Live Review: Daydream Festival @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl

24 April 2023 | 4:43 pm | Guido Farnell

"It’s kind of like the B52s from hell."

Photo By Joshua Braybrook

Photo By Joshua Braybrook

More Modest Mouse More Modest Mouse

Illustrious rockers from far and wide have been chiming in on the whole ‘rock is dead’ thing for some time now. While the debate rages, organisers of Daydream set out to demonstrate that rock music is still alive and well by curating an evening of driving indie rock that kick-started a national tour in Melbourne on Saturday. It can’t be denied that many ticket holders at the Bowl were very disappointed by Slowdive’s very last-minute cancellation because drummer Simon Scott suffered a back injury that prevented him and the rest of the band from playing. Organisers did not find a replacement to fill their slot, but rather, the bands on the line-up played extended sets. The Bowl was not especially packed out. Recent rain heralding the start of Autumn saw much of the hill at the Bowl reduced to mud. 

Melbourne’s own Majak Door kickstarted the evening with a short set of woozy dream pop that featured surf-rock influences. The six-piece comes off as sounding a bit groovy as they pump out a soft, out-of-focus sound that matched the Daydream theme of the evening. Lead singer Frankie Vakalis plays it straight while his band pull amusing and kind of cliche rock star poses. It is an amiable start to the evening, which was soon confronted by Cloud Nothings trashing noise rock. The outfit, which is very much the brainchild of Dylan Baldi, produces a dense, harsh distorted guitar-driven sound that jumps to a beat reminiscent of nineties American punk. They come off sounding far more aggressive live than they do on record. At times Baldi shreds with focused precision while the band's drummer and bass player face off to match the intensity of his playing. Hardcore fans were ecstatic; lots of dudes in their forties danced like no one was watching and cuts like Stay Useless and Wasted Days were crowd-pleasers. At their bleakest, No Future/No Past is the ultimate downer, while cuts like Psychic Trauma just blew everyone away.

 By Joshua Braybrook

Beach Fossils offer respite with a selection of melodic indie pop rockers. Much of the set previews tunes from their forthcoming album Bunny. It is kind of sad to see vocalist Dustin Payseur apologising for playing new material because they had enough fans and music lovers in the crowd to appreciate the set they delivered. On record, Beach Fossils have a kind of retro nineties Creation-shoegaze sound, but playing live, they lend a brighter pop sound. The introspective melancholy of Sleep Apnea is an obvious favourite with the crowd. Having a technical moment, it's Daydream that concludes Beach Fossils' dreamy set.

Photo By Joshua Braybrook

It is good to see Tropical Fuck Storm (TSF) on stage, sound-checking ahead of their set. Many might have assumed that it would have been a long time before we got to see them play again, given the sad announcement earlier this year that Fiona Kitschin had been diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. Kitschin was in fine form, and TFS delivered one of the best shows of the night. The largely female presence of TFS makes for a pleasant contrast on a line-up that could be described as a sausage fest largely delivering a testosterone-fuelled rock. But Mars does need all the guitars it can get its hands on. ‘It’s kind of like the B52s from hell’, laughed a fan in front of us. Less a daydream, but welcome to this surreal nightmare. Gareth Liddiard maintains a manic presence overflowing with frustration, anxiety and rage, and there can be no doubt that the emotions coursing through his veins when he performs are lived and so completely genuine.  The sad irony is that TFS are singing about the here and now in Australia, and that makes these songs just a little depressing. Fine covers of The Stooges' Ann and Lost Animal’s Lose The Baby feature on a setlist that’s completed with the psychedelic freakout of Paradise.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Photo By Joshua Braybrook

At this stage of the game Modest Mouse are a well-oiled machine. They effortlessly pump out an extended set of tunes that could be a soundtrack for late-stage capitalism. Despite the message in their music and railing against the machine, it's ironic that they are still trying to sell us something at the merch stall. The lyric ‘And that's how the world will end’ on 3rd Planet is dealt with a certain smug condescension.  At their best, the band give us feel-good pop hooks and jams that verge on euphoric. These pop vibes are often interrupted by outbursts of heavy guitar and country rock. The Lonesome Crowded West turned 25 this year, and Doin' the Cockroach takes older fans back to the late nineties. The banjo comes out for Bukowski, and the set came down with the folksy Spitting Venom that slowly burned into a maelstrom of guitar noise. A fan lures Isaac Brock to the edge of the stage with the promise of a free phone, and he fell off the stage, not realising he was stepping off the edge. He regained composure in time for an encore that featured pumped-up versions of Paper Thin Walls and Trailer Trash.

Photo By Joshua Braybrook

Daydream delivered a good evening featuring polished sets from some mightily hard-working bands, yet there is still a bit of ‘But I really wanted to see Slowdive’ chatter in the air as we make out way into the night. Fingers crossed for those make-up shows.