It was a suburban American crime of the highest passion.
In preparation for the When We Were Young (WWWY) festival in Las Vegas — to be held Oct. 22, 23 and 29 — I had my mom dig through my clothes from high school to send some key items. She boxed up two pairs of 18-year-old Chuck Taylors, two pyramid studded belts — one pink, one black, of course — and a severely faded Famous Stars and Straps hoodie with the front pocket almost ripped off.
Somewhere along the package's journey from San Diego to Brooklyn, someone opened it and stole the shoes and belts. When I was at the post office trying to piece together what happened, I was told I needed to place a monetary value on the items. One of the shoes was signed by Travis Barker — not that anyone could tell because the Sharpie ink had faded from so much wear and tear at concerts. The coating had rubbed off on some of the black pyramid studs, so it wasn't even uniform in color. Everything had the sour odor of dried sweat.
"Honestly, they're not worth anything," I explained. "I don't know why anyone else would want them."
Oh well. As the famous Fall Out Boy song goes, thnks fr th mmrs.
According to Live Nation, 84 percent of live music-goers have expressed interest in nostalgia concerts featuring acts from their youth so it is presenting the inaugural WWWY festival along with production company C3 Presents. Pre-sale signups were so high in volume that the company could have sold out 10 dates. Tickets for the 2023 WWWY date, which will feature blink-182, Green Day, The Offspring, and Good Charlotte among others, sold out within minutes during its pre-sale period.
"For people like us, we're just regular guys and we're writing about serious heartfelt issues and putting our lives on a record," said Bert McCracken, The Used's lead singer. "A lot of people suffer with the same things. We suffer with anxiety, depression. I think making records that are crazy honest, putting your heart into your music, I think people can really relate to that."
One of the most emblematic bands of the screamo scene, The Used formed in Utah in 2001 and has earned several gold and platinum certified records throughout the world. Reciting the spoken word intro for I'm A Fake has become a TikTok challenge to prove your loyalty to the genre. The song Taste of Ink gets frequently mentioned as a candidate for the "emo national anthem." The band will be performing on one of the main stages at WWWY.
"Definitely the emo anthem," McCraken says with a laugh. "'Four o'clock in the f-----g morning' became, like, this iconic message. Yeah, we deserve to be in there."
Bert McCracken of The Used performs in concert at Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park on October 18, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images)
That throwback feeling is what draws most people, said Mike Gunz, The Gunz Show and Who Wants to Be An Emo Millionaire? host. People still know every chorus even though these songs are two decades old, from Yellowcard's Ocean Avenue to Sum 41's Fat Lip. Gunz, who often DJs for Emo Night Brooklyn and will be co-hosting WWWY sideshow Strange 90s on Friday, estimates he's interviewed about 90 percent of the bands on this year's bill.
"It's the perfect mix of nostalgia with just really good hooks," he said.
Like myself, Gunz grew up having his parents drop him off at fire halls and local venues to see pop punk acts. He found friends at these all-ages shows and admits it became part of an identity. It's not just him: A lot of today's top artists, from Machine Gun Kelly to Post Malone, grew up going to concerts like the Warped Tour, Gunz explained. They're making this style of music popular for younger generations, who are then rediscovering the bands that encapsulated the scene. Entertainment companies are re-realizing the passion — and more importantly, the revenue potential — and greenlighting reunion tours and new albums.
"It's almost like they realize that emo is almost like a commodity right now," he said. "So many people are switching genres to kind of pull in that pop punk vibe."
And, those that lived it are ready to continue to ride that wave.
"I don't really like to say that it's a resurgence because I think a lot of people that listen and a lot of people that attended never stopped listening," Emo Nite's Freed said.
Tell All Your Friends
In 2004, Freed and T.J. Petracca brought their iPods on a Tuesday night to a bar called The Short Stop in Los Angeles. Previously, they had found each other in the same office building, and connected over emo music. The duo would get ready to go out by playing their favorite songs from their teen years and realized more people might want to listen. So, they created a Facebook invite and told some friends.
Emo Nite has since grown into its own beast. On top of having a residency at music club Avalon in Los Angeles, they've taken the stage at Coachella, played internationally in Tokyo, and have gone on multiple cross-country tours. Now, they'll be playing Zouk Nightclub at Resorts World in Las Vegas on Oct. 21, Oct. 22 and Nov. 23.
"This is the premiere entertainment destination of the world," Petracca said. "We get to come in and do something totally new and different, and the music that we listened to growing up has such a big impact we get to come into literally the best nightclub on the Strip."
The Emo Nite team had special black Dickies jumpsuits made for the event, with the front featuring famous acts that have played Zouk like Zedd and Tiësto … and now Emo Nite.
"It's a straight ahead nightclub, like you have to dress up to wear nice clothes and people are buying like bottle service and stuff," Petracca said.
"I've never been to a nightclub," he added, chuckling.
Petracca still remembers singing blink-182's All The Small Things in his fifth grade talent show, but it wasn't until Dashboard Confessional that the scene "cracked open for him." Freed was too small to play sports in school, so he did the next best thing: He played in bands. He would practice by standing in front of his mirror and pretend to play Saves the Day songs. (My first article was a glowing review of blink-182's Dude Ranch for my Catholic school's newspaper. Never mind it had been out for years by that point: I was just so passionate about my love for this life-changing album.) We all knew that in some way we'd want to be connected to music our whole lives.
"There's a really special place for this music as opposed to like any other music that really sticks with you forever," Freed said. "And, people just carry this with them."
The Used hasn't taken a break in its over two decade career, but some things have changed - mostly for the better. McCracken got sober 10 years ago. The band now warms up before shows by playing a full set before the gig. Pre-show rituals consist of pacing around and chugging sugar-free Red Bulls. After the shows, McCracken hits the gym to stay in shape. However, age has taken its toll on one major facet: the singer can't scream like he used to.
"As I get older, it's just one of those things," he admitted. "Jeph (Howard) can scream it out super well. But yeah, if I scream, I can't even talk the next day. So I've been screaming a little bit. We're trying to get back. Our new record has a lot of screaming on it. Really excited for people to hear it. But yeah, it's just a sensitive, sensitive place for my voice."
But the fan loyalty remains the same. Although the youth that used to go to his shows now are bringing their children, they still go hard in the pit.
"We go apes--t no matter what," McCracken said. "When you get in that crowd and that adrenaline surges, you're going to forget all your problems in your life. You can forget about your sore knees and your sore back and just be a kid."
So start warming up and stretching, Gunz said
"It's going to be chaos, but a beautiful chaos," he said. "It's going to be so much fun, and then we're all going to have to take like five days to recover because we're all elder emos now."