The alternative music of the ’80s and ’90s proved its enduring power at Saturday’s Pasadena Daydream all-day concert at the Rose Bowl’s Brookside Park.
The Cure’s Robert Smith curated the lineup, which brought together bands that might not necessarily have identical fanbases. But there was enough overlap that black-swathed Cure fans were still happy to see the Pixies in fine form, while others discovered newer indie acts like Twilight Sad and the Joy Formidable, which played music in the spirit of the earlier acts. The Cure and Pixies had played together at Dodger Stadium almost exactly 30 years ago, and Smith briefly started to sing the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” at one point.
Alt-metal band Deftones played while the sun was still blazing, and as soon as it sank behind the mountains, the crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief. Also on the bill was Mogwai, Kaelan Mikla, Chelsea Wolfe and Emma Ruth Rundle.
The Goldenvoice concert utilized the same venue as last year’s two-day Arroyo Seco Weekend, with a similarly-programmed mix of ’70s, ’80s and ’90s talents. But with a different traffic flow and fewer food and drink choices, this year’s edition felt substantially more crowded. Frustrated fans waited in 99 degree heat to get through an hours-long queue to enter the park, while many beer lines stretched to an hour wait.
Lady Gaga danced wildly on the side of the stage during the Cure’s set, while acting couple Christina Hendricks and Geoffrey Arend were spotted in the VIP area. “I love the Cure, felt my old self come alive tonight, what a show,” Gaga wrote on her Instagram story, then wrote “When music is magic” on a shot of the group’s “A Forest.”
Lady Gaga going crazy while enjoying The Cure's performance at Pasadena, California, tonight. ✨https://t.co/vWDbpOLrZZ
— GAGA NOTIFY (@gaganotify) September 1, 2019
60-year old Smith, the lone original member of the British band, has not lost his dark charisma in the past four decades. The Cure’s impressive two hour and 20-minute set — meant to evoke the band’s epic anniversary show in Hyde Park last year — covered most of the ubiquitous hits still heard incessantly on the radio, from emotional renditions of “Just One Kiss” and “Lovesong” to classic beats like “Fascination Street” and “Just Like Heaven.”
When not playing their constantly-on-rotation titles, the band laid down extended dirge-like instrumental intros that provided a showcase for the spectacular lighting design. And other songs, like “Play for Today” and “A Forest” from their second album “Seventeen Seconds,” offered a glimpse into their more spiky, post-punk beginnings.
After a short break about an hour and a half in, the band returned to the stage and played for another half hour, including a noisy, playful rendition of “The Caterpillar,” plus “Friday I’m in Love” and “Why Can’t I Be You,” before ending with “Boys Don’t Cry.” Joyful fans sang along with most of the tracks, and they weren’t even all Gen Xers as a healthy contingent of younger fans was also on hand.
The band went deep on college dorm staple “Disintegration,” and during that album’s lulling, psychedelic “Last Dance,” a graying father could be seen rocking his young son to sleep on his shoulder and gently laying him on the ground to nap.
The Cure’s big sound, sheer amount of hits and engrossing stage show make it a stadium-level band, but somehow their show still feels intensely personal, when the scent of clove cigarettes begins wafting through the crowd, each concertgoer remembers every breakup, every heartache and every overly dramatic scene from their lives alongside Smith as he pours his heart out in front of the audience.
While the Cure wears its broody heart on its sleeve, the Pixies come from a more intellectual place. Frank Black is as cranky-looking as ever, rolling through a flawless-sounding set with no banter or audience asides, alternating between his acoustic and electric guitars and turning out impeccable sounding versions of favorites including “Velouria,” “Here Comes Your Man,” “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Bone Machine,” a raucous “Debaser,” as well as new song “Catfish Kate.”
He’s no longer an angry young man, so his voice is more modulated, but that doesn’t stop the music from sounding as singular and vital as when it was released some 30 years ago. When founding member and bassist-vocalist Kim Deal left the band three years ago, she was eventually replaced by Paz Lenchantin, whose vocals provide a welcome counterpart to Black’s growl, and she turns in an excellent version of “Gigantic.”
The showtimes were staggered so that Throwing Muses started on a different stage immediately after the Pixies finished, which made it somewhat challenging to see the final three bands back-to-back.
Over the past several years, music festivals have made a welcome transition away from corporate hotdog stands to local restaurants and breweries. Festival goers could choose from Los Angeles favorites like a falafel burger and fried pickles from Nic’s on Beverly, Fat Dragon’s orange chicken, Carmela Ice Cream and beer from Pasadena’s Craftsman Brewing, Monrovia’s Pacific Plate and Highland Park Brewery.
The golf course setting was a pleasant place for a festival, with some helpful tree cover and plenty of comfortable grass to sit on. And if the organizers can sort out the crowdflow issues, it remains a fun and convenient venue to see a mix of indie and alternative icons who are still firing on all cylinders.