When We Where Young Festival 2023 in Las Vegas was a nostalgic journey to relive our glory days.
While likely not intending to be so existential, the When We Were Young music festival in Las Vegas this past weekend asked a lot of age-related questions. What’s My Age Again? Are you Feeling This? Are you ready to get crazy!?!? (turns out, not with you, Jared Leto). How many of you were at Warped Tour? (Most.) At the end of the day, the 18,000 people in attendance likely all felt twenty years younger, as an incredible lineup of bands, many of whom had their first heyday in the early 2000s, blew us away.
This year’s festival, just a short drive up the 15, included some of the best of the best of the 2000s – Blink 182 and Green Day headlined, but the undercard, also chock full of nostalgia, featured Good Charlotte, Sum 41, Yellowcard, Rise Against, The Ataris, Thrice, Finch, MxPx, Pierce the Veil, All Time Low, and many, many, many more. The bands can be forgiven for all having the same thought and invoking the feel of those early Warped Tours, especially with a vert ramp, skated by none other than Tony Hawk, stashed in the corner of the festival grounds.
The one-day event does all it can to provide as much as you can handle. The set up was conducive to seeing as much as possible – the two main stages were connected side to side, and bounced between them with only five minute breaks between each act. The two side stages were close without sound bleed, and also jam packed with bands you wanted to see, with Thrice, Michelle Branch, Fenix TX, The Veronicas, Goldfinger (joined by Tony Hawk!), Saves the Day, Less Than Jake, Bowling for Soup, and Say Anything all rocking their 30+ minute sets to the slightly smaller audiences. The short set times (for all bands except Blink and Green Day, who had 1.5 and 2 hours, respectively) meant they were there to play the hits, recognizing the theme of the day was nostalgia.
Early-day main stage highlights included Something Corporate and Yellowcard, both of whom drew large, passionate audiences. Given the size and reaction of the audiences, Yellowcard felt like the most mis-scheduled band, and likely should have had Thirty Seconds to Mars’ spot later in the evening (and the longer set time that came with it). Good Charlotte and Rise Against also put on hit-filled, well-received sets, while The Offspring showed why they’ve been doing this for 30ish years, with Dexter and Noodles never missing a beat as they played through the hits. Avril Lavigne joined All Time Low for a song, and played “Sk8tr Boi,” making everyone lose their collective 2002 minds.
While Green Day closed the day, and played an energy-filled set of songs you want to hear, the day belonged to Blink. The local boys delivered, and it felt like no time had passed since the early days of friendship and banter. The pyro-technic filled set also include Travis lifted 30 feet high on a riser, giving the crowd – which extended back the entire length of the stage area – a better view. The boys played through hits from Dude Ranch through the self titled album, with the expected amount of vulgar interjections between songs. After a perfect four song ending run of “I Miss You,” “What’s My Age Again?,”, “First Date,” and a closing-pyro filled “All The Small Things,” they ended the night with new reflective single “One More Time” that genuinely moved portions of the crowd to tears. It felt like watching old friends getting back together one more time, and it hit the attendees right in the feels.
While most of the bands were celebrating a twenty-year anniversary of some sort, Green Day’s Dookie turns 30 next year. Billie Joe Armstrong shows no signs of thirty years of rock and roll wear, still going strong for two hours, keeping the rapt attention of the crowd braving their 12th and 13th hours of the day. First playing though hits off of American Idiot, the trio rocked through their catalogue of hits before wrapping with hits from Dookie, and ultimately closing the night with an acoustic “Good Riddance.” They, per usual, also brought up a kid from the audience to play guitar on a song, but gave the best unintentional burn I have ever heard, telling a tech to “Get this kid a tambourine!” when their playing wasn’t up to snuff.
There were a ton of things that could have gone wrong for thousands of people packed in to a small area in 90-degree heat, but kudos to When We Were Young for doing a fantastic job with enough water stations, good sight lines, and the right amenities to keep folks fed and hydrated throughout a long, fun-filled day. Hopefully the festival returns in 2024 for a third year of celebrating the pop-punk era.