The Highs and (All Time) Lows of the First When We Were Young Festival

The first When We Were Young festival has come to an end. The pop-punk event, which included performances by My Chemical Romance, Paramore, Avril Lavigne, Taking Back Sunday and many more, started out on a rocky foot as they were forced to cancel day one due to high winds.

Luckily, Sunday’s show was able to go on without a hitch for 60,000 attendees, and Variety was there to witness it all. Below, we’re breaking down all the highs and lows of the show — including top performances and what the festival can do better next year.

High: Fans Come First

Almost immediately after the festival announced they had to cancel its first day, numerous bands and their teams got to work to set up free (or cheap) shows around Las Vegas for fans who were stuck in town. Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Hawthorne Heights, Armor for Sleep, The All American Rejects, Anthony Green, Senses Fail, Thursday and Bayside all played free shows on Friday, while Bring Me the Horizon, Knocked Loose, Landon Barker, The Wonder Years, La Dispute, Mom Jeans and Sweet Pill sold tickets for last-minute performances around town.

High: Raising Awareness

One of the first bands to take the stage on Sunday was Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, who ended their set with their hit song “Face Down.” After the song, which is about domestic violence, singer Ronnie Winter shared free resources for those experiencing abuse, directing them to DomesticShelters.org.

High: Paramore Opens Strong

When We Were Young marked Paramore’s first festival performance in four years, and singer Hayley Williams made sure it was worth the wait. The band opened with 2009’s “All I Wanted,” a song they’d never performed live before. Williams also gave a powerful speech midway through the show, telling the crowd, “When Paramore came onto the scene, roughly around 2005, the scene was not always a safe place to be if you were different — if you were a young woman, if you were a person of color, if you were queer — and that’s really fucked up if you think about it. I’ve had my fill of letting older people — especially older men — tell me what punk rock is and tell me what punk rock is not. Just today, there was a crusty old fuck on the internet saying that punk was supposed to be anti-establishment. Well it is. And actually, I can think of nothing more anti-establishment than young women, than people of color and the queer community.”

High: Avril Brings a Surprise

Not only did Avril Lavigne play all her hits, she also was joined by All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth and Jack Barakat for a cover of Blink-182‘s “All The Small Things.” Blink is scheduled to headline the 2023 When We Were Young festival.

High: Boys Like Girls Go Back in Time

After playing their set, which included “Hero/Heroine,” “Love Drunk” and “Two Is Better Than One,” Boys Like Girls began their final song, “The Great Escape,” and stopped about eight seconds in. They then asked the crowd to put their phones away for the next three minutes and 28 seconds to perform it as they did in 2006. “When we were young, we didn’t have this shit,” singer Martin Johnson said. “This is how it should be done. I hope you got your TikToks already!”

Low: Sound Issues

With any first-time festival, hiccups are likely. However, when Dashboard Confessional performed on the Pink Stage — one of the main stages — the audio completely went out. In fact, for the first two minutes, Chris Carrabba and the band performed seemingly without realizing that no one could hear them. After they found out — likely noticing that everyone was booing or just standing in the crowd confused, they took 10 minutes of their 40-minute set window to attempt to fix it. Ultimately, only the bass was really audible. They played the rest of their set, but by the end, fans were listening to other fans sing “Hands Down” with a very faint version of Carrabba’s voice in the background.

Low: The Layout

The setup at the festival could definitely have been a bit easier to navigate. With lines not being guided or wrapped around efficiently, as well as certain vendor stands sticking out in strange locations, attendees were forced to walk a far distance just to get somewhere that could have been a straight shot.

High: Hydration and Restrooms

That said, one thing that did work in the layout was the multiple restroom locations, which meant very minimal wait times — an important plus since there were also numerous hydration stands for fans to fill up their water bottles and avoid dehydration. Plus, with the many bars (and 21+ wristband rules being strictly enforced), multiple stalls were a must.

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