Are you planning a pilgrimage to Cruel World this year? Cruel as it may be, it’s a trip you won’t regret. Although they have a collective age of 207, the top three headliners at this summer’s festival have enough star power and raw energy to wake the dead. Don’t go to your grave knowing you missed the opportunity to see Siouxsie Sioux, Iggy Pop, and Billy Idol on the same stage.

As iconic as they may be, the headliners are just the tip of the dark, dreary iceberg. With 20+ bands taking the stage, this California festival— still in its infancy but bringing together a lineup for the ages—promises to scratch anyone’s itch for an ‘80s-inspired heathen tent revival. 

What Is Cruel World Festival? 

Cruel World Festival Stage

As if the pandemic didn’t suck on its own merits, it also caused the delay of the OG Cruel World Festival. Buzz began back in 2020, and the concert finally came to life in 2022. Curating an eclectic group of vintage darkhearts and goths, the inaugural festival gathered hot names on one of the hottest weekends in Pasadena and unleashed its moody darkness on the Rose Bowl.

Featuring a multi-genre lineup of punk, new wave, goth, and electronica, the 2022 festival brought to the stage acts that many Gen-Xers haven’t seen in person for decades. Like a mixtape come to life, Cruel World Fest has something for every music lover and every counter-culture proclivity. 

What’s on Deck for Cruel World 2023? 

Saturday, May 20, 2023, will be a day to remember. Once again descending on Pasadena’s Rose Bowl, Cruel World 2023 will welcome a sea of black T-shirts, leather pants, black eyeliner, and lipstick to the flashback concert of the year. 

The formula, like the perfectly mixed bottle of black hair dye, is to harken back the ghosts of darkwave past as well as introduce new broody and moody bands and musicians to adoring masses. Music for the masses, if you will.

Echo & the Bunnymen will finally make their long-awaited appearance after having to cancel last year—joined by headliners Siouxsie Sioux, Iggy Pop, Love and Rockets and so many others. Siouxsie is making her first North American appearance in 15 years, and even the bands in small print will be a sight for many sore eyes. How can you go wrong with acts like Human League, Modern English, Adam Ant, Boy Harsher, Twin Tribes, The Soft Moon, Urban Heat, and Gary Numan?

Tickets for the concert are reasonable by modern concert ticket standards but are unfortunately sold out. Originally starting at $159+ fees for general admission, a day of delightful, depressing live music could be scored at about the same cost as a pair of 10 eyed oxblood Docs. VIP would cost about two pairs and some extra laces—and a jar of Manic Panic. All tickets at all levels are now only available via the waitlist.

To join the waitlist, simply head over to the festival website and follow the white rabbit to leave a deposit and hope for the best. A $10 deposit will secure your spot, and if tickets become available, you will gain access to the party of the year—a mish mosh of all ages, all styles, and all musical tastes, joined together to pray at the altar of music. 

How to Prep for Cruel World Festival

Cruel World Crowd

Once you’ve got your tickets in hand, it’s time for travel and accommodations. It won’t be like it was in the ‘80s for some of us, having your mom drop you off or riding a skateboard up to the gates. Modern world, modern problems. 

Those in the L.A. area can battle the city commute or bunk at a local hotel or RV park. Out-of-towners can fly into nearby Burbank Airport or LAX. You’re looking at about 12 to 20 miles from airport to venue, which equates to a short 2-to-3-hour commute in Los Angeles traffic. Plan accordingly. 

L.A. is brimming with hotels, motels, and hostels, so there's no shortage of places to lay your weary head at the conclusion of 10+ hours of soul-crushing lyrics like, “I feel I'm on a cross again lately, but there's nothing to do with you.”

Chain hotels like Marriott, Hilton, and Westin are readily available, but if you’re like us, you might want to seek out a boutique hotel or Victorian-esque bed-and-breakfast. Just 6.5 miles from the Rose Bowl is Sierra Madre’s Jailhouse Inn, a former City Hall jail that will let you channel your inner rebel while you munch on free snacks in your bathrobe. The best of both cruel worlds. 

If you’re really feeling wild, make it a full-blown vacation of sadness and book your stay from May 13-20. Then you can hit both Cruel World and the Just Like Heaven Festival

How to Dress for Cruel World Festival 

Cruel World Festival Dress Code

Nothing says summer in SoCal like 100,000 people outdoors wearing all black. Thanks to global warming and elbow-to-elbow crowds, you may want to go goth-light when dressing for Cruel World. 

There’s no need to compromise your personal style, as Midnight Hour has everything you need to rock out to “Killing Moon” and “Peep Show.” Velvet bike shorts, a breathable button down top, and a stylish pair of Space Kitty Sunglasses make for a wickedly cool outfit to keep you cool while you yell back at Billy Idol for “more, more, more.” 

For more inspiration, check out our selection of lightweight goth dresses, goth tank tops, and other edgy summer couture—all perfect for basking beneath the California sun. Much of our Boho goth clothing also fits the bill to perfection. 

What to Expect at Cruel World 

Such as in life, strategy is key. Nothing will make you dead for real faster than dehydration. Thankfully, Cruel World provides water refill stations at no cost because corporate greed is gross. However, no bags are allowed, so leave your vegan nut butter sandwiches at home. 

If you want to do Morrissey proud, you can visit the food stations inside the festival and purchase from the variety of vegetarian and vegan options available. Check the Cruel World website for all the latest vendor information as it becomes available. Oh, and be sure to bring your debit card, as Cruel World is a 100% cashless event. 

Post yourself on the grass and enjoy your new wave picnic in between bands, or go hard all day and hop from stage to stage to see as many bands as possible. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure concert experience where every time slot may offer something new and unexpected. 

Rumor has it that there may be some magical collaborations like Siouxsie and Iggy (they are both The Passenger, after all), or maybe the acts will take their time in the spotlight solo. Either way, it will be a day of both legends and newcomers. Last year was Bauhaus, but if you missed it, you’ll get a dash of Bauhaus when you see Love and Rockets, as former members of the latter will perform with L&R this go around. 

It’s a Cruel World, So Let’s All Have Some Fun 

Since the only guarantees in life are death and taxes, we may as well Carpe the Hell out of this Diem. Get yourself on the waitlist, roll those metaphoric 20-sided dice, and cross your black-tipped fingers while the gothic voodoo magic works its powers.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be crying (like more than usual) while you witness the greatness of goth, the epicness of new wave, and the allure of alternative at Cruel World 2023.

Midnight Hour