HomeMusicCruel World Festival Becomes A New Wave, Meat-Less Paradise in Pasadena

Cruel World Festival Becomes A New Wave, Meat-Less Paradise in Pasadena

Pop Break Live: Cruel World Festival featuring Morrissey, Blondie, Bauhaus, Devo, English Beat, Psychedelic Furs, The Church, The Damned, TR: ST, Violent Femmes & more at Brookside at The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California – May 15, 2022

After two very long years of rescheduling, postponements, and waiting, Goldenvoice’s Cruel World Festival went off without a hitch the weekend of May 14th and 15th in Pasadena, CA at the Rose Bowl.

For an event that was originally scheduled for May 2020 and changed because of the pandemic, Cruel World carried a great deal of weight on its musical shoulders. For many, if not most, this would be the first possibility to safely enjoy a music festival in nearly 3 years. And it all hinged on the headliner – who has a penchant for rescheduling and canceling his own events – showing up and giving thousands of people a good time. Fortunately, Morrissey did show up and the weekend was fantastic.

Before closing out an incredible night donning a sharp suit and red-tipped bowtie, Morrissey made his mark on Cruel World in more ways than one. First, the entire festival was meat-free, featuring exclusively vegetarian and vegan options for people of all ages. While some might find this cuisine limiting, local chefs took up the challenge to craft everything from plant-based burgers, pizza, and grilled cheese, to yummy rice bowls, smoothie bars, and killer mac and cheese. Temperatures were in the mid-nineties and all across Brookside at the Bowl sat sweltering goth music fans, lounging under black parasols, sipping frescas and cocktails. For those wanting to escape the heat, there was an on-site record store stocked with popular and rare vinyl featuring artists from the festival and other New Wave acts.

Early in the day, standout performances from TR/ST aka Robert Alfons and English Beat got the crowd dancing with their techno beats and reggae-inspired saxophone, respectively. By the time The Damned took the stage at the so-called Sad Girls stage, the festival was roaring into a steady stride of dark rock ‘n’ roll and big crowds. Not long after, Violent Femmes put a pep in everyone’s step by opening with their classic, “Blister in the Sun,” acoustic guitars, snare drums, and mini barbecue grill in tow. Opposite them, one of the largest and most unruly crowds of the day formed for New Wave legends Devo, led by a very spry Mark Mothersbaugh. It delighted thousands when Devo not only put on their trademark energy dome helmets but fluorescent yellow jumpsuits and jumped into “Whip It.” Luckily, the helmets were on sale for only $50 at the merch tents, so the crowd looked like red polka dots of jumping heads.

Across the festival, Richard Butler and the Psychedelic Furs brought the classic John Hughes-era 80s to life with their rendition of “Pretty in Pink.” To fit the occasion, Tim Butler wore a pink blazer that fit the scene perfectly. Fittingly, Bauhaus took the stage just as the sun fully set, so Peter Murphy was able to make a spooky and dramatic entrance emerging from rising smoke wearing a black but sparkling button down shirt. Defying time and logic, the group sounded better than ever. Likewise, Debbie Harry – who neither looks nor sounds her age – instantly increased the cool factor of the festival when she walked out with the rest of Blondie. Their comic book panel-inspired stage set up was a technicolor dream amongst the black, goth backdrop of the day. Their fun punk edge is still very much there and was a highlight of the weekend.

Closing the night in style, Morrissey took the headlining spot at the Outsiders stage underneath a single spotlight in the darkness. Rumors that Robert Smith and Gary Neuman were somewhere in the crowd swirled and everyone looked elated that Moz not only showed up, but appeared to be in great spirits. Opening with “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” and, a personal favorite, “Irish Blood, English Heart,” Morrissey looked right at home and said how great it was to see everyone. By the time he closed with the Smiths’ classic “Sweet and Tender Hooligan,” it felt like you could hear his voice and the crowd a mile outside the Rose Bowl.

All in all, Cruel World Festival was a fantastic reintroduction to the summer throwback music festival with legacy acts that still sound great, delicious food, and a unique way to spend the day in beautiful Pasadena. Can’t wait to come back.


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