Making the annual goth mecca to Cruel World 2024

Goldenvoice presented the third annual Cruel World Fest once again in Pasadena, California on Saturday May 11th, 2024 — with more agreeable weather this time around! Despite slightly cooler temperatures (and no sign of lightning like last year, thank god), it still was hot enough for attendees to be seeking shade and lots of lemonade throughout the day. I was sweating just reaching the front gates to get in, to be honest… and this was before running from stage to stage across the expansive grounds of the Rose Bowl.

But the heat was worth it, even garbed all in black.

Punks, goths, and 70s babies (who were once-upon-a-time punks and goths) flocked like seagulls to witness Year Three in action, starting with openers Wendy Bevan, Zanias, Body of Light, Leathers, Patriarchy, Adult., Harsh Symmetry, Model/Actriz, Nuovo Testamento, and French Police. Unfortunately, the complete and utter mess known as the 5 freeway up from San Diego delayed Top Shelf’s arrival time to the fest by nearly half the day. We apologize to the incredibly talented early acts for the lack of coverage, since we know how fire each of you are in the darkwave scene.

We did arrive in time, however, to possibly catch The Motels and General Public; I had to see “Tenderness”, so I hopped a buggy cart to pedal me from my car to as close to the media check-in as he possibly could. Best investment I ever did. However, it wasn’t fast enough, as we got in through the gates right as The Mission UK was entertaining on the Sad Girls Stage and The Faint was ‘glass-dansing’ over on the Outsiders Stage. Next up, was The Stranglers on the Lost Boys Stage; despite being a smaller stage, the density of the crowd there remained constant all day long with loyal fans — it was pretty cool to see.

80s icon Gary Numan was up next, kicking and screaming like he’s still a wee lad. As a super Numan fan, I naturally was in heaven, singing along to “M.E.” and “Metal” and the rest of The Pleasure Principle as he went through it (albeit, out of order). I even able to catch “Cars” for the first time live! Across the grounds, Lol Tolhurst x Budgie banged away on drums to pre-recorded tracks — something I’ve never actually experienced before.

Three drummers, a bassist, no singer… a New Wave drumline.

As Heaven 17 started up, Ministry took the main stage, playing their first two albums exclusively. They had cellos and violins, backup singers with feathered shoulders. It was not the typical Ministry show! I was stoked to be able to see this softer side of Ministry, considering how metal they have become over time and how I adore the songs on Twitch. The Jesus and Mary Chain was up next at the Sad Girls Stage, but my mind was elsewhere… sorry, J&MC.

Dreamcar was following Ministry across the way and I had to get back in time to shoot this INSANE supergroup. I’ve seen No Doubt twice in my life — once in Boise in 2002 and once just a few weeks ago at Coachella. But I’ve never, not once, been able to be in the photo pit. Led by the theatrical frontman Davey Havok (of AFI and Blacq Audio) and backed by No Doubt boys Tony Kanal, Tom Dumont, and Adrian Young, Dreamcar is one royal mashup of that you have to see to believe. The whole performance was NEXT-LEVEL, starting with the fast-paced, EDM-infused, insatiable track “After I Confessed”. As I shouted the lyrics up back at Havok, I locked eyes with Kanal who — animatedly — nodded back his approval; I’ve never felt so validated in my fandom as I did in that moment.

Despite my affection for all four players and their lovely backup singers, who, once-upon-a-time, drank me under the table in a San Diego bar, I had to move on.

Lucky for me, the act next on the Lost Boys Stage was one I was also looking forward to. TR/ST… is it pronounced “Trust”? “Trist”? Don’t care. All I know is that the chick drummer behind Robert Alfons is completely mesmerizing. Not to discredit, Alfons, who put on a great performance with my fave “Bulbform” thrown in at the third song. I love it when artists serve me up the songs I like before I have to run to another stage!

The afternoon continued with the sombreroed Adam Ant and the simply devine members of Simple Minds. As they concluded with second-to-last song and mega-hit “Don’t You Forget About Me”, I strolled through the crowd Breakfast Club-style — fist thrust high in the air. Landing the set with “Alive and Kicking”, it truly was a joie de vivre vibe, continuing with the cheeky songs of Soft Cell across the way.

All that was left were the headliners… to the chagrin of absolutely no one.

With “Tainted Love” echoing from afar, Placebo took the stage, asking the amassed crowd politely not to take any video or else you get security shining a light in your face. But that wasn’t the only light, since the whole stage was lit up like a cosmic, strobey 90s club. Epic doesn’t even start to describe the Placebo scene, while 80s queen Debbie Harry — at the age of 78 — dominated the Outsiders Stage. “One way or another”, Blondie is still going to grace stages!

Shifting gears back to darkwave was Interpol, another personal favorite of mine that I’ve been dying to see. From “Evil” to “Obstacle 1” to “Slow Hands”, I was a very happy camper. Wish they played “Specialist”, though, since that one remains a banger to this day. As the pop band Duran Duran closed down the Outsiders Stage, attendees were happy to see one more set still on the list — Tones on Tail. What a wonderful surprise, as Duran Duran was originally billed as the final artist!

Walking back to our cars, Cruel World attendees were singing along to the songs stuck in their heads, holding merchandise and bags of records bought at the Record Safari tent. Cheers to 2024 and can’t wait to see what dark and drab artists next year brings!

Photography by Kristy Rose; Duran Duran photo provided by Alden Bonecutter @aldenbonecutter

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