SANTA ANA – Morrissey first sang the words “Take me out tonight, where there’s music and there’s people and they’re young and alive” over 30 years ago, but none of the words lost their fervor on the first night of the Observatory’s When We Were Young festival.
The festival, which took place in Santa Ana on April 8 and 9, was aimed towards the young who have now grown old, but still spin their old records by bands like Taking Back Sunday, AFI and Morrissey, who headlined the first night of the festival.
The crowd sported an absurd amount of Morrissey super fans, most wearing shirts donning his face or long defunct band The Smiths.
Fans and married couple Angel and Mindy have been longtime Morrissey fans and came to the festival just for him.
“I’ve been listening to him since I was 11, I’m 39 now,” said Mindy.
However, a slew of old bands graced the stages, including newly reunited Pinback, Saves the Day and the second night headliner Descendants.
The crowd at the festival ranged from middle-aged dads busting out their old band shirts that barely fit to young teenagers who had just discovered the magic of pop-punk.
One of those pop-punk bands, Saves the Day, who released their first album in 1998, drew one of the largest crowds that weekend.
“Saves the Day were super emo. It was what me and all my friends used to listen to,” said Carlos, who now works with electric motors.
“It just brought back a lot of feelings. Like, wow, I used to grow up listening to this,” said Melissa, who attended the concert with her boyfriend Carlos.
The nostalgia factor of the festival did not end with the fans. The Get Up Kids, who became a cult-fan favorite in the nineties, played early the first day of the festival.
“This song is 21-years-old,” said lead singer Matt Pryor as he introduced the next song in their set. “They should call this the now that we’re old fest, or the when we were skinny fest,” he jested.
Nostalgia has been a major market in recent years, with older bands touring old albums fans still clamor over, but it is a win-win situation. Fans get to relive their fond, long-gone youth and bands get to form an entire, financially beneficial tour off of it.
Even without a band’s physical presence, they remained a looming presence over the festival. Inside the Let’s Dance DJ Room, vinyl-tribute sets for enduring bands like The Cure, Mexican superstar Selena and recently passed David Bowie spun all weekend long.
Old punk legends had their day as well. Mike Watt of The Stooges and Minutemen played the Observatory at the Mars stage.
Quivering, shaking, and contorting his mouth while strumming his bass guitar, Watt preached to a large choir of lifelong fans.
Modern band Joyce Manor played the festival as well, but could not hold back their excitement over older band AFI who were also on the lineup.
“Anyone excited to see AFI?” lead singer Barry Johnson asked. “Me too,” he said after a lively cheer from the crowd.
As the sun faded and Morrissey emerged on stage, lights beaming on the crowd, no one looked any younger or older than each other. Rather, they all looked the same as they cheered and cried when Morrissey sang those old, fond lyrics: “Take me out tonight, because I want to see people and I want to see lights.”
Morrissey’s wish came true, and his nostalgic fans could not have been happier to see it.