In high school, you couldn’t place me in any one group; I wasn’t a preppy, punk, rocker, new waver, goth, or even a surfer (although I did surf). However, I did tend to hang out with the goths, which is how I became so familiar with the scene, and more specifically, the music.
When the line-up for the Cruel World Festival was initially announced featuring goth gods Bauhaus and Morrissey topping the bill, it flashed me straight back to the ‘80s, and I started thinking, “I wonder if my friends Edna and Michelle are still obsessed with The Bauhaus?” Before I could complete that thought, I got a message from Edna, who I hadn’t seen in years, saying, “Save me a room, I’m coming over,” and a text from Michelle asking, “Can you get me on the guest list?” So, there was my answer… once a goth, always a goth.
BROOKSIDE at The ROSE BOWL
Cruel World was originally set to take place in May of 2020, but as we are all aware, a worldwide pandemic hit. When the promoter issued a statement that all events had been postponed indefinitely, my friends and I thought this concert was never going to happen. So two years later, when the announcement of the 2022 dates was made, we were all ecstatic.
We all convened at my house for a pre-Cruel World party. Edna drove in from San Diego, and Michelle came from Rancho Cucamonga. I even had friends who flew in from Liverpool, England. My 19-year-old son Taylor also decided he would come with us, even though most of the artists performing were old enough to be his granddad.
Everyone had their favorite band they were looking forward to seeing, but my goal was to try to see as many of the 26 bands performing that I could. I had to prioritize though; I absolutely love the Violent Femmes, and I had never seen Blondie perform live before, so those two topped my list.
The first band we checked out was Public Image Limited (P.I.L.). Johnny Lydon swooned on to the main stage in a baby blue suit, but partly through the set, the jacket came off as he paced the stage, shouting and sneering into the mic. His singing voice was better than ever as P.I.L. opened with “Public Image.” He then belted out all the hits including “Rise” and “This Is Not a Love Song” with intensity and emotion. He closed his set by saying, “That’s it. That’s all we’ve got folks. Fucking pleasure to be back in the real world again. Now let’s show what real woke is. I’m very much fucking awake and alive. How about you?”
Next up, we headed over to see The Damned. Singer Dave Vanian came out with his jet-black hair slicked back, wearing a multi-layered outfit consisting of a black coattail jacket, leather pants, boots, and leather gloves. Normally, guitarist Captain Sensible would be offsetting this look with his colorful flare and platinum hair, but unfortunately, he had visa issues and wasn’t able to perform.
Some original punks brought their kids, intent on proving to them that dad/mom really was cool. Regardless of the oppressive heat, or perhaps as a result of the heat, The Damned was able to “ignite” the crowd, and by the time they broke into their hit “Alone Again Or,” those parents flailed around freely, and in true punk fashion, didn’t care what their kids or anyone else thought of them.
Once The Damned finished their set, the sea of black t-shirts headed to the main stage to prepare for Bauhaus. Liz and I stayed to cheer on “Uncle Gordon,” as a whole new crowd of hipsters appeared. Gordon and I have been friends for over 30 years, so it’s hard to write an unbiased account of their set, but I can’t imagine anyone finding them anything less than AMAZING!
Their songs are so catchy, their lyrics so clever, their melodies so unforgettable, their presence so delightful… they are simply perfect. Every single person in that audience joyfully sang along to every one of their songs including their classic hits “Blister In the Sun,” “Kiss Off,” and “Add It Up.”
The Femmes still have the energy and vigor you’ll remember from their early days. The only thing that’s changed is their drummer (now John Sparrow). They have also permanently added Blaise Garza to the band on bass saxophone, and Gordon and bassist Brian Ritchie have swapped hairstyles.
After the Violent Femmes set, we raced over to the Club House for some drinks and snacks. We could see DEVO on the main stage from the patio of the Club House, so we stayed put. From the distance we could see their traditional video program that preceded their entrance to the stage.
Lot’s of coolness going on with DEVO, The Mothersbaugh brothers were front and center, and the beat started immediately with local favorite drummer, Josh Freese. Josh Hager and Gerald Casale rounded out the band.
As we are accustomed, DEVO opened with “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man),” then the mayhem in the pit began with “Peek-A-Boo,” “That’s Good,” ‘Girl U Want,” “Whip It,” “Satisfaction,” “Secret Agent Man,” “Uncontrollable Urge,” it was literally the hit parade and the crowd loved it!
But of course that vantage point was not be acceptable for Bauhaus for Edna and Michelle, who insisted we get as close to stage as possible.
Off we weaved, positioning ourselves near the left side of the stage. Just as the sun set, the stage lights illuminated, ominous music played, and the jumbo screen lit up with a black and white, Dali-esque close up of Peter Murphy. We were mesmerized. It was clear that the theatrics of the band’s performance was as important to them as their music. Bauhaus were determined to put on a mind-blowing show. And boy, did they succeed! As soon as they began to play “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” Taylor recognized it and ventured deeper into the crowd. He didn’t re-emerge until the very end.
