Review By: Jordan Nathanson


      Grab your skinny jeans, put on your black eyeliner and make your way back to the early 2000s with the first weekend of the When We Were Young Festival in Las Vegas, Navada. Thousands of millennials traveled from all over the world just to hear the “emo” bands of their childhood and teenage years. As this line up dropped, a lot of us were skeptical as most of these bands have not made music in over 10 years. As the time approached for all of us to start traveling to Las Vegas, you can feel the excitement radiating from social media from a group created for those attending the festival.

The time came to board a plane and whisk away in to an exciting weekend. The Las Vegas strip was full of those ready for a weekend of remembering what it was like to see their favorite bands live on both Saturday, October 22ndand Sunday, October 23rd. As we got ready to start the weekend on Saturday, Mother Nature had different plans for the day. The wind became dangerous with 60mph gusts and the show was canceled. Hearts were broken as people were turned away or finding out through emails and social media. The strip became littered with broken hearts as everyone who was supposed to go that day tried to find something to do and drink their sorrows away. As they wondered, some of the bands, including Hawthorne Heights, The All-American Rejects, Bring Me The Horizon, The Wonder Years and more were hard at work trying to put together smaller shows inside other venues in Vegas. I have never seen bands so fast book venues and have shows ready with in hours before that day.

The wind subsided, the temperature dropped into the 50s and Sunday was the perfect day to resume the festivities. The line alone to enter the festival grounds wrapped multiple times around but moved quickly. As everyone passed the security check, they hit the ground running…literally. People ran to the merch tents, the stages, the bars and even the bathrooms. Just like back in the Warped Tour days, there were five different stages with many different bands playing each of them. As someone who has gone to Warped Tour for years, it gave a nostalgic feeling as you watched one band and ran to the next stage as the band was wrapping up their set. The bands that played pour their hearts out on the stages and left it open for us to feel their love. The crowds sang their hearts out and kept each other safe as mosh pit after mosh pit broke out in the crowds. As mentioned before, most of these bands have not made music or toured I at least 10 years. Boys Like Girls last album Crazy World was released in 2012 and now, 10 years later, they are playing “The Great Escape” and “Love Drunk” for us to sing back to them. In fact, during “The Great Escape”, lead singer Martin Johnson stopped right before the next chorus and had everyone put their phones down and not record as if we were back in the early 2000s.

While everyone in attendance had to plan their day according to the bands set times, it was the Black and Pink stages that caught everyone’s attention. With a secret pit entrance for general admission (GA) on one side (in front of the Black Stage) and the VIP on the other side (in front of the Pink Stage), the rotating stages hosted the more nostalgic bands of the early 2000s such as Boys Like Girls, Mayday Parade and even the highly anticipated Avril Lavigne, Paramore and My Chemical Romance. The GA pit filled for Pierce the Veil and closed the pit as the crowd grew. During their set they brought out lead singer of A Day to Remember, Jeremy McKinnon, to perform “Caraphernelia” and lead singer of Sleeping with Sirens, Kellin Quinn, to perform “King For A Day” with them. This was the moment that everyone realized they are living their dreams of seeing their favorite collabs performed live. During Taking Back Sundays set, DJ Steve Aoki, came out and performed their collab “Just The Two Of Us”. Avril Lavigne surprised everyone with lead singer, Alex Gaskarth and lead guitarist, Jack Barakat coming to join her on stage to cover the hit classic “All The Small Things” by Blink – 182. The night ended with a spectacular performance by Paramore and My Chemical Romance. Paramore’s lead singer Hayley Willliams gave her heart and soul to us in every song she sang. Williams also gave us a lovely speech about the history of the “emo” genre and reminding us that we have created a safe place for everyone to enjoy music and we as a community continue to make is safe for everyone to be themselves. My Chemical Romance gave us a once in a lifetime performance. They wore the outfits they used for a photoshoot back when Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (released in 2001). Lead singer Gerard Way, lead guitarist Ray Toro and guitarist Frank Iero wore prosthetics to make the look like old men while bass player, Mikey Way, was covered in blood. They’re set list consisted of songs primarily from their first three albums with their encore songs being “Vampires Will Never Hurt You” and “Vampire Money”.

The weekend started rocky but turned out to be the greatest weekend in emo history. Something this monumental is going to be talked about for years to come. Next years When We Were Young Festival has all been announced with Green Day, Blink – 182, Sum – 41 and so many more. While tickets are already sold out for next year, you can join the waitlist and snag tickets to next years When We Were Young Festival.


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