How This Music Festival Almost Became Fyre Festival 2.0

Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba claims the When We Were Young festival announced its lineup before a single band had agreed to play

Matt Skiba of Blink 182 and Alkaline Trio performs onstage during KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas at The Forum on December 10, 2016 in Inglewood, California.
Matt Skiba of Blink 182 and Alkaline Trio performs onstage during KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas at The Forum on December 10, 2016 in Inglewood, California.

This weekend, early-aughts emo and pop-punk fans will converge upon Las Vegas to see all their favorite bands — including the likes of My Chemical Romance, Paramore, AFI, Taking Back Sunday and Jimmy Eat World — perform at the When We Were Young festival. But according to recent comments from Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba, the fact that the festival is happening at all with its lineup intact is pretty miraculous.

In a recent interview with Vulture, Skiba claimed that when the festival announced its 2022 lineup back in January, none of the bands who were advertised on the bill had actually agreed to play the event yet. (As of this writing, representatives for When We Were Young have not yet responded to the publication’s request for comment.)

“You want to hear something? Whether I’m supposed to, or not supposed to say anything, I guess, is immaterial,” Skiba said. “It makes the conversation more fun. But that festival — initially, they announced all those bands playing before anybody said yes. It was a Fyre Festival kind of stunt that worked. And I only know that because my band was on that initial flyer, with every other band from our whole ilk. And they almost expertly started advertising it before they had a single band on the bill. And somehow, all the bands agreed to do it. I’m not making this up. Somebody may correct me, but I know that Alkaline Trio, we hadn’t confirmed anything. And when we read that, we called other bands that were playing, and nobody knew about it.”

Despite that insanely risky move, however, it turns out that When We Were Young avoided Fyre Festival-esque disaster because all the bands that were announced before they’d agreed to play eventually did wind up saying yes to performing at the festival — including Alkaline Trio. And even though he likened the fest’s promotors to a famous comic-book villain, Skiba insisted that he’s looking forward to hitting the stage this weekend.

“If that’s an accident or a fluke, then it’s like two particles of sand meeting each other in space,” he said. “It had to have been planned. And they weren’t wrong. Whoever did that, I’m not even mad. You took a sh*t in the fridge and ate the whole wheel of cheese? I’m not even mad. It’s like, holy sh*t, dude. Congratulations to whoever masterminded that, the Lex Luther of promoters. And I think everybody, including us, is really pumped about it. It’s going to be a great time.”

This particular instance may have a happy ending, but it’s indicative of a growing trend in the live music industry — specifically that promotors know artists are desperate to get back out there and recoup two years’ worth of lost income post-COVID. Essentially every touring artist is looking to get back out on the road and perform, and there are only so many venues and gigs available. The When We Were Young organizers likely knew they had those bands over a barrel and simply assumed that if they went ahead and went public with their dream lineup, it’d eventually fall into place. It’s an extremely brazen move, but the world is a different place now than it was when Billy McFarland scammed all those influencers at Fyre Festival. When We Were Young knew they’d get away with it, and they were right.

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