Gerard Way's makeup took about four hours to complete. courtesy @screaminmeemz on Instagram

My Chemical Romance’s not-so-subtle statement at When Were Young Festival

MCR dress up as younger versions of themselves as a way of making fun of nostalgia culture, i.e., the core of WWWY Festival

My Chemical Romance’s elaborate statement at the first day of When We Were Young Festival will be remembered for years to come. Escorted onto the stage by crew members wearing scrubs, four geriatric men took the stage. Covered in prosthetics making them look like dead versions of their younger selves from their signature “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” album, the band committed to the bit as they hobbled to their places. Gerard Way started the show by intentionally misaddressing the crowd as Utah, rather than Vegas — where the festival was actually held.

Unlike any performance yet for their “Return” tour, the band made a deliberate choice not to play their newest song, “Foundations of Decay,” which was released back in May. Instead, they went directly into “I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” which is one of their most famous songs. What proceeded was a set comprising only their hits, which sharply contrasts their previous show which saw deep cuts like “Fake Your Death” and “Sister to Sleep.”

The band even changed their stage presence to match that of their younger selves. Way lowered his voice, gruffly singing and speaking, satirizing the stereotypical hyper-masculine rockstar persona. Hunching his shoulders, his entire defying appearance practically screamed out, “is this what you want?” He wanted people to see how ridiculous it was to prefer a reanimated corpse — or the version of himself that had to die in order for him to be happy — rather than the Way fans have come to know this year.

Perhaps the most striking moment of protest came at the end of the concert when the band played “Vampire Money,” a song that critiques mass appeal and its relation to artistic expression. Ending on this song would’ve been enough of a statement, but the band opted to make their message abundantly clear as they shot fake money out into the crowd.

My Chemical Romance has never catered to so-called nostalgia culture, though they are commonly accused of doing so as journalists have continued to call their reunion a nostalgia tour. The band, sick of these accusations, took matters into their own hands by essentially saying, “You want nostalgia? Okay, this is nostalgia.” Be careful what you wish for, eh?

There was no better place to make this statement either as the WWWY Festival panders in playing things for nostalgia as their entire marketing campaign was centered around notable punk/scene/emo moments from the past and even “middle school me” memes. If it only ended there.

Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba recently revealed that his band hadn’t agreed to play at the festival when the lineup was announced. In an interview with Vulture Magazine, Skiba let the cat out of the bag, saying, “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 flier. They almost expertly started advertising it before they had a single band on the bill. And somehow, all the bands agreed to do it,” Skiba says, “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.”

It seems as if the festival relied entirely on publicity, generating excitement among fans so their favorite bands would be forced to perform at the festival. Though Skiba didn’t appear to be angry about the ploy, it would be interesting to know what some of the other bands think, though it would probably be safe to say My Chemical Romance were not happy.

Regardless, My Chemical Romance took the hand that was forced upon them, and still managed to come out on top — much like they always have — with this elaborate middle finger to the festival. There is not another band out there today doing it like them.

Post Author: Madison Walters