By Wendy Windercal Jun 11, 2022



On June 18, 1988, the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, California, went down in history for holding the legendary 101st and final leg concert of Depeche Mode’s Music For The Masses tour. This sold out concert featured opening acts such as the Wire, Thomas Dolby, and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. This particular show was dubbed as the iconic “Concert for the Masses”; also recalled as the Woodstock of the new wave era.    


Fast forward nearly thirty-four years later; Cruel World Festival brought the biggest headliners of the new wave, post punk, synth-pop, and goth bands from the eighties at this historical venue. Along with like-minded up-and-coming bands, this event was labeled as the Woodstock of goths of recent times. Some people refer to this as the Gothchella. Brought by Goldenvoice, the same promoters of Coachella, they envisioned nostalgia of the eighties as an unquenched niche that needed to be catered.    

Originally set up as a one-day affair for 2020, the concert was postponed twice because of COVID. Tickets sold out in a blink of an eye leaving many diehard fans behind. Fortunately, a Sunday show was added to the all-day festival. The line-up was spread between three stages: Lost Boys, Sad Girls, and Outsiders. Over two dozen bands performed including Bauhaus, Morrissey, DEVO, Public Image Ltd, Blondie, The Psychedelic Furs, Berlin, The Church, Soft Kill, The KVB, Automatic, Drab Majesty, and many more. 


The highly awaited festival had people flock from across the country and transatlantic as well. Fishnets, black eye liner, heavy metal jackets and chains, punk crests, and black lolitas filled the venue. Cruel World Festival brought different generations together, mostly between the forty’s through sixty’s year-old crowd.  The hot temperature was a bit of a low. Luckily, people found shade in some of the trees between the stages while soaking cold beers at the Tears for Beers tent.  VIP and Clubhouse tickets offered more covered areas.


There were other few shortcomings to this event. Echo and the Bunnymen pulled out last minute. The KVB should have performed at a later time, instead they went on as the opening act when doors opened at noon. The line to buy the merchandise had a wait time up to one and a half hours under a brutal sun. People made the line to find out most of the interesting merch was sold out after a long wait. We weren’t going to sacrifice our time in making the line; we rather watch the bands play for this once in a lifetime event. We were happy enough to find unofficial merchandise outside the venue.


The other issue was the overlapping of bands between the set times and stages. It was quite a walk to get from one stage to another. Despite all of the limitations, none of this mattered. It was the time of our lives, and the performing acts satiated our music buds.


We were pleasantly surprised to find this hidden spot between the merch line and the VIP area. Fog came out from this shaded area tent; it had a dance floor and no line for drinks, which was a plus. Most importantly, it showcased well known DJs including L.A.’s own Silent Servant, who took part of the techno collective of the former and renowned Sandwell District label. The Club Doom tent was set up as an underground space that added to the festival experience. We kept going back to this spot between each break to dance and to refill our drinks.


The best performances of the night were DEVO, Bauhaus, Blondie, and Morrissey. John Lydon from PIL (Public Image Ltd) proved he is still rotten. He carried the energy and the anger throughout his performance with loud remarks such as, “Fuck you! Fuck off! It’s fucking bollocks!” Lydon is a punk royalty; a true rebel for his non-conforming and anti-establishment views. His lines between each song were worth to witness.


As the evening progressed, scattered DEVOtees wearing red energy dome hats came together for the next headliner. As the ruthless sun begun to dissipate, the crowd was revived by their zestful performance. “Devo Corporate Anthem” introduced the band in their second act with a change of outfits to their trademark yellow hazmat suits.  The sci-fi graphics on the background encapsulated the crowd in a retrofuturistic spaceship trip ready to take-off, piloted by spazoids. DEVO put out an energetic show with their hits “Peek-A-Boo”, “Girl U Want”, “Mongoloid”, and “Whip It.”


DEVO was outstanding, but Bauhaus stole the show. Bauhaus was the quintessence of the dark wave goth performance of the festival. On Sunday evening, as the night skies approached, we witnessed a blood lunar eclipse with Bauhaus’ act. What a perfect introduction to start the show! The strobe lights and fog played under the lunar eclipse transported the crowd to a gothic thriller vampire scene. Peter Murphy gave a masterpiece theatrical performance. As one concertgoer commented, “Peter Murphy is the Alice Cooper of goth.” Bauhaus played their hits “Double Dare”, “Kick In The Eye”, “She’s in Parties”, and an extended version of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.”

On the other hand, Blondie blew us away. Debbie Harry was joined by former Sex Pistol’s bassist Gen Matlock, and delivered a magical retro night of the early eighties.  Blondie’s music brought vivacious memories that took us back to our youth. Debbie Harry was having a blast on stage and the crowd danced throughout her set. She was the queen of the night, and her youthful exuberance was inspiring. Although her voice didn’t hit the higher notes at times, her seventy-six years of age gave it all. Blondie played their smashing hits “One Way or Another”, “Rapture”, “Atomic”, “Call Me”, “Heart of Glass”, and “The Tide is High.” It was hard to leave the stage and run towards the Outsiders to catch the last part of the evening.


The high energy from the crowd on the main stage picked up from DEVO’s and Bauhaus’ performances was the perfect prelude for the closing act of the festival.  Morrissey entered the stage and received an engaged crowd. “My God, you are still here?” he said. Some Moz fans waited nearly ten hours under the sun to see him perform. Wearing a dark suit, together with his poised voice and tenure, Morrissey exuded class; a blend of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley on stage. He serenaded us with The Smith’s songs such as “How Soon is Now”, “Everyday is Like Sunday”, “Half A Person”, “I Know It’s Over”, and “Never Had No One Ever.” He sung beautifully; the depth of his lyrics got many of us teary, including myself. His songs remain haunting, addictingly painful, and timeless.


Watching our lifelong bands play all together in one place was a dream that came to life.  A mega line-up such as this one hasn’t been seen in decades. After this mythical weekend, we were hit with nostalgia, once again. Yet, our goth hearts are pounding back with the festival’s announcement of their return next year. Many are speculating with fantasy line-ups of their favorite bands, hoping to be announced for 2023. After the long COVID restrictions, music festivals are back, and we are returning next year for our fix of darkness.





























Photography and video by Pietro Cammareri

© Obskur magazine