This year’s edition of Just Like Heaven Festival took place on Saturday, May 13 as it returned to the Brookside at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. An enchanting spectacle, festival-goers were captivated by electrifying decorations, immersive atmosphere, and a super-stacked line up that curated the best of the indie days of the early aughts. From the moment attendees entered the festival grounds, they were greeted by an of array of stunning visuals, Including gorgeous streamers and vibrant art installations that adorned the pathways and created a whimsical ambiance.
Two large stages adorned opposite ends of the festival, providing a dynamic and optimal experience that allowed fans to seamlessly transition between performances. From classic indie sleaze to all out rave ensembles, casual band tees to inflatable costumes, the fashion at Just Like Heaven represented a colorful canvas of self-expression. Lining the festival walls were an assortment of specialty food vendors like Cena Vegan, ManEatingPlant and Soy Sauce Bento that gave festival go-ers a quick reprieve when it came time to replenish energy for the day.
Whether the attendees were capturing Instagram-worthy moments, cooling off with a milk tea, or dancing in the magical setting, Just Like Heaven provided a captivating & unforgettable experience to kick off the summer season right.
Showcasing a lineup of extraordinary artists, each set delivered memorable performances that left a lasting impression on the that made the sunburns under the SoCal sun worthwhile.
Heading in, we were lucky enough to catch the last few minutes of returning Swedish Indie-rockers The Hives, who are best known for their electrifying live performances and high-energy garage rock music. On top of their stylish attire, their sets are always a visual spectacle fueled by dynamic audience engagement, infectious enthusiasm, and a tight musical performance.
Across the festival grounds, an artist with a completely different vibe slotted next. Although her set was on the shorter side, Azealia Banks released a burst of nostalgia as she treated the audience to select songs, including her hit track “212” – which immediately threw everyone back to the high school days with its infectious energy and unabashed attitude. (It was the one track the crowd really, really needed to hear.)
Back at the main stage, The Bravery were next to play to an audience with high anticipation to see the band’s first performance in over a decade. The Bravery impressed with their undeniable talent, flawlessly recreating each song to sound just as vibrant and dynamic as the radio hits that captivated their fanbase years ago. Making sure to leave the audience with a special treat, they used some of their set time to make a special announcement of their return and new album out in the upcoming months.
Adding to the energy of undeniable anticipation, the long-awaited reunion of The Walkmen was a standout moment for the festival, as they took the stage with an exhilarating performance that fulfilled the cravings of devoted fans, playing hits like “Heaven” and “The Rat.”
Peaches electrified the atmosphere with her inimitable and activist-driven performance, inspiring unity and conformity rejection through her powerful stage presence. Gracing the crowd with dancing vulvas and a wonderful bird-like outfit, the entire set fascinated an entranced crowd.
Future Islands moved the audience to tears with their emotionally charged show. Songs like “For Sure” and “Season(Waiting on you),” showcased the raw power and talent of lead singer Samuel T. Herring’s vocals, and added depth and an intimate feel to a festival setting.
Empire of the Sun enchanted with their theatrical presence and infectious energy, transporting the audience to an otherworldly realm of music.s they played hits like “Walking on a Dream,” and “We are the People,” the energy created by the communal singing felt like the whole festival was present and in unison during the band’s allotted time slot.
M83’s set mesmerized the crowd with their branded ethereal sounds and captivating vocals. A highlight during their iconic performance came with the start of massive hit “Midnight City,” where you could see attendees sprinting across the golf course and screeching with excitement to catch a moment of the song live. It held a timeless allure, and left the remainder of the night suspended in a dreamlike ambience.
MGMT gave the nostalgia seekers exactly what they needed; Oracular Spectacular in its entirety. The band had something truly spectacular planned out for every song, starting with interpretive dancers and visuals of a children’s choir. Every second of the set was carefully synchronized, making it a once in a lifetime performance that made our teenage hearts swell.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, led by the mesmerizing Karen O, closed the festival on a high note. Celebrating 20 years of “Fever to Tell,” the performance carried an extra special place in fan’s hearts. Karen O’s stage presence was nothing short of awe inspiring, as she effortlessly switched between deep growls and infectious giggles just seconds apart. Captivating the audience with her boundless energy and raw charisma, there seemed to be no better way to end the time-travel journey. Standing in front of the massive crowd and going back as far as the eye could see, witnessing everyone jump in sync for the electrifying “Heads Will Roll” was an unbelievable sight. There is something so special in hearing fans and artists come together to sing the lyrics that helped raise a generation. A moment of collective euphoria that perfectly encapsulated the spirit of the Just Like Heaven Festival.
The festival offered a musical journey that spanned genres and eras, speaking to its fairly new, but compelling impact. The crowd, united by their shared love for music, danced and sang along with fervor, creating an atmosphere of camaraderie and joy.
Just Like Heaven Festival hasn’t failed us yet in bringing us back to our 2000’s indie rock roots, taking us to a time when the music so many hold dear first hit the radio airwaves. The festival provided a beautiful celebration of our musical journey, allowing attendees to create new memories to treasure alongside the old ones. We cannot wait to see where this festival takes us next year!
PHOTOS + WORDS // LILLY DURAN