The When We Were Young festival flyer. Photo: When we were young
Last Friday was a good day for people in their late twenties and early thirties who once wore Vans checkerboard skinny jeans. It was the day we were young Festival — an emo wet dream slated for October 22 in Las Vegas — was advertised as a poster that looked like a 15-year-old’s backpack from 2007.
Over 60 issues – including My Chemical Romance, ParamoreAvril Lavigne – on three stages in one day in a stadium – it was every distorted tower combined on steroids (plus, randomly, Wolf Alice). For some millennial emos and pop-punk fans, it just seemed too good to be true.
“So we all think the When We Were Young festival is a scam, right?” wrote a Twitter user. “[It] looks like a fake graphic someone made to fish for engagement,” posted another. Many have compared it to fire festival2017’s notorious festival disaster – although you could argue that expensive hotel packages and having to make tough choices in on-set clashes aren’t exactly the same as eating a lettuce leaf in a collapsing tent in the Bahamas.
VICE contacted the organizers of Live Nation, who informed us that yes, the event was 100% real. The star-studded line-up “wasn’t easy to put together, but it was worth it,” a spokesperson said. “Great artists take time and care to work with them. Fortunately, we have a lot of history with these artists and their teams and they trusted our vision on this.
In fact, the concert organizers even anticipated people’s skepticism. “We expected people to think that was wrong because of the enormity of talent on the bill and the unrelenting excitement we had to put together this lineup.”
The idea for the festival “was born out of a long history of working with these amazing bands,” they continued. “The stars originally lined up so we got two of the most iconic bands of the early 2000s…My Chemical Romance and Paramore, play together for a night in Vegas.”
“From there, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring together a massive lineup on one of the most passionate stages in music.”
The initial festival date sold out within hours and a second and third date were soon added with roughly the exact same line-up. The #whenwewereyoungfest tag now has 27.1 million views on TikTok. And yet, the questions kept coming.
Some artists, like Royal and The Serpent, said they didn’t even realize they had been booked to perform. When asked to comment on this, Live Nation told VICE, “We are not aware of this and no one has reached out to us to say.”
Other fans questioned the logistics of the event. “I’ve been to my fair share of festivals and it seems like so many things can go wrong with that,” TikTok user @thebatmer said in a viral clip that has over 340,000 views. She also noted that tickets, which start at $299 each, including $499 for tickets and hotel packages, are non-refundable.
“It’s actually the standard language that most, if not all, festival ticketing companies use,” Live Nation said. “Think this was picked up more than usual given the number of eyeballs on this one, but your standard festival ticket is usually non-refundable. Of course, there are also the standard cases where refunds will absolutely be granted.
For the record, this checks out – tickets for this year’s Coachella are non refundablein the same way Electric Daisy Carnivalthe EDM festival which was also held in Las Vegas.
But, with over 60 bands playing in the same space in 12 hours, the bigger issue is safety. After the fatal crush of the crowd at Astromonde – and with Live Nation now under investigation for its part in the disaster – questions of crowd control and well-being were top of mind for many people, with many linking the two events together.
A dubious fan even tweeted: “[When We Were Young is] run by the same company that was responsible for AstroWorld and you realize they’re just going after the pop punk scene to pay off their legal costs.
Festivals often have 50-60 acts in a single day, and Live Nation has been pushed back by criticism that theirs presented a potentially dangerous setup. “Events of this scale are not just organised, they go through an immense amount of preparation and planning, in collaboration with local authorities and communities. It’s natural for people to have questions, but we want to assure everyone that we have a very solid plan in place to ensure the safety of everyone involved during the three days of the festival.
The spokesperson added, “In a typical year, Live Nation promotes over 100 festivals around the world as well as thousands of concerts, and security is a central part of any large event. When We Were Young Fest has an incredibly experienced and knowledgeable team, most of whom have worked in the industry for decades, and we also have amazing partners and great support from the Las Vegas Festival Grounds team. We look forward to working closely with the Las Vegas Clark County Fire Department, Police and Department of Buildings to help make the safety of fans, performers and staff our top priority.
The company has also dismissed claims that it’s all an attempt to profit now that millennial emos have reached an age where their teenage years can be sold to them. “The timing was organic. The culture has changed and the bands’ music has touched millions of people more than ever. The influence of these artists has impacted fashion, art, music, social media and more and we wanted to celebrate their significance.
So is the When We Were Young festival a scam? No – at least not according to its organizers. It is thanks to the aging of Paramore and My Chemical Romance Fans to decide if this is a shameless play on their nostalgia (I mean, it’s called “When We Were Young”, which is probably a bit of a stretch), a money grab or a dream wet emo. The answer is probably something between the three.
As Live Nation said, “We were very excited and honored to be a part of this and to be on the ride. We owe the excitement and the success to the artists and the fans. We’re just here to facilitate the biggest show possible.