The problem with the When We Were Young festival

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Some guitar player in a punk band jumping while his band mates just keep rockin’. Natalie Parham via Unsplash

Every emo kid’s dream may actually become a nightmare

Music festivals have been on the rise in recent years, even during the pandemic. Every year, fans wait patiently to see who is going to be on the Coachella line-up. The feeling of the sun on your face, the anticipation of waiting to hear your favourite songs, and being surrounded by other fans who are just as excited as you are. It’s an incredible experience.

Yet, music festivals have been under fire recently. Specifically, festivals like Astroworld, where 10 people died in November while the performer, Travis Scott, kept performing. Astroworld was put on by the event promoter Live Nation Entertainment. The same company is putting on a new festival called When We Were Young.

When We Were Young is a pop-punk music festival that will take place in October of 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. As of writing this article, the festival tickets have sold out. The line-up for When We Were Young boasts some of the biggest names in pop punk: My Chemical Romance, Paramore, Bring Me The Horizon, Avril Lavigne, and more will all be playing the festival.

This all seems well and good right? Wrong. There’s a lot of issues going on with When We Were Young that many are overlooking in favour of their favourite bands.

Live Nation Entertainment is still facing several lawsuits as a result of Astroworld. Astroworld failed in hiring enough staff and security for the event and, again, several people died. Live Nation has responded to concerns about When We Were Young in the wake of Astroworld and they were very nonchalant. They told Newsweek that “The safety of fans, artists and staff is thoroughly planned for among event organisers and in coordination with local authorities.”[1] It just seems like they responded with a very safe answer without actually going into the details of how they were going to make changes to prevent another Astroworld incident.

When We Were Young has over 60 bands in their lineup, and they only have three stages for over 60 different performers…in 12 hours. So, in 12 hours, 20 bands will play on each stage. The bands won’t even have an hour each to play a set. When the festival was first announced, there was only one day for performances, and after popular demand, they decided to add another day to the festival – with more of the same. Instead of spreading out the performances across two days, both days are going to have 60 bands perform in 12 hours on 3 stages. In comparison, the Welcome to Rockville festival this May is spread out over four days with 76 bands playing, and no more than 19 bands playing per day. Another comparison is the large festival Lollapalooza. They have over 170 bands playing, except they have eight stages in comparison to When We Were Young’s three, and the festival takes place over four days.

Oh, and during this time, when the When We Were Young bands have roughly 30 minutes for their performance, they also have to set up, do a sound check, and tear down before the next band performs. This leaves almost no time for an actual performance. And I honestly don’t believe that some of the major bands like My Chemical Romance or Paramore are going to this festival to perform for 20 minutes and then leave, because if that was happening, they wouldn’t be getting paid as much. If my logic is correct, then it’s even less likely that most bands will have 30 minutes to play and do all the additional steps that need to happen for a performance.

Another issue with When We Were Young is the cost. General admission started at $225 for the day. The General Admission Plus started at $400 for the day. The only additional things you get with the Plus path is an air-conditioned bathroom and a special entry lane. So, for $175 more, you can pee in a cold bathroom. And don’t forget about the VIP Cabana, which costs a whopping $12,500 for you and nine friends to sit in the shade with your own security, alcohol, and no lines. These were the prices before they added the additional day to the festival, and they stayed the same after the new day was added. And to boot, these tickets aren’t refundable. If something happens with COVID and you can’t make it to the festival, then you’re out at least $225.

To compare, for all four days of Welcome to Rockville, it costs festival goers a minimum of $280, or $70 a day. The VIP for When We Were Young costs $500, while Welcome to Rockville costs $615, or $154 a day. Lollapalooza’s tickets, to compare, start at $350 for all four days, or $88 a day. When We Were Young is an expensive festival. An expensive festival that doesn’t even have any parking.

Something that I found very interesting about When We Were Young is that there are no sponsors. They have an option on their website to inquire about sponsoring the event, but there does not appear to be any active sponsors on the poster or the website. To compare, Welcome to Rockville has two sponsors listed on their website: Bud Light Seltzer and Jack Daniels, two major alcohol brands. Lollapalooza has 29 sponsors, including major companies like T-Mobile, Hulu, and Toyota.

Overall, the When We Were Young festival’s website is bad. It’s just terrible. It’s a one-page website. In comparison, Welcome to Rockville has eight tabs that you can open and browse. Some of these tabs are longer than WWWY’s entire page.

So, yes, When We Were Young looks like every emo kid’s dream, and that’s probably why it sold out – but there are a lot of red flags everywhere. Many are comparing it to the infamous Fyre Fest and are expecting it to crash and burn. Some are holding out hope for their childhood dreams of seeing their favourite emo bands live. Either way, it’s important to see that everything is not what it seems and not every dream is going to work out. No matter how it goes, Live Nation Entertainment has already made enough money to start paying off their legal fees from the Astroworld lawsuits.


[1] https://www.newsweek.com/when-we-were-young-festival-organizers-live-nation-astroworld-comparisons-1671193

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