WHEN WE WERE YOUNG FEST - an honest review....
After surviving the most gut-wrenching, terrifying airplane landing of my life, I arrived in Vegas last Saturday to 65MPH winds, and the news that the first day of the When We Were Young Festival had been cancelled (on account of those aforementioned winds). For those unfamiliar, this festival was sold to be the ultimate revival of the legends of POP PUNK/EMO- that silly little genre we were always told was JUST A PHASE…
We arrived at the Stratosphere hotel (which we are now just calling "the STRAT") mid afternoon to a sea of tens of thousands of disappointed, misplaced elder emos with absolutely nowhere to go. Security was top-flight, and the biggest man I have ever seen was at the front door, only letting folks into the hotel if they were confirmed hotel guests. Getting past that guy made me feel like a true VIP. The reason for the crowd was- the festival cancellation had resulted in some of the acts putting together secret last-minute consolation shows in intimate venues, and one was happening in the 200 cap sidebar on the STRAT casino floor. RED JUMPSUIT APPARATUS, ARMOR FOR SLEEP, and HAWTHORNE HEIGHTS filled half of that casino, and rocked the tiniest little show in a space like I’d never seen. We caught wind of a subsequent SENSES FAIL, THURSDAY, and BAYSIDE popup show at a 350 cap venue on Fremont street. By the time we arrived by bus, there were already 1000 people in line, so we called it a loss, and went to gamble. Shout out to ZACH at the AZTEC dive casino across from the STRAT. My new favorite place in Vegas.
When we woke up Sunday, the wind was present, but the show was on… The festival entrance was only a few blocks from the STRAT, and we waited in a line of thousands of people to enter the main gate, only to find out that the line was not a requirement, and the gate was wide enough for everyone in line. We entered the festival to see another mile long line, this one full of people waiting to buy official festival merch. I figured, eh- I’ll hit that line later. After a good 4 hours of festival-ing, I was ready for a snack. The Las Vegas Festival Grounds was slowly filling up as the day went on, and I could see the lines for food and merch getting longer and longer, so I figured it was time to make a move. I found a LA-style hotdog line, and it appeared to have about 8 people waiting- far less than any other line in the venue. Not to mention, the grill smelled phenomenal. 45 minutes later, when I got toward the front of that 8-person line, I saw that the hotdog I was waiting for was going to cost me $16 (clever menu sign placement). It was too late; I was in too deep. Plus, I knew I wasn’t going to get a better deal anywhere else in there. I thought- well, at least this will be the best hotdog I’ve ever tasted…. it wasn’t.
Hunger suspended, I went on to watch some of my favorite bands play some awesome sets. There was never a minute of the day where NO band playing that I wanted to watch. The booking detail for this festival was incredible. I was truly impressed to see that some of these guys still have it after all these years. As much as I thought the lines and the crowds would die down eventually, they didn’t. They only got longer and stronger. When it was time for nature to call, I saw the third mile-long line of the day. THE FESTIVAL HAD ONLY TWO MEN'S BATHROOMS AND TWO WOMEN'S BATHROOMS, and THAT WAS IT. 60,000+ concert-goers/hard seltzer drinkers sharing a total of about 50 toilets. After 50 minutes of bathroom line, I noticed that there were more women in the men's bathroom than men… because of course, the line was shorter. I watched a man get his face bashed into a metal sink for trying to cut the line, and a woman break the fight up. This was enough to fuel my decision to stop ingesting liquids for the remainder of my time there. $15 PBR had its part in that decision as well.
By the time my bathroom adventure was complete, the sun had completely left us. The temperature dropped from a nice, comfortable 65 to a very cool sub-50, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before I needed to get inside. I was trying to catch up with my friend, who graciously offered me the ticket to attend, but the festival grounds had ZERO cellular reception, and communication was impossible. Looking for faces in the crowd was also impossible- the entire venue was lit with blinding colored stage lights, pointed directly at the eyes.. It was like the Twilight Zone in there. In the worst case, if there had happened to be an emergency or tragedy, things would have been very iffy for everyone in attendance. I spoke with several folks who waited over two and a half hours for official concert merch, only to find out that they were sold out of many styles and sizes.. despite having missed an ENTIRE day of festival sales. (If any WWWY festival organizers read this… I know a pretty good merch guy who can get you what you need ;)) It seemed that the people who were willing to wait that long for merch were more interested in being able to say they were there, than actually being there.
In the end, I suppressed my bladder, and bared with my body temperature for as long as I could, and then it was time for me to leave. I caught a porta-potty on the way out, and that boy was SLOSHED (see picture below). I survived about 10 hours of a 12+ hour show, and I was pretty proud of my elder emo self for that.. I was in no shape to brave the crowd of MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE fanatics..
...but that’s ok. I remember seeing them when we were ACTUALLY young… long before they were cool ;)
I can't even begin to guess what happened in this lavatory...
Band Lineup: 10/10 .. seeing that many classically awesome bands in one place is unheard of. The first of its kind.
Festival Logistics: 4/10 - allowing re-entry was a good move.
Festival Food: 4/10 - the hour wait for a $16 hot dog was a massive disappointment.
Festival Security: N/A .. after entering the fest, I saw 1 security guard all day- helping a puker.
Festival Audio: 2/10 .. the sound was absolute dogshit, but if you knew the songs, you could still have fun.
Festival Amenities: 2/10 .. can an elder emo get a chair? Just one chair. The closest thing to a chair in that venue was a piss covered toilet, and you’d better be willing to wait for it (or get your head bashed into a sink).
Will I go again next year?
…if it’s free again, maybe.