Live Review: The VIP Perspective: When We Were Young 2023

25 October 2023 | 12:17 pm | Tamara May

We're not sure what other music event will ever top the nostalgia-filled When We Were Young 2023.

When We Were Young Festival

When We Were Young Festival (Credit: Tamara May)

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Biggest hot tip for US music festivals: if you can upgrade to a VIP ticket, take it. This was the best decision we made when attending When We Were Young, and I speak on behalf of other Aussies when I say that GA does not come close to as good an experience.

From the entry lines to navigating the pit, the entire site is packed with 80,000+ fans. Those lucky enough with VIPs rarely dealt with lines (except for the bottleneck at entry in between acts), and the consistently clean toilet blocks were a bonus (and unheard of at Aussie festivals). 

I began the day at the smaller stages, catching The Veronicas open up WWWY over at the Stripe Stage. The girls played a nostalgic set, giving me throwbacks to when they toured on the Coke Live’n Local tour back on home soil in 2005.

Amidst the nostalgia, the girls also debuted the latest single, Perfect and the unreleased track, Detox, off their forthcoming LP, Gothic Summer. The Veronicas’ releases of late have leant towards the poppier side, but if you’ve been an OG fan, there’s a good chance this next album will be right up your alley. Rocky, Avril Lavigne vibes are incoming for sure. 

Keeping in line with the pop-punk girl power of the day, catching Michelle Branch live was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for every Australian in attendance. The real highlight here: hearing her 2000s radio hit single Everywhere, which became a staple in the scene thanks to pop culture films like American Pie as well as Yellowcard’s rock rendition for Punk Goes Pop

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The festival also felt like a reunion of sorts for fans and bands alike. We’re all aware of how strong our music community is, and at WWWY, this was evident. During Yellowcard’s epic return to the stage, the band celebrated their recent return to music by playing the new track Three Minutes More and bringing out Pierce The Veil’s Vic Fuentes to help out. Hey Monday and country pop songstress Cassadee Pope also joined in on the festivities for Only One

The collaborations don’t stop there, though. We also had last year’s WWWY performer Avril Lavigne join All Time Low on stage for Fake As Hell before hyping us all up with the nostalgic hit Sk8er Boi. We later got a wholesome performance during Rise Against when William Ryan Key joined Tim McIlrath for Swing Life Away

The worst scheduling of the day goes to the back-to-back monstrosity of Good Charlotte and Simple Plan, but we made it work. Pop punk hour of power kicked in as Good Charlotte took to the Green Stage, opening their set with The Anthem. Easily the scene’s most iconic and now hardworking businessmen, Joel and Benji Madden led the band with their first live show in five years.

Tears were shed during Hold On, but the standout of their set definitely goes to the fiery explosion that came with The River. No strangers to sharing their love of hip hop either, Keep Your Hands Off My Girl was also thrown in, and infamous 2000s rapper Lil Wayne joined the band for their finale, Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous

Navigating the Festival Grounds was absolutely treacherous in 35-degree heat, and those with General Admission felt the brunt of it. Nevertheless, the crowds departing Good Charlotte to make a beeline for iconic pop-punkers Simple Plan at the Ghost Stage was huge. It was absolutely worth it, though, as Canada’s biggest 2000s export gave fans the nostalgic party of the weekend, throwing in hits like Shut Up, Welcome To My Life and I’m Just A Kid, where we saw MXPX’s Mike Herrera, and Jaret Reddick of Bowling For Soup join Simple Plan for the pop-punk showdown of the weekend.

Let’s not forget all of the Scooby’s running around on stage and the band’s cheeky rendition of Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi. There’s a good reason why Simple Plan have already sold out half their upcoming Australian tour: their live set is legendary. 

Running back to Main Stage and setting up camp at Pink Stage VIP seemed to be the way to go at this rate. We got to witness The Offspring’s exciting set - not too much different from their recent visit to Australia - but I love seeing Dexter and Noodles kick it live. They always go off. 

Honestly, the best part of the day/night has to go to the blink-182 show. Playing a full 90-minute set to a crowd of 80k plus; it was something else. Having only seen Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge at Soundwave 2013 and then Hoppus and Travis Barker over in Canada a few years later, the magic you felt with all three performing on stage together was something else.

The band kicked in with Anthem Part Two and went through many of their biggest hits while also throwing in their new tracks. Tom and Mark’s banter onstage is cheeky, amusing, and cheesy, but you can’t help yourself but just roll with it. Let’s also not forget Travis’ floating drum kit that rose above the stage during Down. The legends are true performers, and given it was the best hour and a half of my life, the Australian tour next year is going to be a must-see experience, especially if they bring out all of the pyrotechnics again.  

If any band can top what we just witnessed, it can only be Green Day. They began with quite the intro, appearing on stage after playing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody in its entirety before launching straight into American Idiot and Jesus Of Suburbia. Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool are honestly in a league of their own here, and they’re not done yet.

Premiering their new single to the world just two nights ago down in Fremont, The American Dream Is Killing Me is the beginning of the band’s new chapter, Savior. Can we also just mention that Billie Joe hardly looks a day older than 24? The man is the fountain of youth. 

Not sure what other music event will ever top the nostalgia-filled When We Were Young 2023. However, if all festivals around the world can provide awesome VIP experiences for punters to upgrade to, that may just make or break one’s festival experience.