L.A. festival to celebrate 40-plus year legacy of one of the greatest bands ever
In 2004, I finally got into The Cure.
I was a gawky high school freshman at the time – with questionable music tastes, I might add (Linkin Park and Sum 41 were still in constant rotation on my ipod). I’d just joined my school newspaper staff where I was suddenly surrounded by upperclassman who were all way cooler than me. It was the week before Coachella, and seemingly every junior and senior on staff had tickets. The buzz around the journalism room was insane. This was back when Coachella was at its indie peak.
I didn’t even know what Coachella was.
Eventually someone explained it to me, and showed me the lineup poster. There was a small smattering of acts I recognized: day 1 headliners Radiohead, indie legends the Flaming Lips, rave act the Crystal Method, and token emo acts Thursday and Cursive (I was in the middle of a slight emo phase at the time). But for the most part, the lineup was just a dizzying array of names I’d never heard of, let alone listened to before.
Meanwhile, the biggest name on the poster was an act I’d only heard of in passing: The Cure. Don’t ask me how this is possible, I guess I was just that out-of-the-loop back then. Thankfully, at that moment, I felt a sudden need to fit in. And thanks to an unhealthy LimeWire habit and my local Warehouse music store, I was able to play catch-up.
For the next few months, I lived on a steady musical diet that included the entire Radiohead discography, a pair of expansive Rhino Records underground box sets (No Thanks: The ’70s Punk Rebellion and Left of the Dial: Dispatches From The ‘80s Underground) the Garden State soundtrack, The Clash’s first few albums, and of course, The Cure.
Almost everyone who’s a fan of The Cure has a similar origin story. They’re not really a band that anyone listens to when they’re a little kid. There’s a dark, gothic edginess to them that makes their sound just a tad bit inaccessible to most small, wide-eyed children. But there’s also a sweeping, transcendent beauty to them that makes you feel like maybe every kid should’ve grown up on them. Nonetheless, most of us discovered them during our awkward teenager phase.
I should add that nobody really goes through a Cure “phase,” per se. Once you become a fan of The Cure, you stay a fan for life. I remember the first song of theirs I ever listened to: “Boys Don’t Cry,” off my No Thanks! box set. For the first time in my life, I could really relate to a song steeped in sadness and melancholy. But unlike emo – the dominant genre for my age rage at that time, and which was saturated with hysterical levels of whininess and self-pity – “Boys Don’t Cry” contained a level of determination, perseverance…hope.
From there I found myself lost in the cold, disorienting atmosphere of “A Forest” before being whisked away to the searing, euphoric melodies of “Just Like Heaven.” Within the daunting fog of the band’s purring new wave guitars, propulsive post-punk rhythms, and Robert Smith’s heavenly, molasses-like vocals, there’s always been a light at the end of the tunnel.
For so many people, The Cure is their light.
And so began my long, spiraling, rabbit-hole-like journey of fandom.
Fast forward five years to 2009. I’m in my sophomore year of college, and at my third Coachella in a row. It’s the final day, and I am READY for the main stage closing trifecta: Yeah Yeah Yeahs > My Bloody Valentine > The Cure. Three of my favorite bands stacked back-to-back-to-back. Yeah Yeah Yeahs come out blazing hot at sunset, playing a bold mix of hits off their recent third LP It’s Blitz as well as highlights off LPs one and two, including the ending one-two punch of “Maps” and “Y Control.” Pure shreddy magic from start to finish. Then, before a newly-reunited My Bloody Valentine takes the stage, Coachella staffers go around tossing packs of earplugs into the crowd. Alrighty then. It’s MBV’s first big show in over a decade. There’s an ominous silence in the crowd, an eerie calm before the staticky storm. They walk out and launch into Loveless hit “To Here Knows When,” and from there we’re treated to an absolutely entrancing, ear-shattering, hour-fifteen-minute-long sonic assault – including a 15-minute, set-ending wall of piercing static that shuts down every other stage at the festival. Good thing we had those earplugs. It ends up being one of the best sets I’ve ever seen.
And so the stage was set for what should have been the greatest concert-going experience of my life. The Cure, shutting down Coachella in what would eventually go down as one of the festival’s most special headlining performances. But something came up.
See, back then I was kind of Bohemian about the whole music festival experience. I’d hitched a ride out to the Coachella Valley with a group of classmates that I barely knew, and I was supposed to ride back to Los Angeles with my friend’s cousin who I also barely knew. It was a messy logistical situation that in hindsight I really should have planned better.
So it’s fifteen minutes before The Cure are set to go on, I’m standing near the front of the crowd – still wiping the grin off my face that’s leftover from My Bloody Valentine. I’d also just said goodbye to my crew of hometown buddies who had to catch their own rides home. Sucks to be them, I thought to myself. Suddenly, my phone starts to buzz. It’s my ride. Okay, no worries, I thought as I answered the call.
“Hey, wanna meet up now?” she said, a seemingly innocent request.
I’m ten rows from the front, I think to myself, but hey, what the hell, she wants to chill, why not?
I then proceed to weave through thousands of people in the crowd before linking up with her at the designated meeting spot. The crowd is at a fever pitch with minutes to spare.
“Okay, ready to leave?” she says with a straight face.
My brain doesn’t compute. “But…The Cure is about to go on,” I reply with a smirk, totally confident that she’s not being serious.
