Hello Cruel World: Duran Duran and Blondie headline Pasadena Music Festival

by Finn Martin & Catie Kuczynski

You don’t need a time machine to blast back to the past — all you need is a ticket to the Cruel World Festival! Scroll down and let us take you on a tour of Saturday’s festival.

Headliners Duran Duran, Blondie and Interpol took festivalgoers back to the ’80s this past Saturday, May 11 on the Brookside greens of the Rose Bowl. Other names like Simple Minds, Soft Cell, Adam Ant, Nuovo Testamento, DREAMCAR, The Faint, The Mission U.K. and ADULT. gave audiences a show to remember. No act was without a crowd, as we discovered making our way through the massive crowds at the morning time opening of the festival. Designed similarly to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the Cruel World Festival was made up of three stages given punk-themed names: Lost Boys, Sad Girls and Outsiders.

While the larger chunks of time were saved for the evening headliners, the daytime sets resounded! Playing on through some stage mayhem caused by loose cords, the Detroit band ADULT. set the tone with dark electric melodies. New wave Nuovo Testamento delivered a poppy set full of swinging dance moves and fast BPM techo notes. Then after, The Mission U.K. slowed the pace into a more metal-driven performance pierced with guitar bends and heavy drumming rhythms. The Faint arrived at the Outsiders stage with an intergalactic set punctuated with voice modulation, quick and rising bars, and synthesizers. With the sun in their hair, supergroup DREAMCAR (notably composed of three former members of the band No Doubt) landed onto the stage; angel-winged lead singer Davey Havok slowed his energetic stage running performance to pay tribute to David Bowie, a founding influence of the band, covering “Moonage Daydream.” Simple Minds put together a groovy act as part of its globetrotting 2024 tour, making a stop in the U.S. for the first time in six years. Marc Almond of Soft Cell fronted the band’s evening performance to a lively crowd.

An hour after sunset, with a crowd of people standing shoulder to shoulder, pressed against the fences and stretched over the grassy lawns, Blondie took the stage. Formed in 1974, Blondie was a major force in popularizing electronic pop in the New York music scene. Coming to the Outsiders stage, we saw the two remaining original members, vocalist Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein, front the performance through an hourlong set. We stood and shared in the crowd’s delight as the band opened with hits “One Way or Another” and “Hanging on the Telephone.” Graphics montaged through snips from ’80s-style cartoons, one of the band drawn in the Archie comic style, flashed over the screens as the setlist continued. As the set came to its conclusion, Debbie Harry changed into a glimmering headpiece decorated with shards of glass and reappeared to instant applause for “Heart of Glass.” With a farewell to Cruel World, Blondie departed the stage, leaving the crowd anxiously awaiting the final act of the night.

Waiting on the outskirts of the dimmed Outsiders stage, 10 hours into the festival, we watched as Duran Duran walked through a futuristic cityscape wearing spacesuits on the stage’s massive surrounding screens. The band dematerialized from the screen and reappeared onstage through a part in a hazy cloud of smoke painted chaotically by multicolored strobes. Descending onto the stage and dressed in light suits, Duran Duran began their headlining appearance at Cruel World. There to perform and promote their 2023 album, DANSE MACABRE, their set included various recent releases, as well as some of their all-time greatest hits and even an electric beat cover of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” Playing the main stage, to a massive audience, fronted by some who had camped out in the sweltering heat all day long, the notoriously stylish, two-time Grammy-winning pop group also staged classics like “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Rio.”

Despite a few disruptive heat bursts throughout the day, the festival went on without issue. This marks the third consecutive year that organizer Goldenvoice has brought together hit punk and new-wave banks in Pasadena. The 2023 festival, which was headlined by Iggy Pop and Billy Idol, was evacuated midway through performances due to the threat of lightning and a thunderstorm. The Cruel World Festival typically welcomes a crowd of almost 100,000 people.

Scroll through our photo gallery below!

