After much skepticism from the public since January, and a rocky start when winds forced a Day 1 cancellation, the When We Were Young Festival ended its debut in Las Vegas holding the hearts of many emo fans.
The festival attracted rampant criticism online upon its initial announcement, with social media users questioning how they could pull off such an ambitious lineup in a 12-hour day. It was quickly labeled as the Emo Fyre Fest, but went on to sell out the first date, prompting the addition of two more dates. Those sold out, too.
As a former Warped Tour attendee, I was a bit less cynical. However, it actually wasn’t until the night before Day 1 that I decided to pull the trigger and buy resale tickets on SeatGeek for the second weekend (use code LiveMusicDiary for $20 off!). I figured any kinks that needed working out would be fixed by then.
I was grateful to have made that decision when I got a push notification from the WWWY mobile app the morning of the 22nd announcing the first day had been cancelled.
High winds forced the cancellation, which was definitely justified. Las Vegas winds are destructive, and posed a very real risk to the crowd. While many fans were gutted, especially those who had traveled far to attend, they did receive refunds. Many of the bands also pulled together to organize last minute pop-ups shows. Some were free, like The All-American Rejects’ performance at Soul Belly BBQ Restaurant, and some were ticketed like Bring Me The Horizon’s performance at Pearl Theater.
Day 2 on October 23rd went on as planned, though, and feedback was generally positive.
October 29th finally arrived after a long week of waiting, and I was ready to rock. My husband and I had a long day ahead of us, with the first band on our schedule performing at 12:45 PM (Hawthorne Heights) and full intention of making it through My Chemical Romance’s set, which began at 10:40 PM.
How the Day Went
The entry lines were pretty rough. There were a few VIP and GA+ lines, an ADA line, and the rest were General Admission. There were no ropes or barriers, but people were pretty orderly and patient to be let in. It took about 40 minutes to reach the front and enter the festival, and we made it just in time for Hawthorne Heights.
After their set, we decided to check out the food booths. Tents and food trucks lined the festival with various offerings. I was told by a staff supervisor that some of the bars from the previous weekend were flipped to provide more food service. It definitely paid off, as the four times we ordered food or beverages, we didn’t wait more than 10 minutes from getting in line to being handed our order.
After our first food break, we headed over to the main stages and caught the last song in Mayday Parade’s set, “Jamie All Over”– the song everyone was looking forward to singing along to as it references Las Vegas.
The main stage set up consisted of two stages– Black and Pink– that sat side by side. This probably sparked the most conversation prior to the festival, as people were confused how they would avoid overlap between acts. Surprisingly, this festival ran like clockwork. Every band started and ended on time, to the minute. The bands on the Black and Pink stages would alternate so when one was performing on Black, the Pink stage was being set up for the next performance and vice versa. It worked extremely well and moved very smoothly throughout the day. We had several blocks in our schedule where the bands we wanted to see were back to back between these two stages and so we didn’t have to move.
One complaint from weekend one that was addressed by the 29th was how the VIP pit took up the entire area in front of the Pink Stage. However, the barriers were adjusted for weekend two, letting the GA pit crowd closer to the front and middle section, getting as close to 4-5 rows back from the Pink stage. I had no complaints.
Speaking of GA pit, it had a bit of a tricky set up that caused confusion for some.
There were two GA sections for the main stages. One was right in front of the stage, up against the VIP pit, and the other was behind a second barrier about 15 to 20 yards back. Many people were unaware that the front area had GA access through a labelled entrance. Off to the side, tucked between food tents and a Hydration Station, there was a corridor that led you around a permanent bathroom structure and spit you out in front of the stage. It was easy to miss, and wasn’t on the map.
If you knew about the entrance, getting into GA pit was effortless at the beginning of the day. However, security started limiting entry at about 4 PM when people began to camp out for the headliners. As people exited the pit, they’d let people in.
At first I thought this was all very cumbersome— why not just keep the entire GA section open instead of segmented? However, I realized once My Chemical Romance came on that it was incredibly helpful to only have 1/8 of festival-goers surging toward the stage instead of the entire crowd of 60,000.
The night ended in fireworks above the Black Stage after My Chem’s set. The festival literally went out with a bang.
The bands definitely got the memo that this was a nostalgia-themed fest and most played exactly what the fans wanted to hear. A few threw in one new song max, but most focused on the songs of their heydays that emo fans still hold dear.
Hawthorne Heights — “Niki FM” and “Ohio Is For Lovers” got the crowd going.
Boys Like Girls — I forgot how many bangers they had, and the lyrics came flooding back into my brain. They stopped “The Great Escape” after the first verse and chorus to tell everyone to put their phones away for an “authentic 2006 experience.” Everyone listened, surprisingly, and they started the song over.
3OH!3 — These guys have the same energy as when I saw them 12 years ago at Warped Tour. They brought the party vibe to the afternoon, gave everyone a second wind, and even got flashed.
AFI — Aside from a stellar set, they stopped performing to check in on the audience as well as call a medic for someone who had overheated. Because of this, their set was cut short (I’m telling you, they stuck to the schedule at this fest!) but their care was appreciated and applauded.
Jimmy Eat World— Absolute pros, legends, vets. “Work,” “23,” and “The Middle” were sung along to passionately.
