Festival Photos + Review: Cruel World Festival (Pasadena, CA)

Cruel World Festival
The KVB (London, England), Black Marble (Brooklyn, NY), The Church (Sydney, Australia), The Damned (London, England), Violent Femmes (Milwaukee, WI), Devo (Akron, Oh), The Psychedelic Furs (London, England), PiL (London, England) Bauhaus (Northampton, England), Blondie (NYC), and Morrissey (UK)
May 14th and 15th, 2022
Brookside at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA

Well the sky didn’t quite go out BUT the full lunar eclipse was somehow overshadowed by the magic that was happening on the stage beneath it.  As Bauhaus and Morrissey closed out Cruel World Fest with stellar sets that proved well worth the two year wait.

To put an age on music is to do it a great injustice. This was proven ever so true this past weekend when Cruel Word Fest took over Pasadena.  The festival bridged the gap between various generations of goths, post-punkers, and new-wavers.

It wasn’t a weekend of nostalgia of decades past, it wasn’t about reliving the good-old-days nor showing the kids the bands we grew up listening to.  This weekend was all about music that has proven capable of withstanding the test of time and reaching generation after generation, alongside newer music that managed to spark new life in some old dogs -myself included.

Even the brutal heat wave wasn’t enough to hold fans back as they endured temperatures that almost reached 100 F and massive lines at food vendors’ stations.  With three stages set up to accommodate this lush lineup, fans had to make some clear choices as most of the sets overlapped one another.

Some chose to split their attention and were easily spotted running after half of a set toward the other stage, trying to catch the second half of another set.  Other more selective fans picked fewer bands they really wanted to see, stood still and watched the fast moving crowd migrating from stage to stage.  Which let me tell you, on a fully packed sold out Saturday night, was no easy task!  But who could blame them?  The lineup was simply spectacular.  I mean, I never could have ever imagined being able to witness, among the few headliners, the Violent Femmes, The Damned, Bauhaus, and Morrissey all jammed packed into one weekend.  Nearly 12 hours of pure musical bliss during which everyone could find their beat to march to.

Goldenvoice set the bar pretty darn high with such a lush lineup.  I have to say everything lived up to expectations and then some.  First of all, the venue itself provided a gorgeous backdrop to the festival and ample and very much needed and appreciated shady spots.  The staff was attentive to everyone and tirelessly handed out waters to sweaty concert-goers and photographers alike. 

Photo credit : White Owl Drone /Goldenvoice

It is nearly impossible to point out highlights as I think every musician added their own magic to the event.  Some were favorites, some new discoveries, but one thing is sure -the entire weekend played out like an unsurpassable harmonious playlist.

But I suppose if I had to pick, The KVB would be the first mention because they were one of those newly discovered bands for me.  They managed to literally steal my attention with just a very short set.  Their music delivered the perfect combination of light and airy vocals and heavy synthesized beats reminiscent of post-punk greatness.

Black Marble was also a great discovery.  I only caught one song of theirs on day one and it haunted me so much I had to ask a fan what song it was.  The song is called, “Iron Lungs” and needless to say it was an instant download.  And yes I caught their entire set on day two.

The Damned.  Oh, The Damned are just so timeless and full of energy that even a few initial sound issues did not affect the crowd’s energy at all, nor mine.  “Born To Kill”, “Street Of Dreams,” and “Eloise” were some of my favorites.

The Violent Femmes are in a category of their own.  There ain’t no party like a femmes’ party.  Literally, wherever they go they manage to get the entire crowd going from the first note to the last.  In this case, well they opened the set with “Blister In The Sun ” and everyone just went nuts!  It just got the energy so high it was truly contagious.  I have to say, they made it very difficult for me to photograph their set this time.  I just couldn’t wait to put down my camera and run in the crowd to enjoy their set and surround myself with other fans and sing my heart out.  I did cave on day two and ran out of the photo pit ahead of time.  See the set list below.  If you are a Violent Femmes fan I am sure you could sympathize.

Violent Femmes Setlist:
Blister in the Sun
Kiss Off
Prove My Love
Dance, Motherfucker, Dance (I certainly did ;))
I Held Her in My Arms
Hallowed Ground
Life Is an Adventure
Gimme the Car
Gone Daddy Gone
Add It Up
American Music

One of the unexpected surprises of the day’s performances was Devo on The Outsiders stage. Obviously Devo has its loyal following -they are new wave royalty after all, but the way they got the crowd going was really something else.  Their energy was infectious. They mesmerized the entire crowd and absolutely picked up brand new fans.

Photo Credit : Quinn Tucker for Goldenvoice

The Psychedelic Furs had the audience swaying throughout their set, “Pretty in Pink” was an obvious favorite of mine.  What can I say, John Hughes’ movies are a 90’s child’s playlist but the crowd’s response did not stop there.   The crowd was fully immersed in “The Ghost in You” and “ Heartbreak Beat” which featured an amazing back and forth exchange between saxophonist Mars Williams and guitarist Rich Good.

And then there was BAUHAUS.  Capital letters definitely intended. 

Through the smoky air and amidst harsh strobe lights Bauhaus emerged on stage and delivered a wave of cool that broke the heat wave. They gifted fans a stellar performance that crowned them the undeniable kings of all things  goth and far beyond. 

Throughout a career that spans over 40 years, Bauhaus has delivered not one, not two, but four resurrection tours.   These tours always bring ALL original members on stage and literally prove them capable of raising the bar higher each time leaving fans always deeper enthralled with their music.  With this weekend’s performance, they further reminded everyone of how majestic they are.  From the moment they step on stage they capture you.  The haunting bass lines that make your heart tremble, the scratchy gritty guitar riffs that pull at your soul, the pounding forceful drum beats that literally move your body…and Peter whose voice is capable of unleashing the force of a thousand emotions. To pick a highlight moment in their set is just not possible but I can list a downfall, it left me wanting more. 


The evening could not have found a better closer.  Morrissey was the perfect break through the intensity that Bauhaus brought.  I mean he stepped on stage singing “What’s New Pussycat” and in that instant, with one single line he had the entire crowd melted in his palm.

The thing with Morrissey is that he holds this power over his fans that I can’t quite explain.  
One moment on stage (and omg YES WE WERE ALLOWED IN THE PHOTO PIT FOR THIS←A DREAM COME TRUE) and all of a sudden I am back in High School.  The term maladjusted comes to mind “oh my God you are still here,” he jokes and just like that I am balling.

He closed the night perfectly bewitching the crowd with every note.  He delivered a rich set that pulled along fans on a journey through his career from the early Smiths days to the beginning of his solo work and up to his latest.
His vocals were perfectly smooth and soul melting. He owned the crowd who stood clinging onto every word and cheered at every little silly comment.  Yes, he actually was in great spirit and the warmest I have seen, playful and engaging with his adoring fans.

My favorite moment of the night happened during his set, when during his performance of “The First of the Gang to Die” Hector somehow became Oscar and we all looked at each other smiling for a split second only to go on singing about Oscar as if that’s how the song was originally written.  There was something just magical there and it lingered during his entire performance.  So much so that unlike usual, my husband did not ask if we could leave early.  He ended the night saying “I dislike him slightly less than I used to” …only took him 20 years to get on board! I on the other hand left adoring him that much more.

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