Siouxsie closed Cruel World 2023 with a magnetic extended set, showcasing her delightful, witty, and badass persona and proving that she still reigns supreme.
Words: Sandra Burciaga Olinger
Photography: Bryan Olinger
Between lightning that shut the festival down during Iggy Pop’s set and a secondary festival date to make up for an unexpected cancelation, Cruel World 2023 literally went out with a bang. Aside from the series of unfortunate events at the hands of Mother Nature, Saturday, May 20th at Cruel World made for an exciting full day of music featuring Urban Heat, Boy Harsher, Molchat Doma, Gary Numman, Love and Rockets, Echo and the Bunnymen, and many more acts.
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It wasn’t until about the fifth song of Iggy Pop‘s set that Mother Nature decided to end the thrills. While Pop serenaded the crowd with “The Passenger,” lightning began to strike east of the Cruel World skies. After about four strikes, the Pasadena Fire Department advised Goldenvoice, the Cruel World organizer, to evacuate everyone from the festival on the Rose Bowl grounds. As previously reported, the entire scenario was not a pretty picture, leaving fans heartbroken and angry.
Nevertheless, Cruel World organizers came through with a makeup day for Sunday, May 21st, featuring an extended Siouxsie set, along with performances by Iggy Pop and Gary Numan. Fans who made it were overjoyed; however, many fans were not. They had flights to catch, families to return to, and employment obligations. So, taking it above and beyond, on the morning of Monday, May 22nd, the Cruel World organizers offered partial refunds for attendees who couldn’t make it to the makeup day. Talk about doing good!
While Cruel World spoke to the Gen X era, a generation of music fans that wore black and fashioned their hair in quite the aerodynamic styles, weren’t the only aesthetics present at the festival. To be a fan of a genre of music does not imply you must dress the part. At Cruel World, we saw everything from the hippest silver foxes to a couple of grandparents that looked like my MidWest in-laws. We saw basic soccer mom looks and goth mamas who still shop at Hot Topic. Yes, most were clad in their finest black Sunday garbs; however, it wasn’t a must. To love the music being performed at Cruel World means precisely that: to love it. It came with no dress code or style requirements, just a love for the music, for any age, any style.
While I would have loved to inhale less secondhand smoke (I mean, as expected at a festival that is made for Gen X), I managed to get over the Marlboro Reds invading my dance inhalations. I arrived at the tail end of Molchat Doma’s set and immediately took in their dark, Belarusian post-punk sounds. It was my first time seeing the band, and they commanded the crowd and had them swaying in an almost hypnotic trance. Without a doubt, they’re the coolest band to ever come out of TikTok fame.
Up next was Gary Numan. It is always a pleasure seeing this sexy gothfather live. From the slick moves of him and his band to their dope style and makeup, Numan did not skip a beat. I was impressed with his moves and his flexibility. The man can squat and groove way better than I can! The last time I tried to dance like him (see video below), I legit tore a meniscus! And to those claiming he was lip-synching, y’all are wrong. There is often a delay between what’s happening on stage and what you see on the IMAGS (aka Jumbotrons). The farther away you’re from the stage, the more apparent it is. I was backstage watching him from the side, and there was absolutely no lip-synching.
Echo and The Bunnymen were great to hear live, albeit not to see live. They did not have the IMAGS turned on for their performance, which was a total disappointment for their fans. When a band performs at a big music festival, you do your fans a disservice by not having those screens turned on. Because of this, only those in the front lines could see Ian McCulloch and company perform. It was glorious to hear iconic songs like “Lips Like Sugar” and “Killing Moon” live again. McCulloch’s voice was just as delicious as yesteryear.
Love and Rockets were up next on the nostalgia wave. Fans went nuts for them, and rightfully so; it was the band’s first show in 15 years, and they played various hits from “No New Tale to Tell,” “So Alive,” and more. After all this time, Love and Rockets still sounded electric, and Daniel Ash was full of sparkling swagger.
Billy Idol is always a damn good time! We had to divide and conquer since Idol and Love and Rockets were playing at the same hour. Let’s just say I had a great time “dancing with myself.” Unfortunately, I had to cut the Billy Idol fun short to ensure I got a great spot for Iggy Pop, but we all know how that turned out on the first night of Cruel World.