Taking Back Sunday— Hear me out… yes, Adam’s voice is blown out. He does not sound great, per se. However, they’ve been on my concert bucket list since I was a pre-teen, because my mom always picked me up from Warped Tour before their set. So yes, I wailed right along with Adam to “MakeDamnSure,” “Liar,” and “Cute Without the E,” which he forgot the lyrics to.
@livemusicdiary No doubt @All-American Rejects should have been on the Main Stages at When We Were Young Festival. Their crowd was pouring out into the rest of the festival in all directions, and every song was a banger. #whenwewereyoung #whenwewereyoungfest #whenwewereyoungfestival #wwwyf #wwwyfest #wwwyfest2022 #allamericanrejects #theallamericanrejects #emosnotdead #itwasneveraphasemom ♬ original sound – livemusicdiary
The All-American Rejects— For some reason, they were designated to the Checker Stage, one of the smaller side stages, and absolutely should have been on one of the main stages. Their crowd spilled out into the festival in all directions. Dressed as Elvis, they played hit after hit. “Did you think we ran out of songs you all know? Well, you’re wrong!” Tyson called out toward the end of their set. Even their deep cuts were met with emotional sing-a-longs.
Paramore — An absolute dream come true for me, especially now that they sing Misery Business live again (minus a few lyrics) after omitting it from performances for several years. Hayley did a ton of crowd work and connection, talking about the music scene, how we’ve grown together, and how there’s still work to do re: inclusion. She brought a positive and energetic attitude to a crowd who had been fading fast after a long day.
My Chemical Romance — I struggle to find words to express how amazing it was to finally see them live. They played the radio hits “Helena,” “The Black Parade,” “I’m Not Okay,” and “Ghost of You,” along with b-sides like “Thank You for the Venom,” and “Cancer.” The only thing that was a bit jarring was that they didn’t talk to the crowd. Like, at all. No hellos, no thank yous, no goodbyes. This comes after last week when Gerard addressed the crowd as Utah. A slightly unsettling choice for someone who has waited 18 years to see them in person. But the performance was nothing short of exquisite, musically speaking.
Things WWWY Did Well
Timing — As mentioned, this festival ran like a ship. Every set started and ended on time so that you could reliably plan your day. We were confident we’d make every set we wanted to see, and we did.
Turf Space — The festival was largely covered in astroturf, which not only made walking all day easier on the feet, but it was also more comfortable to sit down when you wanted to rest. They had multiple shade canopies to escape the sun.
Merch Booths — After getting complaints about 3-hour merch lines during the first weekend, they opened an extra tent outside of the festival on both Friday and Saturday. A lot of people got their merch shopping done a day earlier and before doors opened, which lightened lines inside. We stood in line for merch after sundown when we had a break in our schedule. The sizing and styles were definitely picked over, but we still walked away with two lineup t-shirts.
Security — Our first impression of security presence happened across the street, parked at Sahara. There were metro cops doing sniper watch from the garage floor we were on, which made me feel super safe. Inside the actual festival, security presence was high in front of all barriers and within the crowd.
Hydration Stations — Having been to Coachella, I was expecting the free water stations to be too congested to actually use. However, they had a large bank of them at the front of the festival, and more placed between stages, so it was never a long wait to refill the reusable water bottle we brought.
Bathrooms — There were real bathrooms, with real stalls, that were kept pretty clean throughout the day. However, the lines were long. On the flip side, ample porta potties provided a quicker way to relief, but were tiny and most had flooded by mid-afternoon.
Exiting — At the end of the festival, all emergency exits were opened so that you could leave in all directions instead of bottlenecking the main entrance. This was extremely convenient as the closest emergency exit to us at the end of the night was just around the corner from our parking lot.
Things WWWY Can Improve On
Re-entry — Leaving and re-entering the festival was allowed, but GA ticket holders had to obtain a special re-entry wristband upon exiting (GA+ and VIP could use their normal ticket wristbands). At one point, we wanted to head back to the car to grab our jackets, but they had run out of re-entry wristbands and couldn’t locate more. We stood in line for about 15 minutes to leave.
Capacity — I feel like capacity was a bit high, especially in the late afternoon as some people showed up just to see the headliners. At one point right before sundown, I couldn’t get my bearings because there were too many people around me. I couldn’t identify landmarks to orient myself with the map, which was slightly panic-inducing. Luckily, my husband is a foot taller than me and was the designated navigator.
Stage Height — I’m short at 5’4″, though generally haven’t had issues at other music festivals or outdoor concerts due to the stage height making it easy to look over the crowd’s heads. For some reason, the stages at this festival seemed pretty low and didn’t have any platforms for the performers to step up onto. There were many times where I had to experience the performances through screens.
Even with the few growing pains of a new festival, this was overwhelmingly a positive experience for me. It brought back the same rush Warped Tour did all those years ago, except with back pain now. I had to switch into sensible shoes a few hours in, and I definitely didn’t recover as fast as I did in my teens, but it was everything I was hoping it would be.
When We Were Young 2023 was announced a few weeks ago, with only one date in place currently. It’s sold out, though there is a waitlist open, alluding to additional dates being added. Sign up for the waitlist on their website.