DAYDREAM: The Future of Australian Indie Music?

Australia isn’t exactly an indie rock capital. For us, indie rock evokes one of two images: skinny dudes with long hair trying for some spacey Tame Impala-esque psychedelia or private school kids in wife-beaters playing up their Australian accents for pub-rock anthems. Daydream is here to offer an alternative vision of what Australian indie can be.


Australia isn’t exactly an indie rock capital. For us, indie rock evokes one of two images: skinny dudes with long hair trying for some spacey Tame Impala-esque psychedelia or private school kids in wife-beaters playing up their Australian accents for pub-rock anthems. Daydream is here to offer an alternative vision of what Australian indie can be.

Organised by touring heavyweight Destroy All Lines, Daydream kicked off its first East Coast tour of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in April of this year. On their impressive line-up was a mix of international and Australian acts: Majak Door, Cloud Nothings, Beach Fossils and the big two, Slowdive and Modest Mouse. It is perhaps already an indictment that the “Australian indie rock tour” is three-fifths American, but such accusations pale in comparison to the sheer force of “holy fuck, Slowdive and Modest Mouse on the same day?”

Unfortunately, this is where things already started going wrong. The day before the festival kicked off in Melbourne, Slowdive pulled out because of medical problems on the part of their drummer. Of course, this cannot be held against the organisers and they adapted best they could: extending the set times of the other acts, mainly Modest Mouse. Less forgivable is that no refunds were offered despite a massive headliner pulling out, leaving many people who were only attending for Slowdive in the lurch. Once again, we would not lay the blame for this at the feet of the organisers—it was likely decided by Ticketek and not by them. Still, it coloured the event in a disappointing light before it had even started.

We arrived at the Sidney Myer Bowl right as the gates opened, picking up our media tickets from the box office and then promptly getting kicked out of the VIP line after being informed that media tickets were not deemed VIP. Embarrassing for us! The open concrete stadium with rows of seats was quite empty at this stage. Perplexingly, the majority of audience members opted to sit on the threadbare and muddy picnic grounds. The blanket of nervous energy spread across the grounds was palpable, as groups scouted the predictably overpriced and limited selection of food and drink.

For the purposes of an extensive review, of course, we decided to try their selection of $15 pre-canned cocktails—a Tommy’s margarita and a negroni. These were served in flimsy, biodegradable plastic cups and tasted just as any standard margarita or negroni would but a bit shittier. The negroni, served over the same smaller ice cubes as the margarita, quickly diluted into a disappointing and unbalanced drink. Later on, hesitant to make the trek to the nearest grocery store, we partook in the cheapest vegan option of seasoned fries with ketchup from the taco truck. Vegan options were decent, with each food truck having at least two vegan meals to decide from.

Opening for the festival were surf-rocking Melbourne locals, Majak Door. Some of the crowd gathered around the barracks, as the act launched into what is best described as Triple J-core, the lead’s vocals blending into the dreamy synths and guitar, prevented from disappearing into a wall of pure sound by the drum and bass presence. The set consisted of songs from their 2021 self-titled album and their latest single ‘Borderline’. Soon, the audience almost seemed to forget about the whole Slowdive debacle as those nearby were cajoled into a groove by energetic bassist Max Sabbatini, dancing together in the brisk weather. One of the band member’s families was situated nearby along the seated area, taking photos and videos of the performance with the same stance one would for their child’s appearance in a primary school play, which was very endearing. Overall, this was a decent introduction to the festival, meshing sonically with the festival name.

Next was our first international act Cloud Nothings, an interesting, though welcome act to follow the local lackadaisical indie group prior. In fact, the entire line-up makes you go “who is this for?” as the crowds for Majak Door and Beach Fossils versus Cloud Nothings and Tropical Fuck Storm appear incredibly disparate. Against the bright backdrop which dampened the effects of the stage lighting, this band gripped the audience and drew out the old heads with their raw, post-hardcore sound, mostly featuring acclaimed 2012 album Attack on Memory. The drummer was fierce, needing to wipe his hands and face of sweat after exerting such animalistic energy and precision with each song. The almost nine-minute ‘Wasted Days’ was a definite highlight, holding such a visceral energy with Dylan Baldi’s strident vocals and minimalistic lyricism, especially when played live in contrast to the still hard-hitting, but lo-fi and fuzzy production by Steve Albini on the recorded album.