Regardless, I got another dose of Iggy Pop on the makeup date of Cruel World. That wire-y punk is honestly like an otherworldly creature, in the same unique vein as his pal David Bowie. We all know Pop has lived one of the fastest rock n roll lives out there, and the fact that he still moves the same and gives it 100 never ceases to amaze me. He closed his epic set with “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “Search and Destroy,” and let me tell you, it was like teleporting back to the heyday of Max’s Kansas City.
And for our evening’s headliner, the one and only Siouxsie of Siouxsie and the Banshees. This was the gothmother’s first North American show in 15 years, and she reminded us who still reigns supreme in all her badass witchy vibes. Spellbinding the crowd with her mystical moves as though she was summoning an otherworldly power, Siouxsie took to the stage draped in a black cloak over some adorable metallic rompers as she opened with “Night Shift.” The crowd roared in excitement. Many fans, such as myself, had never seen a live Siouxsie performance. As you can imagine, it was an empowering and emotional experience to see such an iconic woman in music perform live right before our eyes.
Siouxsie is no basic poptart. She is a woman who blazed a trail in “unpopular” music that many, especially in her time, deemed as troublesome, strange, or evil. Nowadays, bands that try to emulate Siouxsie are a dime a dozen. It is now socially acceptable (at least for the most part) to create music that doesn’t appeal to the masses: music that is art, that is poetic, that is eclectic and experimental, and, god forbid, music that is different. For those reasons and more, Siouxsie is a godamn badass.
From the playful vibes of “Kiss Them For Me” to the dark post-punk rhythms of “Arabian Nights” and “Spellbound”— Siouxsie took fans on a wild trip. We danced and sang along to “Dear Prudence,” “Cities In Dust,” “Christine,” and “Happy House.” There were tears of joy and camaraderie, friendships were made, and unfortunately, a couple of drunk young-er folks were rude towards other fans who wanted to experience Siouxsie in all her glory. In other words, shut the fuck up and don’t speak over our Queen. And if you want a good spot, come early like the rest of us; don’t squeeze your way into a foot space and then be rude to other fans. Anywaaaaays …
Fans got to experience Siouxsie on guitar when “Sin In My Heart” made its goosebump-inducing, manic play. She plucked away on her blue Vox Mark VI teardrop electric guitar, leaving us in awe. Between her banshee-like howls and feline purrs, Siouxsie had us entranced with a chokehold on our minds, bodies, and souls.
One of my favorite things about seeing artists I admire perform live is hearing them talk. Siouxsie was quite the charmer. “Tell them it’s part of our fucking light show,” she yelled when talking to the crowd about how the Pasadena Fire Department shut down the festival the night before (watch the video below).
And I couldn’t agree more when she called out the “idiots poisoning our planet” just before she performed “Face To Face.” As I watched Siouxsie on stage, put up her hands to the stars, and invoke some powerful energies, I’m almost positive she cast a spell on those idiots (I know I occasionally do).
I had hoped to hear my favorite Siouxsie song, “Dazzle,” and Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Peek-A-Boo,” — but neither happened (albeit Peek-A-Boo was on the setlist). I also was dying to hear Siouxsie and Iggy Pop perform “The Passenger,” but that did not happen (also on the setlist). However, I didn’t need those songs to recognize that Siouxsie’s set was spectacular; because it was. She is a force with an infectious energy, and her light shined bright Sunday night at Cruel World. It was an honor and pleasure to experience Siouxsie live and in the flesh, finally. I think I speak for many when I say, it was a concert dream come true.
Despite a force of nature interrupting Cruel Word’s regular scheduled programming, it was a pretty damn fantastic music festival experience. Festival organizers indeed came through for fans by adding a second day and issuing partial refunds for those who could not make it.
My only recommendation is to put a disclaimer on all tickets that read something like: “if lightning strikes, the festival is subject to being canceled.” And maybe a quick explanation so that all the numbnuts get it. Sometimes you have to spell shit out for certain people.
And while we’re at it, let’s explain the difference between rain or shine, and lightning — because clearly, some people just don’t get it, or maybe they all grew to become goth Karens.