The anticipation, the excitement, the expectations… is this really happening?
The 2023 When We Were Young Festival lineup is something all punk and emo music fans from the 2000s would love. The only way to arrive at the fairgrounds was by Uber or Lyft. I got dropped off there at 12 PM, hoping to catch Something Corporate. There were long lines to go through ID checkpoints and checking tickets. As soon as you walk in after going through security, you can see the giant When We Were Young sign, curved like a rainbow.
As I continued walking, I saw the merchandise lines on the left, and in the middle was plenty of shade and water sprays. I didn’t have much time to wander around, but I did get a glance at some of the interesting architecture at the festival grounds. There was a giant hand making the rock out symbol, which is the index and pink fingers facing down. I was able to capture a picture of it before I left at night. As I was walking towards the green and pink stages, I noticed a lot of blink-182 posters, including the “One More Time” album cover near the bathrooms. I’ve never seen so much blink-182 merch at one place before.
At 12:55 PM, Something Corporate walked out on the green stage. Fans went wild as they began playing. Andrew McMahon smiled at the crowd and played on his piano. In the middle of the set, McMahon told the crowd, “When we first started, we were just the piano band. Thank you to all the fans who supported us.” They finished their set with one of their hit songs, “Konstantine.”
Just a few minutes later, New Found Glory came on the pink stage. Fans roared as they started their set with “All Down Hill From Here.” As I was taking pictures near the crowd, I looked to my left and saw people crowd surfing. It was awesome! Lead singer Jordan Pundik told the crowd, “This is like Warped Tour on steroids!” They finished their set with the fan favorite, “My Friends Over You.”
The timing between sets from the green and pink stages is less than five minutes, which is enough time to be prepared for the next band. Yellowcard came on the green stage and was a real treat. Lead singer Ryan Key sang his heart out while walking back and forth on the front area of the stage. The difference between the green and pink stages is the green stage has an extra 50 feet sticking out in the front while the pink stage does not. After a few songs, Key talked about Yellowcard getting back together and their new EP, which featured a song with Pierce the Veil. A few moments later they brought out Vic Fuentes to sing “3 Minutes More.”
Speaking of Pierce the Veil, they played next. Before they came on stage, the speakers played “El Rey” by Vicente Fernandez, which was very cool for Mexican representation. They played their hits, and fans were cheering, but the most fun about this set was bassist Jaime Preciado, dancing on stage and swinging his bass around.
Up next was 5 Seconds Of Summer, who got down to business and started with “She Looks So Perfect.” The fans were singing along to every lyric and also screaming over all of the guys. What was unique about this set was all the members sang throughout their songs. Normally in bands only the lead singer sings, but this was different.
Back to the pink stage we go as All Time Low began their set a little differently than normal. They started playing that song “Dear Maria, Count Me In” but then suddenly stopped to tease the crowd. After a few more songs, the band brought out Avril Lavigne, to perform “Fake As Hell.” Lavigne took over the stage for a few minutes and sang her hit “Sk8er Boi.” It was such a cool moment when she came out because that is what happens at festivals, strange and unique collaborations happen on stage.
As the day continued, more and more fans entered the grounds to watch their favorite bands. It was very hard to choose which band and what stage to photograph because there are so many amazing bands playing. The Academy is, Finch, Reliant K, Plain White T’s, Goldfinger, Gym Class Heroes, and the Wrecks were all playing at either the Ghost or Stripe stage. Meanwhile, legendary pro skater Tony Hawk was skateboarding on the vert ramp on the east of the pink stage. So much fun was happening!
One of my favorite bands of all time, Sum 41, took over at the Green stage. The background on the stage was a giant skull. Most of the songs they played were from the fan favorite album “All Killer No Filler.” There were many moments of fire coming out on top of the stage; fans again went nuts and were crowd surfing. I even spotted a mosh pit. Deryck Whibley grabbed his mic stand and stood on the front stage. Many photographers and fans pulled out their cameras to get a great shot of the lead singer.
Rise Against played next on the pink stage and had a great time. Lead singer Tim Mcllrath smiled and sang the hits. After a few songs, Mcllrath told the crowd, “So many amazing years for the last 24 years, thank you for all the love. We used to travel with Yellowcard. Look where we are.”
The next two bands are probably the two that I wanted to see the most because I’ve never seen them in person. Good Charlotte and Simple Plan are amazing bands from the 2000s, and it was cool to be able to see them both, starting with Good Charlotte at the green stage. One of my favorite albums of all time is “The Young and the Hopeless.” Hearing “Girls & Boys” and “Hold On” live with my own eyes was surreal.
After Good Charlotte finished, I immediately walked to the Ghost stage to catch Simple Plan. I was only able to see the first two songs, but it was very fun as confetti came out after the first song, and lead singer Pierre Bouvier was so energetic and engaging. The fans went crazy when they started playing “I’d Do Anything.”
After the first two songs, I decided to catch 30 Seconds to Mars, so I rushed over to the pink stage. Many photographers were there taking pictures of Jared Leto, but there was still much more in store. After a few songs, Leto went on the floor and continued to sing while walking down the barricades gap in the middle of the crowd. After Leto went back on stage, he continued to sing. A few minutes later, he brought out Tim Mcllrath to sing “This Is War.”
It was towards the end of the set, in a moment I will never forget. All of the photographers, including myself, walked on stage to capture the last song of their set. It also happens to be my favorite song, “The Kill.” Fans and other photographers were taking pictures and recording on their phones, mesmerized and stuck in the moment. I pulled out my phone because I couldn’t believe this was happening. Sharing the same stage as 30 Seconds to Mars and looking over thousands of fans was incredible!
The photographers and I were able to catch The Offspring back on the green stage as soon as we walked down the pink stage. The Offspring also played their hits and were very engaging with the crowd. The first three songs went by fast.
I was a little bummed that we were not able to photograph blink-182, but I was able to still see them after running into my cousins in the crowd, who are also huge fans. Mark, Tom, and Travis play the hits, including four new songs from their new album One More Time. There was plenty of dick jokes and alien comments per usual for these guys. My favorite moment of their sets was towards the end of their hit song “Dammit.” There were tons of fireworks blowing up above the stage. It was an epic conclusion for the pink stage!
The introduction of Green Day was funny as someone dressed as a white bunny, walked on stage and waved to the crowd. Then they raised their arms up and down to get the crowd pumped up. Green Day walked on stage and the crowd went insane. Moments later they played “American Idiot.” Billie Joe Armstrong was as animated as ever with Mike and Trey doing their thing. When I found out we were photographing Green Day for only two songs I was worried about the time in the photo pit. Luckily, the second song was “Jesus of Suburbia.” I stayed for a few more songs before heading towards the exit. As most of the fans were focused on Green Day, I explored the Festival grounds and was able to get a merchandise T-shirt. I took a few more pictures of the awesome fairgrounds including a large blown up skull and a large When We Were Young sign with an old stereo.
The festival was flawless and we cannot wait until 2024!