“Oh, it’s whatever. I’ve seen them before,” she says in a deadpan tone, clearly one hundred percent committed to getting the hell out of there. And then she starts to walk away.
Right then and there, a horrible feeling started to sink in. I froze for several seconds as she walked away, my body totally numb as the wheels in my brain were spinning maniacally. I’m not seeing The Cure, I solemnly realized. Some way and somehow, my body snapped out of its state of entropy and followed her out of the festival to her car in the parking lot. I started to consider all my options, such as trying to randomly hitch-hike my way hundreds of miles back to school. But that was a risk that even my wannabe Bohemian self couldn’t take. I was at the mercy of this girl who just needed to get to work on time the next morning. I understood the predicament. But I didn’t like it.
In that moment, it really sucked to be me. My FOMO had become reality.
We often tend to think of “nostalgia bands” in a negative light. Mostly, we think of them as old, washed up, and chasing that brief moment in time when they were on top of the world. There’s nothing wrong with being an act stuck in time – one that proudly serves up vintage auras so that fans can re-live the fleeting glory days of past. After all, the vast majority of musical acts never even come close to achieving that sort of status.
Let’s make one thing real fucking clear though. The Cure is not a nostalgia act. They’re what I’d call a “legacy act” – one that’s solidly achieved Legend Status, and that has stood the test of time by always remaining at the forefront of a changing musical landscape. Since forming in 1978, The Cure have evolved from one sonic style to the next with shapeshifting ease. This is a band who arguably hit their creative peak with their eighth album, 1989’s Disintegration, which was released over a decade into their career. Meanwhile, 1992 follow-up Wish was the group’s highest-charting album to date. Very few bands in history have managed to maintain that kind of freshness and vision. From post-punk, to goth, to new wave, to dream-pop, to baroque piano-pop about cats falling in love, The Cure have consistently pushed the boundaries of alternative music while inspiring some of the most important artists of the last couple decades (Nine Inch Nails, The Smiths, Interpol, just to name a few). And that legacy was further cemented when they were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall Of Fame this past year.
Their potent combination of innovation, influence, and longevity is how they’ve maintained their status as one of the most popular and in-demand live bands in existence. They’ve headlined Glastonbury – widely considered the most high-profile music festival in the world – a whopping four times (1986, 1990, 1995, as well as last year’s edition). They’ve sold out arenas and stadiums in almost every city in the world. Their shows are career-spanning, and oftentimes clock in at well over two-and-a-half hours long. Last year, they celebrated their 40th anniversary with a pair of landmark festivals at London’s Hyde Park, with a bill of supporting acts that included Goldfrapp, Interpol, Ride, Slowdive, and several more of their disciples.
On Saturday, August 31, they’re bringing that concept to Pasadena Daydream.
For several months after their 2009 Coachella show, I couldn’t listen to The Cure. The memory of missing that set was just too painful to bear. But as life goes on, The Cure have a way of pulling you back in. Simply put, their music is like a kind of antidote. Whatever mood you’re feeling, The Cure have that magical ability to complement whatever is going on in your life. From brightness, to darkness, and every emotional shade in between, they’ve always been there for me. And countless others as well.
Since then I’ve had a few opportunities to make up for that Coachella debacle, but for whatever reason, they didn’t work out. I remember accidentally committing to covering a Titus Andronicus concert the same night as their gig in San Diego back in 2014, and again missing their 2016 Hollywood Bowl show due to work commitments.
But I recently made a pact with myself: the next time The Cure comes around, I’m NOT missing it. And lo and behold, shortly after, they announced Pasadena Daydream. For a die-hard like myself, it’s a fantasy come true.
Not only that, they’ve curated one of the best festival lineups of the year to support them. In fact, they’re not the only legendary band on the bill! You’ve got Boston alt-rock titans Pixies, who have consistently enthralled fans and critics with their classic, fuzzed-out indie garage stylings going all the way back to 1986. There’s also Sacramento alt-metal legends Deftones, who transcended the scuzz of the late ’90s nu-metal scene to become beloved modern heroes in their own right, and who’ve got their own self-curated SoCal festival coming up as well (Día De Los Deftones, taking place November 2 in San Diego). There’s also feverish twee-pop/garage vets Throwing Muses, who will be performing their first show in almost five years. Plus, noisy Scottish post-rock staples Mogwai are always a phenomenal live act.
That’s not to mention the amazing undercard: Welsh shoegazers The Joy Formidable, goth-metal rising star Chelsea Wolfe, Scottish dream-rockers The Twilight Sad, American singer-songwriter and Red Sparowes member Emma Ruth Rundle, and Icelandic synth-punk Kaelin Mikla.
Whenever I remind myself that this event is taking place, it fills me with maximum joy and relief. I’ve wanted so badly to see The Cure for so long, and now I’ll be able to do so in the most perfect environment possible. Pasadena Daydream represents a 40-plus year culmination of one of the greatest bands of all time. It’s also a celebration of one of the most tight-knit fandoms in music history. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you’re a true fan of The Cure, then this flagship moment in their career is one that you absolutely cannot miss.
Trust me, you don’t want to wind up like me – narrowly missing your chance, and then waiting a full decade to course-correct that mishap. Do yourself a favor, and get your tickets now (you can purchase HERE). If the FOMO hasn’t gotten to you yet, then maybe your common sense will.