Last Friday was a good day for people in their late 20s and early 30s who once wore skinny jeans and checkerboard Vans. It was the day When We Were Young festival – an emo wet dream scheduled for the 22nd of October in Las Vegas – was announced in the form of a poster that looked like a 15-year-old’s backpack from 2007.
Over 60 acts – including My Chemical Romance, Paramore, Avril Lavigne – across three stages in one day at one stadium – it was every Warped tour combined on steroids (plus, randomly, Wolf Alice). For some millennial emos and pop-punk fans, it simply sounded too good to be true.
“So, we all think the When We Were Young Festival is a scam, right?” wrote one Twitter user. “[It] looks like a fake graphic someone made to fish for engagement,” another posted. Many compared it to Fyre Fest, the notorious 2017 festival catastrophe – though you could argue expensive hotel packages and having to make tough choices on set clashes aren’t exactly the same as eating a lettuce leaf in a collapsing tent in the Bahamas.
VICE reached out to organisers Live Nation, who informed us that yes, the event is 100 percent 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. Thankfully we have a lot of history with these artists and their teams and they trusted our vision on this.”
In fact, the concert promoters even anticipated people’s scepticism. “We expected people to think it was fake because of the enormity of talent on the bill and the unadulterated excitement that we had putting together this lineup.”
The idea for the festival “originated from a long history of working with these incredible bands,” they continued. “The stars originally aligned for us to have 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 on the opportunity to bring together a massive lineup to one of the most passionate scenes in the world of music.”
The initial date for the festival sold out within hours and a second and third date were soon added with pretty much exactly the same line-up. The tag #whenwewereyoungfest now has 27.1 million views on TikTok. And still, the questions kept coming.
Some acts, like Royal and The Serpent, said they initially didn’t even realise they’d been booked to play. When asked for comment on this, Live Nation told VICE: “We aren’t aware of this and no one reached out to us saying this.”
Other fans questioned the logistics of the event. "I've been to my fair share of festivals and it just seems like so much can go wrong with this," TikTok user @thebatmer said in a viral clip that has more than 340,000 views. She also noted that tickets, which started at $299 each, including $499 ticket and hotel package deals, were non-refundable.
“That is actually standard language most, if not all, festival ticketing companies use,” Live Nation said. “Think that got picked up more than usual given the amount of eyeballs on this one, but your standard ticket to a festival usually isn’t refundable. Of course, there are also the standard cases in which refunds will absolutely be granted.”
But, with over 60 bands playing in the same space within 12 hours, the most important question is about safety. After the fatal crowd crush at Astroworld – and with Live Nation now under investigation for its part in the disaster – issues of crowd control and welfare were at the top of many people’s minds, with many linking the two events together.
One doubtful fan even tweeted: “[When We Were Young is] run by the same company who was responsible for AstroWorld and you realize they're actually just preying on the pop punk scene to pay back their litigation fees.”
Festivals often have 50 to 60 acts on a single day, and Live Nation were rebuffed criticism that theirs presented a potentially dangerous set-up. “Events of this scale aren’t just thrown together, they go through an immense amount of prep 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 robust plan in place to look out for the safety of everyone involved across all 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 safety is a core element of any big event. When We Were Young Fest has an incredibly experienced and knowledgeable team, most who have worked in this business for decades, and we also have some amazing partners and great support from the Las Vegas Festival Grounds team. We look forward to working closely with the Las Vegas fire, police and Clark County Buildings Department to help keep safety of fans, artists and staff our top priority.”
The company also rejected claims that this is all an attempt to cash in now that millennial emos have gotten to an age when their adolescence can be sold back to them. “The timing on this was organic. Culture shifted and the bands’ music resonated with millions of people more than ever. The influence of these artists has impacted fashion, art, music, social media and so much more and we wanted to celebrate their importance.”
So is When We Were Young Festival a scam? Nope – at least not according to its organisers. It’s down to aging 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 arguably a bit of a dig), a cash grab or an emo wet dream. The answer is probably something in between all three.
As Live Nation put it: “We were very excited and honoured to be a part of this and along for the ride. We owe the excitement and success to artists and the fans. We are just here to facilitate the greatest show possible.”