Southern California is getting not one, not two, but three throwback-inspired festivals this summer, starting with Cruel World and Just Like Heaven in May, and wrapping up with This Ain’t No Picnic in August. All three will take place at the Pasadena Rose Bowl, and for fans of music of the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s, the summer couldn’t be sweeter.

There are reasons to attend all three, and with Goldenvoice presenting the entire lot there is no overlap in lineups. We’ll go weekend by weekend, comparing lineups, ticket prices, and more, to help you decide which weekend is right for you (or why you should pack up the car and make the trip for all three).


Cruel World – May 14 and 15 – GA Tier 3: $179 + fees
Headliners: Morrissey, Bauhaus, Blondie, Devo and Echo + The Bunnymen

With a lineup featuring mostly acts known for rocking through the 1980’s, Cruel World stands out from the back slightly. You will likely see more families and grey heads, and can expect a packed house. In fact, the festival was originally meant to be a single day, but a second show was added due to overwhelming demand.

The lineup is truly one of the ages, with the chance to hear “Heart of Glass,” “Whip It,” and “Lips Like Sugar” all in a single day. Morrissey will be playing new music from his highly anticipated album Bonfire of Teenagers, which he’s called “the best album of my life.”

It’s obvious who this one is for, and tickets will likely be sold out soon. Fans of new wave and punk from the 1970s and 1980s will have an easy time deciding that this is the show for them.


Just Like Heaven – May 21 – GA: $179 + fees
Headliners: Interpol, Modest Mouse, The Shins, M.I.A.

This one is for the Millennials, with throwbacks to the golden days of indie rock galore. Down the bill are the acts responsible for some of the most danceable indie tunes of the new millennium, and as fun as the headliners are, the second half of the bill is perhaps the most exciting part. The Hives, Bloc Party and Peaches are just a few lower billed artists that will make the trip out to Pasadena for Just Like Heaven.

Just Like Heaven, in many ways, is going head to head with This Ain’t No Picnic, with the dates and span being the big differentiator. Just Like Heaven is just one Saturday, while This Ain’t No Picnic spans a while weekend. The latter also has a bit more genre variety and blends throwback acts in with newer actists. For indie rock fans, both are a great bet.

This Ain’t No Picnic – August 27 and 28 – GA: $299 + fees
Headliners: LCD Soundsystem, The Strokes, Beach House, Phoebe Bridgers

While Just Like Heaven and Cruel World are leaning fully into nostalgia, This Ain’t No Picnic is just dipping a toe in. LCD Soundsystem and The Strokes are in the same realm as Modest Mouse and Interpol, but have been touring a bit more continuously in the past few years. Combining these headliners with Phoebe Bridgers, Jorja Smith, Kaytranada and Isaiah Rashad is a fun mix that is going to truly bring fans of all ages.

The big difference here is that the two days will see the lineup split, and day to day schedules are yet to be released. In fact, at the moment you cannot even buy single-day tickets. Despite the diverse lineup, it is unlikely This Ain’t No Picnic will do something like Treasure Island Music Festival did back in the day and split up acts by genre over two days. Instead, you’ll likely see a mixed bill with less camping out in the front row for the whole day and more movement. In many ways, this one will be the most like a typical music festival.

Lower down, you have a wide range of acts all the way from The Ying Yang Twins and Tinashe to Godspeed You! Black Emporer.


Which Should You Pick?

Lineups aside, expect a fairly similar set up and experience at all three. Because the production is coming from Goldenvoice and the venue is the same, you are really picking based on dates, one or two days, and lineups. Our recommendation: give it a shot at Cruel World or Just Like Heaven in May, and if you had a good time, come back for another day or two in August at This Ain’t No Picnic.


Brian Benton

Brian Benton is a writer and photographer based in Los Angeles.