE TWILIGHT SAD
If there was a sure bet on who would play a Cure-centric festival, Scottish mope-rockers (or as they describe it, “folk with layers of noise”) The Twilight Sad would be the odds-on favorite. Since 2007, this band has gone from thick-and-dark shoegazer to krautrock darkwave to stylistically sophisticated synth-folk in five critically-acclaimed albums. Their January 2019 release of It Won/t Be Like This All The Time blends elements from post-punk to industrial noise, owing its unique sound to a deconstructive songwriting process (guitarist Andy MacFarlane claims that he wrote the album’s melodies, then had vocalist James Graham write lyrics over it, then deleted all the melodies and started writing a completely different album under it). And if that wasn’t enough of a Cure-esque credential, Robert Smith even covered their “There’s A Girl In The Corner” in 2015, acknowledging that this band is near-and-dear to Smith’s heart.
What can probably only be described as gothic romance-metal (think maybe Kaleidescope-era Siouxsie meets Tool), California’s own Chelsea Wolfe will probably be remembered as Pasadena Daydream’s darling of darkness. Drawing on everything from folk to dark metal, Wolfe doesn’t shy away from using her personal traumatic experiences as a way to frame what she sees as an overwhelming global political melee (her song “Vex” for example is acoustically rooted in a deep-sea “hum,” which she believes is an “instinctual guide to the creatures who live in those dark depths,” an allegory for mass human suffering and perhaps music itself). Her wailing lyrics, buried beneath a throbbing grimy reverb, call for personal embodiment as a means of escaping our current tumultuous atmosphere of hate and fear. Wolfe’s last album, 2017’s Hiss Spun speaks to a seething loneliness and alienation and culture of frenzy that her music is an attempt to quell. “It’s overwhelming and I have to write about it,” she says, citing Henry Miller as an inspiration to “embrace the mess of self” as a way to control our world and exert autonomy in it. Saying only that a new album would be released “in 2019,” we’re sure to be delving into some deep waters with Wolfe sharing the stage with other heavy soul-searchers this August.
Emma Ruth Rundle
A little Kate Bush, a little Cocteau Twins, a little Beth Orton, a little folk, Louisville-born visual artist and musician Emma Ruth Rundle isn’t here to let her dreamy sweetness fool you. She can go as deep as you let her, and her billing on Pasadena Daydream will definitely be a performance to look forward to. Rundle’s music is a lush, languid tapestry that borders on country, psychedelia, and alt-rock. In an interview this year, Rundle says that she constructs all of her songs on her father’s acoustic guitar, layering lots of polyphonic chords and overdubbing into a highly structured but brutally honest writing process. Her widely-praised 2018 album On Dark Horses is probably what caught the ear of Robert Smith, as it deals with similar Cure-esque themes of mourning, drama and loss, however with a much more uplifting, weightless sound than some of the other acts on the Pasadena Daydream bill. There is no word on an upcoming album from Rundle, but we are sure to be uplifted by her small frame and large sound when she hits the stage.
Reporting by Fiestaban Photography