Daydream @ Brisbane Riverstage, 30.04.2023
Billed as “Australia’s newest indie rock tour”, this is the first ever edition of Daydream festival with Brisbane being the last stop after the Sydney and Melbourne shows being held across the previous week. I was grabbed immediately by the lineup with Slowdive and Modest Mouse being phenomenal gets for such a new festival and Tropical Fuck Storm being one of my favourite current Australian acts and one I’ll always go out of my way to catch live. Cloud Nothings and Beach Fossils round out the lineup, two bands I’m less familiar with but enjoy the scattered singles I’ve heard over the years. It’s an interesting meld between long-standing veteran “indie” acts and some of the new-ish guard that have clearly taken influence from bands like Modest Mouse and Slowdive.
Unfortunately just a day before the Melbourne date and a little over a week before Brisbane, Slowdive had to cancel due to an injury to their drummer Simon Scott. It’s quite a huge blow to this young festival and judging by comments from disgruntled fans online, many had bought tickets primarily for the opportunity to catch the group in their second ever trip to Australia. It’s disappointing for me as well but there’s enough quality left on the bill to not completely dampen my spirits for the day.
Cloud Nothings have the opening 4:15 slot and they kick off as I bring my hot dog and chips down to the grass. I’d only heard a small bunch of songs from them before and had always seen them as a fairly enjoyable lo fi indie/post-hardcore act but the song-writing never grabbed me much. They make more sense to me seeing them live, as frontman Dylan Baldi tears through guitar solos and belts out his highly emotional power-pop sounding tunes. The hi-fi stage production weirdly seems to suit them more than their normal recorded production style, despite my usual tolerance of scuzzy lo-fi punk. These are just powerful rousing songs that are nice to get fully enveloped in. “I’m Not Part of Me” is the one that I’m excited to see from this band and it’s great here, just a glorious repetitive chorus and nice grungy guitar sound, a very easy way to win me over. They close their set with ultra-melancholy epic “Wasted Days” which they finish off with a massive extended noisy jam, which allows me to strategically duck away early to beat the drinks line before they wrap up.
I bring back a couple of the classic $10 festival light beers and find a good spot in the front standing section ahead of Beach Fossils, the band my mate was most keen on seeing and one I had to brush up on again in the previous days. I remembered some of their singles from back in my early 2010’s indie pop phase and what I heard seems to hold up fairly well against the mass of more forgotten moody dream pop that started flooding the online music sphere around 10 years ago. They have a new album coming later this year and the singles they’ve put out ahead of its release are nice laidback surfy tunes that fit seamlessly in with the rest of their material tonight, especially “Don’t Fade Away“ which has a nicely anthemic chorus that most of the audience seem to be well familiar with a mere month after release. “Down the Line“ gets the biggest crowd reaction, likely being their biggest single and it’s another softly infectious song with some lovely jangly reverbed guitars. They exceed my expectations with their set which seemed to have a surprisingly spot on mix for a huge outdoor venue which really helped to sink into their dreamy atmosphere.
As it becomes time for the night’s third act I notice that the attendance doesn’t seem to have shot up as much as expected. I know the festival didn’t sell out but I start to wonder how many people bailed after the Slowdive cancellation. I take a prime spot close to the front to catch the two bands I’d been most anticipating for the night. This is the second time I’ve seen Tropical Fuck Storm live, with the first being an early gig around the time of their first album A Laughing Death in Meatspace. In my opinion one of Australia’s most unique and exhilarating rock bands going right now, melding The Drones’ pained storytelling and noisy punk with a tinge of off-kilter psychedelic weirdness, TFS are even more chaotic and thrilling in a live setting.
Set opener “Braindrops” sets an ominous atmosphere with its slow, repetitive moody build up punctuated with Gareth Liddiard’s shrill, twangy guitar. The song lurches forward into it’s shouted crescendo and seems to keep building in intensity throughout before ending in a noisy jam that’s quite a jolt after the soothing Beach Fossils set. As expected, they’re in terrific form which should never be a surprise for any of Gareth Liddiard’s bands, he’s just a tremendously expressive performer and plays with an incredible amount of sustained intensity. “You Let My Tyres Down“ is probably the most Drones-sounding of their material with its dark bluesy sound and deeply Australian lyrics. It’s full of tension and release with its anxious, jittery verses and defeated sounding chorus, probably still their greatest achievement in my opinion.
Erica Dunn spends the set alternating between duelling abrasive guitar lines alongside Gareth and occasional keyboard lines, all while harmonising backing vocals alongside bassist Fiona Kitschin. It’s a bit hard to gauge the audience’s appreciation of their set, being not very traditionally danceable and definitely the odd one out on the lineup, only very tenuously linked to what gets called “indie rock” nowadays. For me though, it’s another predictably fantastic set and more proof that catching them live whenever possible is always a great idea.
It’s about 9pm and it’s time for the headline act Modest Mouse, who now have a massive 1 hour 45 minute time slot allotted to them due to Slowdive’s cancellation. I wonder how well they could carry such a long set at the end of a long evening of music but figure that more time will increase the chances of bringing out more of the early material I was hoping to hear. I think of modern day Modest Mouse as being a fairly spotty band that I occasionally sift through recent singles of rather than full albums, often losing my interest in longer doses but occasionally putting out a fun tune here and there. This is in stark contrast to their first three albums which are some of my favourite music ever and at times feel like a completely different band to their current style. 2004’s breakout album Good News for People Who Love Bad News feels like a bridge between eras for the band, introducing a bit more of a sanded down indie-pop style but keeping some of the noisy chaos of the early material. The album’s opener “The World at Large“ kicks off tonight’s set with it’s repeating humming vocal sample and quietly building melancholy guitarwork, a nice understated way to ease into the set.
What happens next is something I’d been quietly hoping for but convinced myself was unlikely after scouring recent setlists. Isaac Brock breaks into the unmistakable jagged opening guitar line of “Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine“ fromThe Lonesome Crowded West album. In my mind, the pinnacle of Modest Mouse songs, it’s a sprawling multi-part epic that travels through frantic post-hardcore, slow depressive country and abrasive guitar freakouts. As they come out of the false-ending and into the cathartic rush of its final minute, it’s immediately the most affecting moment of the night and a reminder of the wild creativity Brock is capable of.
The set is a pretty even retrospective of their career to date, with songs from the new album sprinkled between their 2000’s megahits like “Float On” and “Dashboard” and enough from their early material to keep my full attention throughout the mammoth set. “Float On” predictably gets the biggest cheers of the night, with the opening guitar lines being the cue for dozens of punters to head down close to the stage and take their phones out to film the moment. They finish off their main set with “Spitting Venom”, an extended jam from 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank that sort of washed over me as I was getting fatigued from the sheer amount of music I’d been sitting through.
We were given ample time to regroup as the band spend 10-15 minutes backstage as the crowd intermittently cheer for an encore. After getting slightly concerned that they might not be coming back at all, they reappear and bring out the stripped back deep cut “Wild Packs of Family Dogs“, a charming country-tinged deep cut from The Moon & Antarctica, which is a pleasant surprise and is the lone track that Brock handles solo tonight.
The encore is capped off with longtime fan favourites “Cowboy Dan“ and “Heart Cooks Brain“ and it ends as a pretty exhaustive run-through of all their different eras and styles. I was extremely grateful to catch so many of my favourites from their catalogue, even if a lot of their new material still fails to fully get through to me.
There was not a disappointing set amongst the four that took the stage this evening and I hope the festival can continue in the future despite the bad luck of Slowdive’s sudden cancellation and slightly disappointing turnout.