The Revival of Emo at When We Were Young Festival

back in 2005, saying you saw My Chemical Romance, Avril Lavigne, Paramore, and Jimmy Eat World all in one day was pretty common; however, to do the same in 2022 is as close to a fever dream as one might have. This year, multitudes of fans got to experience performances by these bands, along with several others, at this year’s When We Were Young Festival, which took place on Oct. 22, 23 and 29.

Details of the When We Were Young Festival were released with the official poster last January. The event presented by Live Nation seemed too good to be true and was immediately nicknamed “Emo-Fyre Fest.” People questioned the legitimacy of having a tangible opportunity to see 60 popular emo and pop-punk bands in 12 hours while out in Las Vegas, Nevada. At the time, the mishandling of the tragic event at Astroworld was fairly recent, which prompted some to avoid the Live Nation event altogether. It didn’t help that the bands listed as part of the lineup admitted that they weren’t aware they were playing the festival until they saw their band’s name on the flier.

Upon seeing all the backlash the festival was receiving, Bayside frontman Anthony Raneri tweeted, “Why is everyone acting like the largest promoter in the world and like 60 veteran bands are just winging this? Is this what scientists have felt like for the last two years?” After more bands began to confirm their attendance, fans eased up on the event, posting about their excitement, especially within the weeks leading up to the event.

Nevertheless, the festival had to cancel day one of its shows due to high winds. The crowd of people suspicious about the festival took to social media to post their doubts and discontentment about the festival’s continuation. Fans that only purchased tickets for day one were upset since many traveled far to attend.

In an interview with Variety, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus front man, Ronnie Winter, felt empowered to do something after he saw some fans crying at the Las Vegas festival grounds upon hearing of the festival’s cancellation. With that, Armor for Sleep, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Hawthorne Heights put together a last-minute free show at the nearby The Strat hotel. In similar fashion, Thursday, Anthony Green, Bayside, and Senses Fail joined forces to have a free show that same night at the Sand Dollar Downtown.

Day two of the event was off to a better start as fans were welcomed onto festival grounds on Sunday, Oct 23. In true 2000’s fashion, a mix of millennials, referred to as “elder-emos” and older Gen Z attendees walked-in wearing t-shirts with lyrics, checkered outfits, vans, and studded belts.

Mayday Parade kicked off the festival, which perfectly suited the occasion as the New Jersey based band played their 2007 hit ‘Jamie All Over.’ At that moment, the crowd of many visiting emos shouted the most relatable lyrics, “I had a dream last night / We drove out to see Las Vegas.” Boys Like Girls took the stage after and had the crowd dancing to their hits like “The Great Escape” and their new song, “The Outside.”

The crowd cheered as Pierce The Veil welcomed Kellin Quinn of Sleeping With Sirens to the stage as they belted out their 2012 banger, “King For The Day.” Emo rock band Taking Back Sunday surprised fans when they unexpectedly invited DJ Steve Aoki to play their new single “Just Us Two.” In another performance, All Time Low’s lead singer Alex Gaskarth and guitarist Jack Barakat took the stage with Avril Lavigne for an epic cover of Blink-182’s pop-punk anthem, “All The Small Things,” a song that united all the attendees despite their generation difference.

Some more highlights of the three-day festival included bands adding a special cover during their performance. Senses Fail finished their set with a metal medley starting with System of a Down’s “Chop Suey!” and wrapped up with a condensed version of the solo from “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. In addition, My Chemical Romance sported their well-known red/black suit and tie outfits from their Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge era as they rocked the stage and Paramore played their 2009 song “All I Wanted” for the very first time ever.

Considering the lineup of mainstream post-punk bands and success of the event, apart from day one’s cancellation, When We Were Young Festival certainly has high expectations to maintain. Green Day and Blink-182 were announced to co-headline the second year of the festival in 2023 with a lineup that includes Sum 41, Rise Against, Say Anything, Thrice, Saves the Day, and many more.