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9 Best Theatrical Sets At When We Were Young Fest 2022

Paramore The All American Rejects 2022
[Photos via Facebook]

What a time to be an emo kid. With nostalgia in vogue, scene kids like ourselves are begging for another chance to live out our Warped Tour fantasies. The days of thick rubber bracelets with “I Love Boobies” imprinted into them, free meet-and-greets at the merch tent, and a day chock-full of heavy-hitting acts in the alternative space. Luckily, When We Were Young Fest is filling this void for the second year in a row with another incredibly stacked lineup. From legacy headliners like Green Day and blink-182 to next-generation acts like Magnolia Park and Games We Play, the second-annual event will shake Las Vegas to its core. Though while it’s exciting to look forward to this year’s festival, let’s not forget the countless extraordinary moments from 2022. 

With this year’s When We Were Young Festival approaching, we are looking back at some of last year’s most theatrical performances. Remember that the word “theatrical” doesn’t just mean an array of crazy costumes and pyrotechnics. There’s a confidence that defines each of the artists on this list and a creative vision that sets them apart from the crowd. 

Here are the nine best theatrical performances at When We Were Young Fest 2022 that had us on the edge of our seats. 

Pierce The Veil & Kellin Quinn

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Nothing says theatrics more than Pierce The Veil’s music video for “King For A Day.” Following frontman Vic Fuentes and Sleeping With Sirens’ Kellin Quinn as they pull a bank heist, the visual was ahead of its time and continues to be revered by emo kids across the globe. 

What if we told you that Pierce The Veil and Kellin Quinn celebrated the 10th anniversary of the track by performing it together at last year’s When We Were Young Fest? Both artists, dressed in black suits and holding the briefcases from the music video, paid homage to their iconic collaboration live in Las Vegas. Perhaps the most theatrical moment was seeing the vocalists walk out onstage in those iconic costumes and take the moment in as the song’s intro blared in the background. It’s magical to see how important Pierce The Veil and Kellin Quinn’s track continues to be for fans a decade later. 

Royal & The Serpent

Royal And The Serpent continues to be one of the most creative bands in the scene right now, and boy, do they put on one hell of a live show. Their ability to genre-bend and find inspiration in punk-rock, indie-pop, and even the singer-songwriter realm, allows them to surprise fans with their dramatic costumes and video backdrops. Comparing the experience of writing and performing music to “the best therapy [I could] ever ask for,” Royal delves deep into the innermost workings of her mind and heart to create performances that elevate the songs to an entirely new level. 

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At last year’s festival, the singer opened the show strutting the stage with a lengthy rat tail pinned to her skirt. The alternative queen and her bandmates wore costumes reminiscent of boarding school uniforms but covered in spray paint and ripped edges. Behind them was a giant video wall with chaotic textures and graphics synced to each song. What is so exciting about Royal And The Serpent is that their music is always at the forefront of every show. The visual aesthetics are just the cherry on top that adds to fans’ excitement. 

Motionless In White

Motionless In White is known for embracing all things gothic in their branding and stage performances. And their set at last year’s When We Were Young Fest was no exception. One thing particularly compelling about the band’s stage show is their emphasis on crowd participation. Frontman Chris Motionless demands the audience to sing their guts out from the pit to songs like “Slaughterhouse” and “Masterpiece.” There is no separation between the band and fans, creating a tight bond that feels more like a musical movement than a concert. Plus, their makeup, costumes, and use of lights and fog are always on a different level, whether they are performing at their own headlining show or a 30-minute festival appearance. 

The Linda Lindas

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The Linda Lindas have been on our radar for some time now. From opening for Paramore on the This Is Why Tour to dropping their debut record Growing Up in 2022, the all-girl band stands out for their colorful take on LA’s underground punk scene. Replacing the dirt with glitter and black clothing with neon shades, The Linda Lindas bring a brightness to old-school punk that we never knew we needed.

Their performance at last year’s fest embodied that energy and color wonderfully. With a neon flashing video wall behind them, the band wore kitschy, ‘80s-inspired patterns and let their music speak for itself. It was theatrical in a different way, feeling more empowering than anything. If there were any little rockers in the crowd, we hope the performance inspired them to pick up their own guitars and write a song. There was a contagious sense of joy from all of the members, proving to attendees that The Linda Lindas are here to stay. 

