As soon as When We Were Young was announced in January, participants on social media dubbed it “emo fyre-fest”. To be fair, there were a myriad of reasons naysayers had their doubts: The festival would take place in the middle of the desert off the coast of Las Vegas, and the post-punk lineup stuffed with over 60 bands seemed impossible considering everything. should take place in just 12 hours.
Yet this past weekend, Saturday October 22, it seemed like the impossible was finally going to happen. But, sadly, the first day of the festival was canceled due to a severe wind advisory in Nevada, leaving potential attendees wondering whether or not When We Were Young was going to live up to its hype.
Thankfully, on Sunday October 23rd, as the doors finally open, it’s clear that the emo scene’s newest music festival will defy the worst of expectations, proving the impossible possible and making many naysayers wish they had stalled. tickets.
From the get-go, the festival sticks to its marketing with early emo favorites like Mayday Parade and Boys Like Girls giving fans the first dose of nostalgia of the day. Mayday Parade lead singer Derek Sanders makes sure to point out the lyrics “I had a dream last night / We went to see Las Vegas” from their 2007 hit “Jamie All Over” to the delight of the crowd.
Later on the festival’s pink stage, Boys Like Girls lead singer Martin Johnson wants fans to get an authentic 2006 experience when he awkwardly stops playing “The Great Escape” halfway through, asking the audience to stop recording the performance and put their phones away.
Some of the genre-focused music festival’s best moments come through the inevitable live collaborations, and Sunday’s acts deliver. Kellin Quinn of Sleeping with Sirens joins Pierce The Veil to sing “King For The Day”. As the sun goes down, Taking Back Sunday brings in unlikely guest DJ Steve Aoki to perform his new single “Just Us Two” – a confusing choice for many audience members unaware of the collaboration. The best surprise moment, however, comes from All Time Low vocalist Alex Gaskarth and lead guitarist Jack Barakat joining Avril Lavigne to cover Blink-182’s pop-punk classic “All The Small Things” as “emos older” with their younger counterparts. in the crowd collectively losing their heads.
Lavigne delivers fan-favorites “Girlfriend” and “My Happy Ending” with a burst of wild energy, but it’s clear she’s been dealing with sound issues that plague most artists’ sets throughout. the day. But sound issues can’t resist the pop-punk princess, belting out the ballad, ‘Bite Me’ – a moment that also sees her bring out fiancee and fellow musician Mod Sun – before transporting audiences to 2002 with a acoustic piece on his first album “I’m with You”.
As the night wears on and a desert chill grips fans, it’s clear that festival-goers in the pit are starting to feel the effects of the long day. But everything changes when Bring Me The Horizon takes to the black stage, electrifying the weary crowd.
Opening with ‘Can You Feel My Heart’, singer Oli Sykes screams at the top of his voice and annoys a crowd of thousands to jump, mosh, kick and scream. Sykes even taunts the crowd by shouting, “Now if you don’t jump, you’re a fucking asshole!” Midway through their set, the entire crowd screams the lyrics to “Shadow Moses” at Bring Me The Horizon as flames from the stage frame the head-banging band, just before the intense desire for “Drown” begins. increases the notch. energy levels at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds.
The most exciting acts of the night are, unsurprisingly, the most anticipated headliners: Paramore and My Chemical Romance, two bands that paved the way for and inspired most bands on the lineup.
Paramore shocks the packed crowd, opening with the live debut of “All I Wanted” – a song they don’t usually play live due to the pressure it puts on singer Hayley Williams. Sure, Williams nails it and hits every high note with expert precision. Another notable addition to Paramore’s setlist is arguably one of the best in their discography: “Last Hope,” a track that sounds cinematic against the backdrop of Las Vegas lights.
True to form, Williams takes her precious time on stage, reflecting on what everyone is celebrating at When We Were Young. “Tonight we celebrate emo,” Williams begins before delving into the scene’s history. “…But we got lost along the way, and in the early 2000s when Paramore came on the scene…the stage wasn’t always a safe place if you were different.” The formidable singer goes on to explain how emo music has often been a space for white cis men. As Paramore builds on its groundbreaking “Misery Business” success, Williams promises to always provide a safe space for “young women, people of color and the queer community.”
Finally, the founding fathers of the emo scene, My Chemical Romance, take the stage. In a hilarious subversion and nod to the festival’s name, singer Gerard Way not only dresses in his classic early 2000s black suit and red tie, but also wears aging makeup and prosthetics. The group gives a whole new meaning to “older emo”, almost as if to remind fans “we’re not young anymore, and neither are you”.
Former emo status aside, MCR still shows the crowd of 60,000 fans that they can breathe new life into old favorites. “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” and “Helena” take on a new lease of life with the band still leaning into the theatrical presence they’re known for. The band performs a setlist that encompasses most of their varied discography, but they notably (thankfully) play no new songs. This calculated feat continues until the band closes out the night with “Vampire Money,” leaving revelers in a hazy glow of nostalgia, joy, and fireworks that fill the Vegas skies on the final note.
It takes a lot to live up to the hype and achieve what many thought was impossible, but as fans head back to the desert in their checkered pickup trucks with wide smiles on their faces, it’s safe to say that the festival emo was not just a party for those desiring nostalgia but positive proof of a more inclusive post-punk future.