Over the weekend of May 20th, 2023 I traveled with a friend to Los Angeles, California. The trip was oriented around attending the Cruel World Festival on Saturday and checking out California and the LA area in general. This was my first trip to California and I was unsure about what to expect. It was a very fun experience and I want to thank the Rayobyte Experience Stipend for helping me to take this trip.
It started with a simple text message to my friend Brian in January. I saw this flier in a post about the festival on reddit.com. There were a large number of bands that we grew up listening to playing at the festival and I thought it looked interesting. I did not think we would actually go.
Well, I guess we are going now. Honestly, that was not the response I expected. Tickets went on sale that Thursday. I was able to get two tickets along with lodging for two nights. This would be the first time that I had gone to a show of this size with this many bands I enjoyed from my teens and 20’s all playing at the same venue on the same day. I have always enjoyed live music and COVID had put a stop to large gatherings like this. This was a much welcome step back in the right direction.
On May 19th we drove up to the airport in Omaha to begin our trip. Here we ran into our first problem. Brian got his plane tickets, but mine were not in the system. Pressed for time I purchased tickets on a different airline that would land about ½ hour later than our planned flight.
I landed at LAX expecting to have a bad experience. This is a very large airport and I was not looking forward to navigating it. To my surprise I departed the plane and the airport exit was directly to my left. Given the way this trip started I was relieved. I walked to the Uber pick up area and got a ride to the hotel.
I tried to get some pictures of the LA skyline at night, but being in a moving car they did not turn out very well. I think this was the best one but it is not very interesting.
The hotel was in Glendale and it was pretty fun. About 80% of the people staying there were attending the festival so we all sat around Friday night telling each other stories about shows we had been to and talking about the show the next day.
Friday night Brian and I walked around the area around the hotel. This was a very vibrant area full of music, restaurants, and high end shops. There must have been three restaurants on every block. All sorts of food from different nationalities and countries. There were people everywhere. This was definitely not Lincoln, Nebraska. For example, Glendale has cupcake ATMs.
Saturday afternoon we made our way to the show. The show was in Pasadena right next to the Rose Bowl stadium on a golf course. Our Uber driver dropped us off in a nice residential area and we walked down to the stadium. Here is a picture of Brian walking down to the Rose Bowl parking lot.
When we got in the first band had already started playing so we got a spot in the shade to wait for the first band we wanted to see which was Berlin. Here is a shot of the crowd before the band started up. It was not really crowded since people were still arriving.
Berlin playing (I apologize that my pictures are not very good. I’ll post links for videos.) Their biggest songs would be “The Metro”, “No More Words”, and “Take My Breath Away” from the 1986 Top Gun movie.
After Berlin I went to the main stage to see Modern English. Their biggest hit song would be “I Melt with You”. It was featured in the film Valley Girl and had heavy rotation on MTV. They played some songs from their first album, Mesh & Lace, from 1981. This is one of my favorite albums and it was cool to see.
With bands going back to the early 1980’s the crowd was on the older side but I was surprised by the number of younger people there also. There were some gray hairs and sensible shows in the crowd. Certainly a lot of colored mohawks, black T-shirts and black eyeliner. The crowd was very kind and well behaved. I did not see a single person act inappropriately or without concern for the other concert goers. Trash was picked up and people with disabilities were looked after. With tens of thousands of people in attendance from all over the world that was certainly a surprise. This had to be the goth capital of the world for one day and I did not see a single person act with anything resembling disrespect to anyone else.
After Modern English I saw this band that I had never heard of and who’s name I can’t pronounce. They were actually pretty good.
Next up was Gary Neuman. The first single I ever purchased when I was a kid was “Cars” by Neuman. Looking at the release date I was probably around 10 years old. Neuman started off as more of an electronic synth sound, but now he is influenced by metal and industrial music. He is 65 years old and puts on a really great show. I found his entire set from the festival on YouTube so I’ll post it here.
After Gary Neuman was Echo & the Bunnymen. They are one of my favorite bands of all time. Unfortunately they did not use the big screens on the sides of the stage so I was not able to see much from my vantage point. A bit of a disappointment since I was really looking forward to seeing them live. They sounded very good.
After Echo was Love and Rockets. L&R were formed in the mid 80’s by members of Bauhaus. L&R put on a fantastic show. Probably one of the best shows I have ever seen in person. Considering this was their first concert in 15 years that is impressive. They played a cover of Ball of Confusion which is one of my favorites. This is a video of the song from the show but the sound is not very good.
Next up were the two bands with top billing, Iggy Pop and Siouxsie Sioux (from Siouxsie and the Banshees). Iggy has been around since 1967 when he was the vocalist for The Stooges. Siouxsie and the Banshees started back in 1977. Iggy played a few songs for 15 or 20 minutes and then at 11:20 the sound cut out and an announcement was made.
About 40 minutes later there was an update.
That’s a bummer. The show ended very abruptly. I saw on the news later that it was canceled due to “extremely severe weather conditions” that included lightning strikes. A few people I talked to did see lightning on the other side of the mountains. Given that the festival was on an open golf course with a lot of metal gear (and people with metal gear) I guess this is understandable. And I believe that the venu being in a residential area had sound restrictions at night so the show could not be postponed and resumed at a later time the same night. This would have been Siouxsie’s first United States performance in 15 years and her only confirmed US performance of the year, so it was certainly disappointing to miss this.
The good news was that Siouxsie, Iggy Pop, and Gary Neuman were rescheduled for the next night. Unfortunately, we had to fly back to Nebraska that night and would be unable to attend.
The show ended early with thousands of disappointed people heading to the parking lots to drive home or walking into the mountains trying to get an Uber.
After it was over Brian and I decided that it was all worth it. We had a great time seeing some of our favorite bands with a huge crowd at a fantastic outdoor venu. We determined that we would try to attend Cruel World or a similar festival next summer. This time we intend to book an extra night for our stay “just in case”.