Review: Daydream @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl (Melbourne)

Modest Mouse headlined the inaugural Daydream music festival in Melbourne on 22 April, 2023.
Bron is a Melbourne-based science journalist who loves to return 'home' to a band room any chance she gets. She has 25 years' experience and has worked for Rolling Stone, Blunt, The Sydney Morning Herald, JUICE and many more.

The inaugural Daydream music festival kicked off with a bang, and not one in a good way, with shoegaze icons Slowdive pulling out due to a back injury sustained by drummer Simon Scott a day before they were due to take the stage at the first event in Melbourne.

While those with tickets for the band's interstate shows will be able to attend rescheduled dates (still to be announced), the festival was the only chance for Melbourne and Brisbane fans to see the band, and a quick glance at comments sections soon revealed how many people had forked out non-refundable tickets to Daydream just for Slowdive.

The Slowdive drama aside, it also underpinned what an odd line-up this was: Modest Mouse, Slowdive, Beach Fossils, Cloud Nothings, Tropical F... Storm and Melbourne locals Majak Door, all under some sort of indie-rock umbrella but with definite, distinct camps of fans.

Too small to be a music festival bringing together a broad group of fans, and too large and stylistically disparate for a totally cohesive headliner-and-supports gig.

However, for the most part, it worked really well. First of the internationals up was Ohio's Cloud Nothings, who had the unenviable job of last band to play before sunset and darkness (22 April).

Fortunately, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl's cover cloaked the seated and front standing area in some darkness, and it wasn't long before a heavy cloud of smoke from joints managed to provide a decent atmosphere for the solid light show to cut through.

Kicking off with 'I'm Not Part Of Me', from 2014's excellent 'Here And Nowhere Else', then a newer tune in 'Only Light' from 2021's 'The Shadow I Remember', Cloud Nothings were most likely going to centre their time around their 2012 seminal album, 'Attack On Memory', which they're currently touring.

The songs from the Steve Albini-produced album, which still sounds as great today as it did 11 years ago, are tightly wound, dark epic that is blisteringly powerful live. And there were plenty of fans down the front early ready.

Despite line-up changes for the group since that release, with frontman Dylan Baldi and drummer Jayson Gerycz remaining, the dynamic was still trademark Cloud Nothings: tight, frenetic, loud and wiry.

'Fall In', 'Separation', 'Stay Useless' and the simmering, taut 'No Future / No Past' were standouts, and the epic closer 'Wasted Days' whipped the crowd into a frenzy that will no doubt be something to witness at the band's smaller sideshow.

Next up, proceedings got much mellower with the pretty, melancholic dream pop of New York's Beach Fossils. They focused on more recent tunes, like the catchy 'Down The Line' and 'Be Nothing', and gave fans a real treat by packing their set with new songs.

While that can go either way with visiting bands, the new tunes from their upcoming album 'Bunny', out in June, were damn good. A long time between visits, Beach Fossils definitely made a few new fans from this set, and the few T-shirts they'd brought along to stock at the merch desk had sold out by the time their slot was over.

Once again, the mood and tempo swung significantly with Aussie supergroup Tropical F... Storm. Gareth Liddiard's presence and the band's taut, dramatic work is both a sight and sound to behold, but they were a bit of a jarring explosion after Beach Fossils and it felt like the slot could have been better served by Cloud Nothings.

Regardless, TFS's sound was massive as it roared out of the Music Bowl, right up to the top of the amphitheatre, drowning out the buzz among the food trucks and bar.

Speaking of, the food situation was excellent; reasonably priced food truck options with a range you'd expect in Melbourne, including not one but two vegan pizzas. 'You Let My Tyres Down' and 'Rubber Bullets' were standouts of the happily sprawling set.

By this point, the crowd – admittedly on the small side for the venue – was suitably warmed up for Modest Mouse, who hit the stage with their frequent opener, 'The World At Large'.

At this point in the band's career, it's basically the Isaac Brock show, and Modest Mouse fans know their live shows can be equal parts incredible and frustrating. Brock's a performer like few others, however, and is utterly compelling onstage.

Some oldies appeared in the 19-song set, including 'Dramamine' from 1996's 'This Is a Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About' and '3rd Planet', 'Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes' and 'Paper Thin Walls' from 2000's 'The Moon & Antarctica'.

Some standouts from 2007's 'We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank' landed too, especially 'Dashboard' and 'Fire It Up', as well as an unexpected 'Invisible' for the encore.

Brock was chatty, funny and having a good time, until at one point he went to grab a phone someone was offering him – presumably to have him take a picture of the crowd – but he stepped and didn't realise the stage didn't extend into the black space and actually stepped off the stage.

Recovering, he was clearly a bit rattled, and explained in great detail how it's a wild feeling when you step and then at that moment realise there's nothing under you. (Naturally, he told it much better.)

Fortunately, he was OK and soldiered on, however after slotting in a rather lacklustre 'Float On', getting the elephant in the room out of the way well before the end of the set, the band were off for an extended period of time before the encore.

For those who stuck out the wait, especially if they were old fans, were in for a treat, with a couple of 'The Lonesome Crowded West' tunes closing out the night, including an epic 'Trailer Trash' as the final song.

There was something almost magical watching this song from atop the hill, the stage framed by a glorious Melbourne city backdrop, and the moment was not lost on this reviewer and long-time Modest Mouse fan.

Despite the Slowdive drama, Daydream was a smooth, easy affair, very laidback and full of good vibes. Let's hope the first is not the last, because there's certainly space for it on the Australian festival calendar.

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