New Wave Renaissance: Cruel World Festival 2024's Best Moments

Article Contributed by L. Paul Mann | Published on Thursday, May 16, 2024

This year's Cruel World Festival in Pasadena, California, offered a vibrant mix of new wave, goth, and post-punk acts with a lighter and more upbeat vibe than in previous years.

Cruel World Music Festival

Duran Duran Headlines the Show

Duran Duran - photo by Jeff Moehlis

Duran Duran, the stylish new wave veterans, headlined Saturday night with a 90-minute set packed with hits. They opened with "The Chauffeur" before launching into crowd-pleasers like "Wild Boys," "Hungry Like the Wolf," and "A View to a Kill." Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, and Roger Taylor, all in their early to mid-60s, showed they can still deliver a powerful and entertaining live performance. The band even threw in a mashup of their own "Girls on Film" with Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" for good measure.

A Day of Reunions and Discoveries

Cruel World 2024 wasn't just about established acts. Fans of Bauhaus got a rare treat with a reunion of Tones on Tail, a side project featuring Bauhaus's Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins. They played their lone album, "Pop," in its entirety for the first time since 1984. It was the third Cruel World appearance for the pair, first with Bauhaus and then again last year appearing as Love and Rockets.

Dreamcar | Cruel World Music Festival

Dreamcar | Pasadena, CA

The festival also showcased newer bands influenced by the classic post-punk sound. At the Cruel World festival, the spotlight shone brightly on Dreamcar, a dynamic ensemble featuring the rhythm section of No Doubt—bassist Tony Kanal, guitarist Tom Dumont, and drummer Adrian Young—with the charismatic vocals of Davey Havok from AFI leading the charge. Their performance on the main stage during the late afternoon stirred the crowd with a modern new wave sound, eliciting enthusiastic responses to tracks like "We Rats," "Kill For Candy," and a mesmerizing rendition of David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream."

Gary Numan

Gary Numan | Cruel World Music Festival

Early synth rock music pioneer Gary Numan returned for his second year at the festival. It was his third performance since he was invited back last year to open for the second day of the festival, which was a makeup day for the weather-delayed headline set by Siouxsie and the Banshees. This time, the iconic musician played his early synth album "Pleasure Principles" in its entirety. It was a departure from his work with his current band, which is much more industrial in nature, akin to NIN. For most of the set, his typically frenetic bandmates took a much more subdued role. But for the final performance of the anthemic “Cars,” revamped for the present day, the bandmates returned to their more visceral presentation, much to the crowd's delight.

British Invasion

Simple Minds | Cruel World Music Festival

Simple Minds | Cruel World Music Festival

Simple Minds drew a large audience with their anthemic rock, with "Don't You (Forget About Me)" a particular highlight. The two original members of the Scottish rockers, lead singer Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill, led the band in a powerful sunset performance. The Cruel World festival was ignited by the electrifying debut of Lol Tolhurst, Budgie, and Jackknife Lee's new trio, a fusion of legendary talent from The Cure's original drummer Tolhurst, Siouxsie and the Banshees' Budgie, and the masterful Irish producer Lee. Their album "Los Angeles," unveiled in late 2023, set the stage with its innovative blend of dual-drumkit and guitar arrangements, enhanced by the captivating vocals of guest artists.

Lol Tolhurst, Budgie, and Jackknife Lee

Lol Tolhurst, Budgie, and Jackknife Lee

Isaac Brock, renowned for his work with Modest Mouse, graced the album with his vocals. Along with fellow collaborators Arrow De Wilde of L.A.'s Starcrawler and the versatile rapper-trumpeter Pan Amsterdam, Brock brought the album to life on the festival stage. Brock's presence lingered as he mesmerized the audience with a stirring rendition of The Cure's classic "A Forest," adding another luminary moment to an already stellar day of performances.

Ministry Goes Back to Its Roots

Ministry | Cruel World Music Festival

Ministry | Pasadena, CA

Early synth pioneer Ministry may have turned in the most fascinating set of the festival. In a lineup packed with iconic new wave acts like Duran Duran and Blondie, Ministry, led by the charismatic Al Jourgensen, opted for a departure from their usual industrial metal intensity at the Cruel World festival. Drawing mainly from their seminal albums "With Sympathy" (1983) and "Twitch" (1986), the band dusted off some gems from their early repertoire. Notably, tracks like "Work for Love," "I’m Falling," and "Effigy (I’m Not An)" made their live comeback after a hiatus dating back to 1984. Adding to the nostalgia, classics such as "All Day," "Over the Shoulder," and "Just Like You," last heard live in 1987, found their revival on stage.

Cruel World Music Festival | Pasadena, CA

For this exceptional performance, Ministry transformed into a formidable 13-piece ensemble. The ensemble included backing vocals courtesy of the "Ministrettes" and orchestral depth provided by the "Ministrings." Notable among the additional musicians was the former Nine Inch Nails keyboardist Charlie Clouser, who enriched the sonic landscape with his expertise. The climax of the set arrived with the crowd-pleasing sing-along anthem "(Everyday Is) Halloween)," a gothic gem that Ministry revived in 2018 and 2019 after a hiatus spanning over three decades. With this triumphant performance, Ministry revisited its roots and showcased its enduring influence, leaving an indelible mark on the Cruel World festival.

Looking Back and Moving Forward

Cruel World Music Festival

Cruel World Music Festival

Cruel World Music Festival

Cruel World Music Festival

Cruel World Music Festival

Cruel World 2024 celebrated the enduring legacy of new wave, goth, and post-punk music while offering a glimpse into the genre's future with exciting new bands. From established acts like Duran Duran to reunions like Tones on Tail and captivating sets by younger bands, the festival had something for every fan of this unique musical movement.