Just Like Heaven drops the perfect time capsule on Pasadena

Just Like Heaven 2022 happened on Saturday in Pasadena, Brookside at the Rose Bowl and it was a nostalgia-filled romp dedicated to the early 2000s. These were the days when we were all trying to keep track of the “The” bands, figure how to send a text message and we were hailing cabs from a nightclub or concert rather than directly from an app. Two stages, appropriately named Orion Stage and Stardust Stage were the main attraction, with the former catering to primarily indie-rock bands while the latter stuck to more danceable pop acts.

Pasadena was packed on the overcast day, which had the sun peeking out on a few occasions, including Bloc Party’s set. There were fans donning multi-colored wigs, adopting the neon Just Like Heaven brand, as well as others with angel wings, sequins and more. Numerous food trucks and activations were on site and there was even a DJ and a separate dance floor for revelers who wanted to bust moves in between sets. But mostly people were there for the stage acts, with albums played in full by Wolf Parade and Peaches and many talents who made the experience a sort of comeback, like Santigold, who mentioned it was her first show (and festival) since Covid.

Over at the Orion Stage, indie-rock was on fire, with headlining slot going to New York’s Interpol, who played hits like 2005’s “Evil”, “The Heinrich Maneuver”, and “All The Rage Back Home” and included two new 2022 songs including “Fables” and “Toni”. The Pacific Northwest’s Modest Mouse performed their biggie “Float On” as well as “Dashboard” and 2021’s “We Are Between”. Albuquerque’s The Shins‘ timeless ballad “New Slang” was part of their set, as was “Simple Song” and “Sleeping Lessons” and they closed out with a cover of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ “American Girl”. London’s Bloc Party played a lively set including “Banquet”, “Helicopter” and “Day Drinker”, with lead singer Kele Okereke playing an entirely different DJ set at the other stage earlier in the day.

Scottish band Franz Ferdinand got groovy on “No You Girls” and included “Do You Want To”, “Ulysses” and they strummed an extra long intro for their ubiquitous smash “Take Me Out”, while hypnotic, geometric black and white graphics flashed behind the band. Swedish rockers The Hives wore dapper black and white outfits with lightning bolts and musical notes, playing “Come On!”, “Tick Tick Boom” and their electrifying guitar smash hit “Hate To Say I Told You So”. Lead singer Per “Pelle” Almqvist asked the crowd, “Do we have your full, undivided attention, ladies and gentlemen? Welcome to the greatest festival of 2005. I don’t remember it being this good, but it is now”. Canadian band Wolf Parade played their debut album Apologies to the Queen Mary in its entirety, in chronological order including “I’ll Believe In Anything”, “Modern World” and “Shine A Light”.

Canada’s electroclash princess Peaches was over-the-top as usual with barely-there, shock value outfits (there was a hat in the shape of genitalia, among other things). Her performance art included singing alongside dancers to her 2000 album The Teaches of Peaches with songs like “Set It Off”, “Lovertits” and “Rock Show”, mentioning her 20th anniversary, which would actually be the year virtually no shows were performed live. Danish post-punk garage band The Raveonettes brought their moody vibe with “Beat City”, “Attack of the Ghost Riders” and “Love in a Trash Can” with vocalist Sharin Foo in a platinum bob and sunglasses and guitarist/singer Sune Rose Wagner wearing a punk t-shirt.

Over at the Stardust Stage, British rapper and singer M.I.A. took the headliner slot, playing numerous hits as well as a new song with a children’s choir. Lights blazed for “Bad Girls” and the punky “Born Free” was equally lively. The world sounds of “BirdFlu” were particularly energetic in a live setting with M.I.A. joined by two male dancers, all three wearing in white. The dance party took over by the time “Bucky Done Gun” was played and it only continued with “Pull Up The People”, “Galang” and “10 Dollar”. “Jimmy” sounded more than ever like it was plucked from an ABBA album. M.I.A. was full swagger and all artistry for the entire set, at one point saying, “To everyone here tonight, there’s nothing but love”. She performed “Borders” with a children’s choir, and concluded with new song “Marigold”, with the lyrics, “times are difficult, the world’s in trouble”. Between these two with the choir, she of course played her globally-adored “Paper Planes”, with M.I.A. dancing with angel wings on her head and the dancers getting into it.

Montreal electro-funk duo Chromeo packed their set with hits from 2004’s bass-heavy “Needy Girl” to 2017’s fun and funky “Juice”. P-Thugg said at one point in his robotic voice, “What’s up California? What’s up Just Like Heaven?” The fans laughed and he asked, “California, can I hear you scream?”, in his warped robotic voice. “Night by Night” was a smash live and the keyboards were amazing on “Over Your Shoulder”, with both guys moving back and forth with their guitars at the song’s end. “Old 45’s” was a welcome jolt of 80s synth and the sound was massive for “Fancy Footwork”. “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” was sadly cut short likely due to the set time restrictions.

Philadelphia reggae fusion talent Santigold offered one of the best sets at the one-day fest and it was clear there was a lot of artistry and preparation that went into it. Santigold word a white robe and looked like a president from another era, joined by two female dancers who didn’t break character for the entire set (and let’s call them space bridesmaids). She covered Major Lazer’s “Hold the Line” and then played her 2007 breakthrough, “L.E.S. Artistes”. “This is our first festival, damn near first show since Covid”, shouted Santigold to her fans. “I don’t even know how to open a water bottle now”. The reggae flavor was in full effect on “Shove It” and the tripped out vocals were a blast with excellent falsetto on the hip-hop-heavy “Creator”. Santi’s three adorable kids took the stage to say hello and the reggae-leaning “Chasing Shadows” impressed, as did her electronic rock banger “Disparate Youth”, with bodies gyrating to the addicting, erratic guitars. Brand new single “High Priestess” had elements of gospel and funk and Santigold was dancing with her sidekicks and having the best time back up there.

Melbourne, Australia synth-pop band Cut Copy launched with the groove of the energetic, danceable “Standing In The Middle Of The Field” followed by the magic of “Cold Water”. New wave-y “Out There On Ice” got the fans cheering and dancing with their hands up while “Lights & Music” was another solid live track. “Need You Now” was yet another fantastic party anthem, with incredible lights and cool effects. With all four band members singing throughout, their vocals were slick and so was all of the instrumentation, including on the final song, 2007 release “Hearts on Fire”, transforming the park (or golf course, rather) into a club. “Shout out to the guy in the Boston Celtics jersey in the middle of LA”, said lead singer Dan Whitford at the conclusion of Cut Copy’s set.

Sacramento’s disco-rock band !!! (Chk Chk Chk) was a non-stop party, with lead singer Nic Offer dancing all over the place, playing some hits and a new song we’ll call “Just A Little Bit”. San Francisco dream-pop act Geographer played a number of new songs from his new Down and Out in the Garden of Earthly Delights and 2018 track “Get There Soon” with live violin was quite beautiful. Islands, The Cribs, Them Jeans and Cosmic Kids also took the stage at Just Like Heaven. The 2019 Just Like Heaven took place at Queen Mary Park in Long Beach, with numerous acts including Phoenix, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT, Beach House, Passion Pit, Grizzly Bear, The Rapture, Miike Snow and more.

Words by Michael Menachem
Images by Tim Aarons