After the When We Were Young Festival announced it would be canceling its performances on Oct. 23, one hour before gates were set to open, fans were flabbergasted. For some, thousands of dollars had been spent on travel, lodging and admissions; the festival almost immediately sold out when tickets first went on sale in January. At the time, the festival added two additional dates to meet demand.
While ticket holders were offered a full refund for the canceled Saturday show, some opted to stick around in Las Vegas — and the musical acts made it worth it, reminding fans just how much festivals can bring people together.
Shortly after the festival announced it would cancel Saturday’s events due to a high wind warning, multiple bands took to social media to share that they were attempting to secure indoor venues to hold concerts— many free of charge.
Two of the first to announce were the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Hawthorne Heights. RJA was actually on stage for sound check at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds when the announcement came over the loudspeaker that the show was canceled, frontman Ronnie Winter told Variety on Saturday.
“We were shocked,” he said, noting that he then had to walk by fans standing outside the festival grounds — some were in tears. So his team got to work. They put together a free show for anyone to attend inside The Strat hotel, which is walking distance from the festival grounds.
The casino quickly filled up with people hoping to get a glance of the stage, as the show kicked off with Armor for Sleep before sets by the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Hawthorne Heights. Security quickly blocked off the hotel’s entrance with yellow tape and brought in additional guards, only letting in guests who had room keys. The crowd grew and grew, taking over the casino and at least one bar, as guests were seen standing on slot machine chairs and even climbing a massive roulette wheel to get a glance as they screamed the words to “Face Down.”
After the two-hour show wrapped, many fans looked for the next live show, walking just a half-mile down the road to Soul Belly BBQ, where the All-American Rejects had set a free show. Some waited in a line that wrapped around the building for more than two hours for the 9 p.m. concert, as the venue told those entering the line at 7 p.m. that capacity had been reached.
Frontman Tyson Ritter and the band made it completely worth it; though initially set for a 30-minute show, they performed for just over an hour in the restaurant, which was built with acoustics for performances and regularly hosts bands.
“I’m so sorry about this shit,” Ritter told the crowd when speaking about the festival’s cancelation. He thanked the fans multiple times throughout his set and noted that he’ll remember this night for the rest of his life.
“Regardless of the radio of it all, the MTV of it all, you guys listened and you fuckin’ gave a shit,” he said before their final song. “Every kid that is a little emo, or a little weird or a little queer, or a little fuckin’ lost, that listens to this music or listens to all this shit, and felt seen — we’re those kids too. That’s why we wrote this shit.”
Around town, many other bands came together to book last-minute shows.
Anthony Green, Senses Fail, Thursday and Bayside played a free show at the Sand Dollar while Bring Me the Horizon teamed up with Knocked Loose and Landon Barker for a show at the Palms. They sold tickets for $80 and, when the show almost immediately sold out, tickets were being resold for up to $250. The Wonder Years, La Dispute, Mom Jeans and Sweet Pill performed for $40 at Rockstar Bar.
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