My son decided to stay and watch Morrissey, while we elected to return home and catch Morrissey and Blondie the next night. Needless to say Edna and Michelle were nearly in tears, overwhelmed by the nostalgia and seeing Murphy, the Goth God himself singing live, right in front of them.
Cruel World day two brought more of the same epic performances, and we checked out some of the other bands that killed it. Dave Wakeling and the English Beat showed up with their skankin’ shoes.
They were introduced by radio icon Richard Blade, and the crowd lost their mind. The two-tone juggernauts played crowd favorites “Rankin’ Full Stop,” “Mirror in the Bathroom,” “I’ll Take You There,” “Tenderness,” and everyone’s favorite, “Save It For Later.” Wakeling was as cordial and witty as ever, and they sounded fantastic!
Another legendary group that took to the stage was Dale Bozzio and Missing Persons. Blade also did the honors and brought out Ms. Dale. Immediately, the crowd cheered, and what stood out was there were more women in this crowd, and all were there to support this muse that had inspired them as young women.
I spoke with many of them, and they all love Dale. In true Bozzio form, she thanked them all for being there and said how much she loved them for their continued support. Then, the magic happened; they played those iconic songs we all love, “Walking in L.A.,” “Words,” “Mental Hopscotch,” and “Destination Unknown.”
As soon as Bozzio was done, the crowd rushed to the other stage to take in Davey Havoc and Blaqk Audio. Immediately the crowd erupted again, and weirdly, you heard a lot of female voices. Songs like “First to Love,” “Blue Cherry,” “Cities of Night,” and “Semiotic Love” occupied the crowd.
If that wasn’t enough, the next band that we had to catch was The Psychedelic Furs. Like Sparks, The Butler brothers have had a special place in our hearts.
The band was sharp, tight and electric. They came out to “The Boy That Invented Rock & Roll,” then “Mr. Jones.” With about a 20-second rest, the drums kicked off into their undeniable signature song, “Pretty in Pink.” Richard Butler sounded as good as he ever has, and other classics the crowd ate up included “The Ghost in You,” “Love My Way,” “Heartbreak Beat,” and “Heaven.”
Not to be outdone, the next memorable performance came from Deborah Harry and Blondie. This band literally defines a generation, and Harry killed it.
Fans of all ages crashed the stage to get a glimpse of this living legend, why no0t former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock was providing support too… talk about history. Their fans were not disappointed. Blondie pounded the crowd with hit after hit; “Hanging on the Telephone,” “The Tide is High,” “Atomic,” “Call Me,” “Rapture,” my personal favorite “Dreaming,” “Heart of Glass,” and the band closed the show with “One Way or Another!”
The bands that I really had to catch were Bauhaus and Morrissey, and the first of the two was Bauhaus. The crowd was enormous for this; the word was out how incredible the Saturday performance was, and people were buzzing at the transformation of Peter Murphy. As the blood moon covered the Rose Bowl grounds at Brookside, it had an eerie aspect as the lunar eclipse was in full view. With a darkened stage and fog, out came drummer Kevin Haskins, along with Daniel Ash (guitar) and David J (bass). If these names sound familiar, it’s because they are the core of Tones on Tail and Love and Rockets.
The anticipation was finally at a fever pitch as Peter Murphy took the stage. With his ominous look and distinct vocals, Bauhaus transformed the event to a larger-than-life moment in time.
The crowd was mesmerized by the opening song, “Double Dare.” It was a goosebump moment for sure. The band’s distinctive sound and Murphy’s vocals were like nothing we have heard before for many of the multi-generational crowd.
The fans got their money’s worth with hit after hit; “She’s In Parties,” “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” “Stigmata Martyr,” “Dark Entries,” and the closer was Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.” What an unreal moment to hear that and see it performed live!
Now it was 9:50 p.m. and the diehards were out. They were there to see the Pope of Pope, the sound of an era, the one and only, Morrissey. He came out with a very dapper look – coat and tie – and opened with “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful.” The crowd was beyond animated, almost cartoonish in the magnitude of how they reacted. The place went nuts over “Disappointed,” and the event became legendary as the distinct opening of The Smiths’ “How Soon is Now?” filled the festival grounds; I mean, it was as if time stood still.
Other songs that captured the hearts and souls of all still standing were “First of the Gang to Die,” “Ouija Board, Ouija Board,” “Everyday is Like Sunday,” “Suedehead,” “Jack the Ripper,” and “Sweet and Tender Hooligan.” The night ended as the festival began: with a bang and feeling of contentment.
Hats off to Goldenvoice! This was an epic event and we can’t wait for next year. We already have a lot to look forward to; one band that couldn’t play the event is locked in for the next one… Look out because here comes Echo & the Bunnymen, now that’s entertainment!
CRUEL WORLD PHOTO GALLERY
Photos by Green-Eyed Blonde Photography & Dick Slaughter