After a 10-year hiatus from live gigs, a huge crowd formed to see the long awaited Beach Fossils, a US indie-dream-pop-surf-jangle-slacker get-up similar to Majak Door two shows before except, well, American. Basking in the bright pink, purple, and blue neon lights, it felt as if we had opened a time capsule transporting us back to the early 2010s aesthetic Tumblr posts era with its mainstays, Arctic Monkeys and The 1975. Frontman Dustin Payseur encouraged banter with the audience, including an ongoing interaction with a certain member who kept shouting about how they should stick to their old stuff. The music from their 2010 self-titled album sounded almost exactly the same as their contemporary pieces though with an accessible, melodic, and inoffensive sound—the wheat bran of music.

Right as Beach Fossils finished moving all their equipment offstage with the help of the backstage crew, a more alternative audience quickly gathered onto the barricade, securing their spot for when Tropical Fuck Storm arrived. The quartet hit the stage and they’re already chugging beers as they launch into ‘Braindrops’. Gareth Liddiard is a force of nature in flannel, wrestling with his guitar as cries of “Gareth, you sick cunt!” echo from the pit. The track listing tended towards their earlier albums, with ‘You Let My Tires Down’ being a particular highlight as the night’s first mosh really got going. Also noteworthy was the cover of ‘Ann’ by The Stooges, a hardcore tribute to one of the bands responsible for letting everyone know that, even in the most filthiest and lo-fi of riffs, there can still be artistry.

The sort of “daydream” that Tropical Fuck Storm’s scuzzy garage punk evokes is the visions you see blurring across your ceiling after a day of full-tilt drinking. The world is distortion, weary ears abuzz with static. Their riffs are a petrol-soaked testament to what Australian indie can be when we ditch the trappings of trying to be lame fucken surfer dudes and go for something real—and that’s why they were such a great choice for inclusion in Daydream.

The night sky was a starless abyss when Modest Mouse gathered on stage. It’s perhaps a strange contrast to the landscapes their music evokes: long highways through shitty towns, those stars your only companion. There is a solemnity underlying proceedings as the band takes up their instruments; only a few short months ago they lost drummer Jeremiah Green to cancer, leaving vocalist Isaac Brock as the sole remaining member of the founding line-up. Still, that one-two hit near the beginning of ‘Doin’ the Cockroach’ and ‘Dramamine’ is enough to get the crowd amped up–there are the faint beginnings of a mosh. Brock is starting to banter more as well and things are lightening up with a selection of songs from across more recent and mid-career albums. He is clearly a performer at heart—putting his whole body into the act when he hunches over and starts playing guitar with his face. Among this selection were their two biggest singles, ‘Float On’ and ‘Dashboard’, which the crowd certainly responded to but the performance carried that barely noticeable halfheartedness of “well, this is our biggest single so I guess we have to play it”. Following the latter, Brock also accidentally stepped off the stage as he went to grab a phone from an audience member for a photo. A collective gasp indicated the crowd’s concern but Brock kept going, albeit the strain did show.

This is likely why there was such a long interlude leading into the encore. It had to be around twenty minutes—the more fatigued crowd members among us started to move out. However, those of us who retained hope were greeted with Modest Mouse gold: the driving rhythms and impassioned screams of ‘Cowboy Dan’ opening the encore and the low-key anthem of self-deprecation for high school loners everywhere, ‘Trailer Trash’. It was an encore that made it all worth it. There’s nothing quite like yelling that lyric “high school means nothing” with hundreds of other people who no doubt spent their teens also yelling it in their bedrooms.

Look, Daydream was messy, a bit rough around the edges. A lot went wrong before and during the festival. Although Sidney Myer is a gorgeous venue, I’m not sure if it was well-suited to acts like Cloud Nothings and Tropical Fuck Storm where the plentiful seating got in the way of those of us who wanted to mosh. Still, festivals are about the music and this is where Daydream was indisputable: an excellent line-up with all the acts in top form. In future years, we hope to see Daydream commit itself more to a vision of Australian indie music in particular—because while we love getting to see Modest Mouse and Cloud Nothings, there’s too much excellent indie music in Australia not getting enough attention. Keep international acts in the line-up, sure, but a festival like Daydream should also use most of its clout to highlight what Australian takes on indie music look like—and for fuck’s sake, can it be something other than vaguely psychedelic surf rock?

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It’s 2012 and you have just opened Tumblr. A photo pops up of MGMT in skinny jeans, teashade sunglasses and mismatching blazers that are reminiscent of carpets and ‘60s curtains. Alexa Chung and Alex Turner have just broken up. His love letter has been leaked and Tumblr is raving about it—”my mouth hasn’t shut up about you since you kissed it.” Poetry at its peak: romance is alive.

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