A crowd of nearly 100,000 concert-goers gather on the Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena for the Cruel World Festival. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
A crowd of nearly 100,000 concert-goers gather on the Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena for the Cruel World Festival. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
ADULT. gets the crowd excited for a full day of music at the Outsiders stage on Saturday afternoon. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
ADULT. gets the crowd excited for a full day of music at the Outsiders stage on Saturday afternoon. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
ADULT. shines on the Outsiders stage on Saturday afternoon. Photographed by Finn Martin/BruinLife
ADULT. shines on the Outsiders stage on Saturday afternoon. Photographed by Finn Martin/BruinLife
Vocalist Chelsey Crowley of Nuovo Testamento pauses her dance routine for a moment to clutch the microphone and glance out over the Sad Girls stage. Photographed by Finn Martin/BruinLife
Vocalist Chelsey Crowley of Nuovo Testamento pauses her dance routine for a moment to clutch the microphone and glance out over the Sad Girls stage. Photographed by Finn Martin/BruinLife
Chelsey Crowley of Nuovo Testamento delivers a charismatic and groovy performance as the crowd relishes in her contagious energy.  Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Chelsey Crowley of Nuovo Testamento delivers a charismatic and groovy performance as the crowd relishes in her contagious energy. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Martha Davis of The Motels stuns as she belts out vocals from the band&squot;s song "Where Do We Go From Here." Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Martha Davis of The Motels stuns as she belts out vocals from the band’s song “Where Do We Go From Here.” Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
The Motels plays the Lost Boys stage at the Cruel World Festival. Photographed by Finn Martin/BruinLife
The Motels plays the Lost Boys stage at the Cruel World Festival. Photographed by Finn Martin/BruinLife
Wayne Hussey of The Mission U.K. takes the stage and instantly draws in a growing crowd as his band begins their midday set at Cruel World. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Wayne Hussey of The Mission U.K. takes the stage and instantly draws in a growing crowd as his band begins their midday set at Cruel World. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Lead singer Wayne Hussey of The Mission U.K. nears the microphone. An orange and white rail lights glow down from above. Photographed by Finn Martin/BruinLife
Lead singer Wayne Hussey of The Mission U.K. nears the microphone. An orange and white rail lights glow down from above. Photographed by Finn Martin/BruinLife
The crowd gathers to watch as The Faint plays the Outsiders stage. Photographed by Finn Martin/BruinLife
The crowd gathers to watch as The Faint plays the Outsiders stage. Photographed by Finn Martin/BruinLife
Tony Kanal of DREAMCAR takes a power lunge as he plays a riff to the Outsiders stage at Cruel World Festival. Kanal started his music career as a bassist for No Doubt when he was 16.  Photographed by Finn Martin/BruinLife
Tony Kanal of DREAMCAR takes a power lunge as he plays a riff to the Outsiders stage at Cruel World Festival. Kanal started his music career as a bassist for No Doubt when he was 16. Photographed by Finn Martin/BruinLife
Simple Minds makes their return to the United States for the first time in six years to play the Sad Girls stage at Cruel World Festival.  Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Simple Minds makes their return to the United States for the first time in six years to play the Sad Girls stage at Cruel World Festival. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
The crowd at the set of Simple Minds as they dance along to the band's numerous hits. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
The crowd at the set of Simple Minds as they dance along to the band’s numerous hits. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Marc Almond of Soft Cell fronts the band's performance on the Outsiders stage with vibrant accompanying visuals. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Marc Almond of Soft Cell fronts the band’s performance on the Outsiders stage with vibrant accompanying visuals. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Debbie Harry of Blondie waves along with the masses gathered at Cruel World's Outsiders stage. Harry commanded the stage throughout her set. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Debbie Harry of Blondie waves along with the masses gathered at Cruel World’s Outsiders stage. Harry commanded the stage throughout her set. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Rock-&squot;n-roll queen Debbie Harry dances along to her band&squot;s accompanying instrumentals for "Call Me." Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Rock-‘n-roll queen Debbie Harry dances along to her band’s accompanying instrumentals for “Call Me.” Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Rock icon Blondie finishes off their Cruel World set with the band&squot;s iconic anthem "Heart of Glass," with Harry adorned in a shimmering mirrored headpiece. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Rock icon Blondie finishes off their Cruel World set with the band’s iconic anthem “Heart of Glass,” with Harry adorned in a shimmering mirrored headpiece. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Duran Duran band members John Taylor and Simon Le Bon share a note as they cause the crowd to erupt in excited screams. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Duran Duran band members John Taylor and Simon Le Bon share a note as they cause the crowd to erupt in excited screams. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Duran Duran guitarist Dominic Brown emerges from a foggy haze as the band makes their Cruel World debut. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Duran Duran guitarist Dominic Brown emerges from a foggy haze as the band makes their Cruel World debut. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Bass guitarist John Taylor of Duran Duran sports a dapper light blazer as he plays on an eclectic red bass. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Bass guitarist John Taylor of Duran Duran sports a dapper light blazer as he plays on an eclectic red bass. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Dominic Brown of Duran Duran is caught in motion as the band kicks off their headlining set, bringing together all those in attendance at Cruel World. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Dominic Brown of Duran Duran is caught in motion as the band kicks off their headlining set, bringing together all those in attendance at Cruel World. Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Duran Duran guitarists mimic each other&squot;s movements as they play their classic hit "The Wild Boys." Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
Duran Duran guitarists mimic each other’s movements as they play their classic hit “The Wild Boys.” Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
John Taylor dazzles the crowd of the Outsiders Stage as he rocks along to "Hungry Like The Wolf." Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife
John Taylor dazzles the crowd of the Outsiders Stage as he rocks along to “Hungry Like The Wolf.” Photographed by Cathryn Kuczynski/BruinLife

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