November 20, 2023

DARKER WAVES FEST 2023 – A Transcendent Journey Through Time & Sound

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Powerful '80s-New Wave-Goth chemical mixture!

On a crisp Saturday in Huntington Beach, CA, the sands echoed with the vibrant beats and haunting melodies of the first edition of Darker Waves Fest 2023. This musical extravaganza, featuring an extraordinary lineup that read like a who’s who of the ‘80s, New Wave and Goth royalty, left an indelible mark on the hearts of the diverse crowd that gathered to celebrate the magic of music.

The festival had 3 stages (Darker, Waves and Tiki) that distributed 33 incredible bands, 21 of which we were able to photograph, that started right before noon with a considerable amount of people that got there super early to see this 1-day fantastic festival.

Of course, an event like this couldn’t be ignored and The Heart Sounds team flew to California to cover the festival to bring you photos and tell you a little bit of what we experienced.

Darker Waves Fest - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza

Goth, Post-Punk and Synth-Pop

We arrived early to the festival to get our media credentials and get familiar with the stages’ location and plan our day, which we knew in advance it was going to be intense from running from one stage to another, but, super excited at the same time of the bands we were about to see. Some of which we had never seen before and others were just incredible legends you will never going to get tired of seeing.

Our day started with Austin’s post-punk band Urban Heat who performed some of their classic hits such as “Trust”, “Like This”, and a cover from Q Lazzarus “Goodbye Horses” that had everyone singing. From there we ran to see Glass Spells, a duo formed by Tania Costello and Anthony Ramirez and joined on drums by Michael Buehl who delivered an incredible show full of synth-pop with a singer who never stops dancing and moving around on stage. Twin Tribes was next on our list. The band from Brownsville, Texas brought his Dark Synth/Post Punk style to the thousands of fans who gathered at the Waves stage to see them live. Following the same style we continued with Mareux, who included in their list some of their hits such as “Summertime”, “Killer” and The Cure’s cover “The Perfect Girl”. And to finish our selection of goth/post-punk bands we went to see the duo Drab Majesty with Deb DeMure and Mona D.

Urban Heat - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Urban Heat - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Glass Spells - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Glass Spells - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Glass Spells - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Twin Tribes - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Twin Tribes - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Mareux - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Mareux - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Drab Majesty - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Drab Majesty - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza

Rock, Pop, Ska and New Wave

English band Blossoms, a rising star in the indie-pop scene, followed suit with a performance that showcased their undeniable talent. The juxtaposition of their modern indie sensibilities against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean created a sonic landscape that resonated with both nostalgia and contemporary flair. You need to check them out.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, The English Beat took the stage, kicking off the festival with infectious ska rhythms that set the tone for the eclectic journey ahead. Their vibrant performance was the ideal overture, a sonic invitation that drew the audience into the rich tapestry of sounds spanning decades.

The Cardigans, known for their ’90s hits like “Lovefool,” and “My Favourite Game” transported the crowd to an era of dreamy pop melodies. Nina Persson’s enchanting vocals paired with the band’s timeless sound proved that some things only get better with time. The audience, a mix of seasoned fans and new admirers, swayed in unison, immersed in the enchanting spell woven by the Swedish quintet. As the night descended, the stage was graced by the legends of synth-pop, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, better known as OMD. The iconic hits “Enola Gay” and “If You Leave” echoed through the sea breeze, carrying the audience into a realm where synthesizers and nostalgia danced hand in hand. OMD’s performance was a testament to the enduring allure of their music and its ability to resonate across generations. DEVO electrified Darker Waves Fest with a performance that epitomized their avant-garde spirit. The pioneers of new wave and quirky visuals delivered a high-energy set, blending classics like “Whip It” with their distinctive stage presence. 

Blossoms - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Blossoms - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Blossoms - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Death In Vegas - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
The English Beat - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
The English Beat - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
X - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
X - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
OMD - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
OMD - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Violent Femmes - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Violent Femmes - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Violent Femmes - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
The Cardigans - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
The Cardigans - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Devo - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Devo - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Devo - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Devo - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza

The legends tacking the stage!

As the festival grounds transformed into a sea of colorful lights, Soft Cell took the stage, immediately evoking cheers from the audience. The duo’s synth-driven classics, including the timeless “Tainted Love,” transcended the boundaries of time, proving that their influence still reverberates through the veins of contemporary music. The atmospheric shift continued with Crosses, with Deftones singer Chino Moreno and Far guitarist Shaun Lopez whose dark and brooding sound added a touch of mystery to the night. Their set, filled with pulsating beats and haunting lyrics, set the stage for a captivating sonic journey that would only intensify as the evening progressed.

Echo & the Bunnymen’s performance had a special surprise right before their act. The legendary Robby Krieger from The Doors performed “Roadhouse Blues”. Echo & The Bunnymen was a sonic journey through post-punk greatness. Their ethereal soundscapes and Ian McCulloch’s haunting vocals created an atmosphere of nostalgia and transcendence.

Soft Cell - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Soft Cell - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Soft Cell - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Crosses - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Crosses - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
She Wants Revenge - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Robby Krieger of The Doors - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Echo & The Bunnymen - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Echo & The Bunnymen - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza

The Human League & The B-52s

As the festival was reaching its zenith, The Human League, another pillar of the ’80s synth-pop scene, was next on stage accompanied by a spectacle of lights and sound. Hits like “Don’t You Want Me” and “Human” had the audience dancing and singing along, a collective celebration of the enduring legacy of the new wave era. Phil Oakey’s distinctive vocals, coupled with the band’s electronic beats, created an ’80s flashback. They had the crowd immersed in a danceable nostalgia, making their set a standout moment at the festival.

The B-52s brought a cosmic party to Darker Waves Fest, infusing the seaside venue with their signature new wave brilliance. With infectious energy, the band delivered hits like “Roam”, “Love Shack,” and at the end “Rock Lobster” creating a vibrant atmosphere. The B-52s’ performance was a joyous celebration of quirky fun and timeless tunes.

The Human League - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
The Human League - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
The Human League - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
The Human League - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
The B-52s - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
The B-52s - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
The B-52s - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza

NEW ORDER & TEARS FOR FEARS

Following the emotional crescendo of The Human League, New Order took the stage, bathed in a mesmerizing light show. From the pulsating beats of “Blue Monday” to the euphoria of “Bizarre Love Triangle,” the band’s performance was a sonic odyssey through their unparalleled career. The seamless fusion of electronic and rock elements, coupled with Bernard Sumner’s ethereal vocals, left the crowd in awe. New Order’s ability to effortlessly blend innovation with familiarity was a testament to their enduring influence on the music landscape.

And then, the moment everyone had been waiting for arrived. Tears For Fears, the architects of anthems that defined a generation, graced the stage with an aura of anticipation. The opening chords of “Shout” filled the air, and the crowd erupted in cheers. Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith’s commanding presence, coupled with their soul-stirring lyrics, created an atmosphere that bordered on spirituality. Hits like “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Mad World” served as a collective reminder of the power of music to connect us through shared memories and emotions.

New Order - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
New Order - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
New Order - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Tears For Fears - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Tears For Fears - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Tears For Fears - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza
Tears For Fears - Photo: Nacho DelaGarza

In retrospect, Darker Waves Fest 2023 was not just a music festival; it was a pilgrimage for music enthusiasts, a journey through time and sound that spanned decades and genres. Each artist, from the emerging talents to the seasoned icons, contributed to a collective experience that transcended the confines of a single night. The festival served as a poignant reminder that, in the realm of music, the waves may be dark, but they are also timeless and eternally captivating.

Until next year!

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