After 2 straight years of postponements, Goldenvoice was finally able to stage their much-anticipated CRUEL WORLD Festival at the Brookside Golf Course at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA on May 14 and 15. With two consecutive days (with identical lineup and set times), Saturday was a complete sell out. The day would turn out to be a time machine of the senses – a mix of ‘80s gothic dark wave bands along with iconic new wave bands made this an instant must attend event for nostalgic Generation X fans. An incredibly strong lineup that included Bauhaus, Devo, Blondie, The Psychedelic Furs along with headliner Morrissey reminded everyone that Goldenvoice sure knows how to throw a party.  

With temperatures in the 90s for most of the sun splashed day, shade was at a premium as many fans tried to avoid their eyeliner from running. From Devo’s devoted fans to goth princesses, underneath parasols there was as much fashion in the crowd as there was on stage. With a shift in scheduling at Coachella to a younger, pop filled lineup this festival has immediately created a niche for itself that can be replicated yearly. The older bands naturally meant that the overall age demographic was trending towards 40 and 50 year olds – many of which dusted off old black band shirts for this special day.

The lineup also featured newer acts that fit perfectly into the vibe of the festival including Cold Cave, Drab Majesty, TR/ST and Automatic. AFI’s Davey Hovok and Jade Puget’s BLAQK AUDIO side project slotted nicely into the mix, where they had a large crowd for the quick six song set in the late afternoon.

While Morrissey and Bauhaus were clearly the main draw of the festival, the meat of the lineup anchored the mid-day and sunset performances.  Devo, Missing Persons, The Damned, The Church and the Johnny Rotten fronted Public Image Ltd brought serious sentimental vibes. The Violent Femmes utilized a prime 6:15pm slot to bring a pure party vibe to their quick 45-minute set that had everyone within ear shot singing along to their numerous hits including “Add It Up” and “Blister In The Sun”.

Spread across the sprawling grounds there were three stages in total, each carrying a unique title. The Outsiders served as the ‘main stage’, Sad Girls was the medium sized offering while Lost Boys was the smaller, intimate stage that saw 7 bands play on it throughout the day and closed down early (at sunset) with a great set by Berlin. Early performances in the day consisted of 30 minute sets, throughout the day there was never a break in music from any of the three stages.

The Psychedelic Furs brought their A game to the Sad Girl stage. Originally considered a goth outfit, the band morphed into a more accessible radio friendly band in the early ‘80s. They used their shortened stage time to bring a greatest hits collection to a crowd that continued to grow with each song. “Pretty In Pink” was a clear fan favorite while “Ghost In You” and “Love My Way” shined brightly during their 10 song set.

Largely considered the godfathers of goth rock, Bauhaus stole the show Saturday night. Not many acts from the 1980s can boast that their original lineup is still intact, but Bauhaus can. Playing to easily the largest crowd of the day, lead singer Peter Murphy conducted the first song, “Double Dare” hidden—only viewable on the large side screens under a cloak while guitarist Daniel Ash, bassist David J and drummer Kevin Haskins played to a wall of strobe lights and streaming fog.  In all, they tore through 13 songs including “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, a 10-minute tune that is quintessential Bauhaus. “Dark Entries” and their cover of David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” closed out their moody and dynamic set.  Without a doubt they won Cruel World.

Overall the day ran like clockwork with acts finishing and ending on time and with a strict 11pm curfew in place even Morrissey hit the stage on time for his 70-minute closing set. Outfitted in a tuxedo, the ex-frontman of The Smith’s crooned his way through a closing set that kicked off with his take on “What’s New Pussycat”, a cover of the Tom Jones classic. Utilizing his customary mic cord whip, Moz cruised through a career spanning 18 song set that included a few Smith’s hits, “Never Had No One Ever” and “Sweet And Tender Holligan”. His performance was a fitting finish to perfect day filled with retro vibes.

Echo & The Bunnymen unfortunately had to cancel due to visa issues but they have already been confirmed for Cruel World 2023. With the nostalgic renaissance movement with festivals, the rumors have already begun to swirl for the next year’s edition. 

In the meantime, the temporary Pasadena venue is getting another run this upcoming weekend with Just Like Heaven taking over the Brookside grounds on Saturday, May 21st.  With an indie rock theme, Goldenvoice has once again collated a great lineup including Interpol, Modest Mouse, The Shins and M.I.A.

London After Midnight

Cold Cave

Missing Persons

The English Beat

Blaqk Audio

The Psychedelic Furs

Public Image Ltd