Cruel World — the post-punk festival held on the Rose Bowl-adjacent Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena, Calif. — unfortunately lived up to its name Saturday, when the second annual event was cut short due to the threat of inclement weather. The plug was pulled less than 30 minutes before legendary gothmother Siouxsie Sioux was about to the headline the main stage, for what would have been her first U.S. concert in 15 years. It was her only scheduled North American date on her current comeback tour, which launched May 3 in Brussels, Belgium.
Proto-punk pioneer Iggy Pop, accompanied by the dancing son of Queens of the Stone Age singer Josh Homme, was halfway through his set on the Outsiders stage when the festival came to an abrupt end. (Ironically, he was performing “The Passenger,” a song Siouxsie and her former band the Banshees covered in 1987, and many fans had been hoping for a surprise Pop/Sioux duet.) Two flashes of lightning had already streaked the sky during Pop’s show, causing his sound to go out for about 20 seconds each time; when a third audio glitch occurred during “The Passenger” (seen towards the end of the video below, shot by Minneapolis radio and club DJ Jake Rudh), a voice blasted on the P.A., announcing that the Brookside grounds were being evacuated due to approaching “severe weather.” Across the field on the Lost Boys stage, the set by U.K. synthpop act the Human League was also halted.
Pop told the dismayed spectators, “OK, we have lightning. We need to evacuate the stage, I’ve been told.” Many fans booed, shouted “Bullshit!” and threw debris at the stage, but for the most part everyone filed out in an orderly fashion once the sad reality of the situation set in.
At first, Cruel World’s official Twitter account posted, “The festival has been postponed until further notice. Please evacuate the festival site immediately. Use the nearest emergency exits. Stay tuned for updates.” However, that tweet was soon deleted and replaced with one that had no mention of postponement, simply stating: “Due to severe weather, please exit the event site and move to your vehicles or protected areas outside of the event site for safety. Stay tuned for updates.”
A tweet posted at 9:24 p.m. Pacific time by the National Weather Service announced: “We are tracking a strong thunderstorm moving southwest from near Mt. Wilson to between Pasadena and Monrovia. This storm may produce strong gusty winds, heavy downpours, lightning and small hail.” However, that storm never did reach the Brookside area, and the threat seemed to subside shortly after the time that Sioux would have hit the stage at 9:55 p.m. — thus angering fans even more.
As of this writing, representatives for Cruel World’s promoter, AEG/Goldenvoice, have not responded to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for clarification about why exactly the festival, which was advertised as taking place “rain or shine,” was called off so suddenly, or if Sioux will play any sort of makeup show in the Los Angeles area. No announcement has been made regarding possible full or partial Cruel World refunds.
Sioux was not the only Cruel World 2023 artist fans didn’t get to see Saturday: Earlier in week, both the Motels and Adam Ant pulled out due to “unforeseen circumstances.” However, those artists were respectively replaced by two solid crowd-pleasers, Berlin and Squeeze. And Cruel World attendees did get to witness the exciting return of one seminal act that also hadn’t performed live in many years, Love and Rockets. The British college-rock trio was the most anticipated act on the bill aside from Siouxsie, and they dazzled with an 11-song Outsiders stage set, right before Iggy’s doomed show, that included their top three Billboard Hot 100 hit “So Alive” and their famous cover of the Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion.” The band’s members, Daniel Ash, David J, and Kevin Haskins, played the inaugural Cruel World festival last year as three-fourths of Bauhaus, but that legendary gothic band’s reunion was put on hold when frontman Peter Murphy entered rehab. This year’s Cruel World festival marked the first time that Ash, J, and Haskins had played as Love and Rockets since 2008.
Other major highlights from Cruel World 2023, before the festival’s sudden and disappointing ending, included a hits-packed pop ‘n’ soul revue by gold-tuxedo’d New Romantics ABC, and an intense and visceral set by dance-punk trailblazers Gang of Four. Billy Idol, Gary Numan, Echo & the Bunnymen, Modern English, and the Vapors, as well as newer darkwave acts like Boy Harsher, Twin Tribes, Riki, and Glass Spells, also performed.
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