Review: Cruel World 2024

The ’80s new wave fest made its return to Pasadena on May 11th. Initially a goth/post-punk affair, this year’s lineup signaled a shift towards all things ’80s, with headliners like Duran Duran and Simple Minds taking the stage over previous icons like Siouxsie Sioux, Morrissey, and Bauhaus.

Ministry – Cred: Alex Napiwocki
Front Row – Cred: Alex Napiwocki

With an overwhelming number of bands spread across multiple stages and incredibly tight turnover times, it was a logistical nightmare. Three stages with overlapping set times. But, fuck it, it was an absolute blast with some killer performances.

The Stranglers – Cred: Albert Licano
The Stranglers – Cred: Albert Licano

You know how it is at these festivals; you gotta pick your poison. We dove into the fray with The Stranglers. Despite a hiccup with their keyboards and what seemed like a blown speaker during ‘Peaches,’ they absolutely nailed it. Throwing as many hits into a half hour set as possible including ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘No More Heroes’

Gary Numan – Cred: Alex Napiwocki

Next, we hustled over for Gary Numan’s set. The man’s still got it, tearing through his older hits off The Pleasure Principle with a gothic majesty. He showed off his clearly superior goth genetics as his 3 daughters joined him as backup singers.

Ministry – Cred: Alex Napiwocki

The day belonged to Ministry. They took us back to their synth-laden roots—no ‘Jesus Built My Hot Rod,’ no ‘One Fix’ Just pure, unadulterated early Ministry with songs from With Symphony and Twitch. “Everyday is Halloween” was a fucking revelation. Uncle Al gave those early tunes he normally stays from all the respect they deserve.

Dreamcar – Cred: Albert Licano
Dreamcar – Cred: Albert Licano

After Ministry’s performance, a new band named Dreamcar took the stage, catching many by surprise. The familiar members of No Doubt took the stage, but no Gwen Stefani, rather Davey Havok was holding the mic. And what a lead performance he delivered! Their set was stellar, complete with a captivating cover of David Bowie’s ‘Moonage Daydream’

Caught a fleeting moment with Jesus and Mary Chain. Their sound was a perfect storm of loud, distorted, and sweet—exactly what you expect. ‘Just Like Honey’ was a sonic chef’s kiss.

Adam Ant – Cred: Alex Napiwocki

Then there was the mad dash to Adam Ant. Technical snafus be damned (their entrance music cut in and out – maybe 5 minutes is too short a turnover for bands? Maybe???) Despite the hiccup – Adam delivered the classics with gusto. ‘Ant Music’ kicked things off, ‘Beat My Guest’ had us itching for a mosh pit that never materialized, and ‘Stand and Deliver’ was nothing short of epic.

Soft Cell – Cred: Alex Napiwocki

Soft Cell we were told are a gamble—they’re known for being hit or miss live. But they fucking brought it, especially with ‘Tainted Love’ and ‘Sex Dwarf’ closing out their set. Marc Almond was in high spirits and delivered the goods.

Interpol – Cred: Alex Napiwocki

Decisions were tough. We had to split our time between Interpol and Blondie. Interpol was on fire, their fans losing their collective shit. They opened their set with ‘C’mere’ and just kept banging out hits.

Blondie – Cred: Albert Licano
Blondie – Cred: Albert Licano

And Blondie? Debbie, at 78, might not hit every note, but who gives a fuck? She commands that stage and crowd like the living legend she is. They played the hits; ‘One Way Or Another’, Heart Of Glass’, ‘Hanging on The Telephone’ and their perfect cover of ‘The Tide is High.’ The band was electric, with Clem Burke destroying the drums and Glen Matlock killing it on bass.

Duran Duran – Cred: Albert Licano
Duran Duran – Cred: Albert Licano

Duran Duran was a crowd favorite with every attendee hanging on Simon Le Bon’s every word. They set the mood with ‘The Chauffeur’ and gradually transitioned into their classic hits such as ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ and ‘Girls on Film’ The latter seamlessly transformed into a cover of ‘Psycho Killer’ The night concluded with a stellar encore featuring ‘Save a Prayer’ and ‘Rio.

Fest Attendees – Cred: Trina Calderon

Cruel World 2024 was a sensory overload that left our little goth hearts and ears full. The fest stood as a testament to the enduring power of these bands to adapt, evolve, and still kick ass. Until next year, Pasadena.

All Words @ Alex Napiwocki. Pics by Alex Napiwocki, Albert Licano, & Trina Calderon

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