Ice Nine Kills

Ice Nine Kills remains one of the most theatrical acts in the alternative rock scene. From their horror-movie-inspired studio albums (The Silver Scream and Welcome To Horrorwood: The Silver Scream 2) to their references to gothic literature in Every Trick In The Book, the band takes pride in the high production value of their live show. Festival-goers saw the group weave their favorite frightening movie scenes and true crime references into their performance. Chainsaws, axes, and characters in masks grace the stage at every turn, adding a narrative that turns the show into more of a musical theatre piece. Ice Nine Kills continues to change how bands and fans think about the “concert experience.”

The All-American Rejects

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Can you imagine watching your favorite emo band perform as senior citizens? The All-American Rejects’ singer Tyson Ritter paid homage to the nostalgia of When We Were Young Fest by dressing up as a 90-year-old rocker. Wearing a sequined green jacket, face makeup, and a white wig, the frontman played an old man convincingly. Plus, his stage banter and social media posts afterwards added to the bit. “Thx for tonight, kiddos,” he wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “Ya made an old man proud to give some hell.” Needless to say, these hilarious antics made the band’s catalog of hits feel even more fun and dynamic. 

My Chemical Romance

The All-American Rejects weren’t the only band that took an elderly approach. Emo icons Gerard Way, Ray Toro, and Frank Iero made My Chemical Romance’s set unforgettable by performing in geriatric prosthetics and clothed in their Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge uniforms. The juxtaposition between the famous red tie and black shirt combo, paired with the vocalist’s fake wrinkles, symbolized the band’s influence on the scene for over 20 years. There is no doubt in our minds that the band will continue to move audiences across the globe for 20 more. 

From “Welcome To The Black Parade” to “Helena,” My Chemical Romance closed the festival with great passion and sentimentality. The theatrics reminded fans of why they got into the genre in the first place. To feel seen, heard, and be a part of something bigger than themselves. 


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Perhaps one of the most important moments of last year’s When We Were Young Fest was during Paramore’s set. During a technical issue, frontwoman Hayley Williams talked to the crowd about growing up as a woman in the scene: a challenge that the band overcame time and time again. Her speech discussed her experience as a female artist in the genre and praised fellow non-male performers and people of color for leading the charge for a more inclusive and diverse community.

“You had Minor Threat, you had Fugazi, you had a lot of that shit,” she begins. “But, we got lost along the way. And in the early 2000s, when Paramore came onto the scene, roughly around 2005, the scene was not always a safe place to be if you were different—if you were a young woman, if you were a person of color, if you were queer—and that’s really fucked up if you think about it. Because this was supposed to be the safe place, wasn’t it?”

“So, we’ve been around for almost 20 years, and I’ve had my fill of letting older people—especially older men—tell me what punk rock is and tell me what punk rock is not,” she continues. “Just today, there was a crusty old fuck on the internet saying that punk was supposed to be anti-establishment. Well, it is. And actually, I can think of nothing more anti-establishment than young women, people of color, and the queer community.”

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We consider this to be one of the most driven performances of the festival because of Paramore’s brutal honesty and courage to speak on a topic so near and dear to them. The moment was a genuine reminder of how beautiful our scene is when we embrace each other for who we uniquely are. Isn’t that how we all got into this music in the first place? 

Bring Me The Horizon

Bring Me The Horizon gave fans a post-apocalyptic performance full of chilling video interludes and dark imagery. If that isn’t enough, the band’s introduction to the crowd was in the form of an AI character. Simulating a “one-of-a-kind auditory experiment,” the voice hyped the crowd through a simulated diagnostic check. “No significant mosh pits detected,” the voice says. “Please open this pit up.” 

From there, Bring Me The Horizon does what they do best: perform. Opening the set with “Can You Feel My Heart?,” Oli Sykes and Co. gave Saturday’s attendees a pop-up performance after the whole day’s lineup was canceled due to weather concerns. It was gritty, dramatic, and inspiring to see one of the world’s largest rock bands pay homage to the scene that birthed them. 

Did we miss any? Let us know your favorite performance from When We Were Young Fest 2022!


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