At promptly 5:00 am on Saturday May 20 2023, I hopped in the car and headed south towards Pasadena, California. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day. As the sun came up and the temperature rose into the 70s, I opened the sunroof and enjoyed the sun beaming down as I raced down the highway. The destination? The second annual Cruel World Festival. I arrived and was parked by 11:00 am and made my way to the box office for my credentials.
I had been looking forward to this years festival since it was first announced. This year’s epic lineup was headlined by Siouxsie Sioux and Iggy Pop and was supported by the likes of Modern English, Animotion, Billy Idol and, for the first time in 14 years, Love and Rockets. This was a lineup that was not to be missed.
One of the highlights of festivals, especilally Cruel World, is the people watching. These events are just that, events. People will dress to the nines to stand out and be noticed. This year, as with last year, the goths were out in force with their full black attire, pale white makeup and many carrying umbrellas or parasols.
The first act I hit was Riki. This Los Angeles based synth-pop started the day off right and set the mood for all the bands to come. Consisting of Riki, a keyboard player and a couple of backup singers, they warmed up the rapidly growing crowd with style.
Urban Heat from Austin Texas was up next. When this band hit the stage, they looked like they were an early 80s R&B or funk band but, they were very much darkwave/electrionic and fit this festival to a tee. The electronics with the droning bass lines and ominous vocals was really well received by this crowd.
Animotion was the first of the classic 80’s bands to grace the stages of Cruel World. To be honest, they were so much better than I expected. They had tons of energy and were so much fun! While, it is not the full original band, the two new members are the kids of the originals. So, it’s still all in the family. While the set was only 6 songs long, it was well worth seeing them perform.
Up next, Berlin. Berlin was the only act to be brought back from last year and their performance was even better. While last year’s performance was really good, this year’s you could tell they were a little more polished and had a lot of good energy flowing.
The Vapors were next. While I only know one song by them, they were still a fun throwback to the 80s and we all had a good time with their catchy tunes and on stage presence. They closed out their set with the classic, “Turning Japanese”.
We were all melting when Modern English hit the stage mid day for their short 6 song set. By now, the crowd as dancing and in full swing of the festival while the band flowed through “Someone’s Calling” and “Hands Across The Sea” before ending with the classic,”I’ll melt With You”
From there, I made my way back across the venue, for Gang of Four. While I used to listen to them quite a bit in the 80’s, over the last couple of decades I haven’t listened to them as much. This performance made me want to go back and revisit them, reminding me of how good of a band they are. I am glad I loaded a bunch of their stuff on the playlist for the drive home. It brought back a lot of good memories.
From there, back over to the main stage for Gary Numan. Seriously, these guys get better every time I see them. Arriving four hours late because of the tour bus breaking down, They hit the stage right on time and blew the crowd away from the first notes. Gary Numan is the consumate showman. The man knows how to work a stage (and a crowd). Even Billy Morrison from Billy Idol couldn’t stay away as he watched the show from the photo pit.
While Adam Ant was supposed to be up next, he couldn’t make the show so, with 24 hours notice, Squeeze stepped in and rocked the house. While not real active on stage, they sounded great and put together an amazing last minute set. I think we all were very happy with the choice to add Squeeze to the lineup this year.
The next band was one I had been looking forward to since it was announced. Love and Rockets hit the stage for the first time after a 14 year hiatus. They couldn’t have sounded better. Daniel Ash’s vocals were strong and the band was in perfect sync. This was the first stop on their current US tour and is a not to be missed show.
After being completely blown away by Love And Rockets, I ran across the venue to catch Billy Idol. Man I am glad I did. He worked through his hits and even a new one for us. During the set, he announced a new full length album soon. From the sound of the new song, this will become a classic Billy Idol record like the rest of them.
Unfortunately, due to lightning in the area, Iggy Pop’s set was cut after only 4 songs and we were all evacuated. To say that everyone was bummed would be an understatement. I, for one hadn’t seen Siouxsie since the early 90’s and I was really excited to see her again. I guess it was not in the cards tonight though.
So, I as I made the trek home, I got my traditional post Cruel World meal of a Bob’s Big Boy and hit the highway north. I rolled into my parking spot at 5:00 am (a full 24 hours from leaving), dropped my bag in my office and went directly to bed, When I woke up, I saw the message that the show would continue later on that evening (on the 21st). It was one of those times I wish I had decided to spend the weekend there since I just couldn’t make that drive again so soon. Well, there is always next year.
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Photographer of about 10 years, I have been shooting concerts for about 8 of those years. I started to get serious about concert photography about 6 or 7 years ago and now try to shoot as many as I can. I shoot mostly rock but, have done some country and big band stuff. I love music and since I am nowhere close to being a musician, this is a way I can be a small part of what, in the words of Henry Rollins, “gets me through the highs, the lows and everything in between”.