Music ties people together, despite any age, gender or religion differences. It allows humans to connect on a mutual interest, while also bringing out the best of stories. This weekend’s When We Were Young Festival at the Observatory in Santa Ana is doing exactly that for some of the artists on the lineup.
Whether the bands on the festival formed decades ago or just recently, the nostalgic title of When We Were Young draws connections with other bands sharing the same stage. The two-day Morrissey-headlined festival brings more than 40 artists from the 1980s to today’s up and coming bands together.
Plague Vendor, a punk band formed in 2009 in Whittier, connects the festival name with their early teen years listening to AFI, Moving Units and Mike Watt, all three on the lineup with Plague Vendor for Saturday April 8.
“Moving Units was a big influence on me growing up,” says singer Brandon Blaine. “I’ve seen them a handful of times when they were first releasing albums, and I think they played Beach Goth around the time we did, but we’ve never been on the same bill until this event.”
The group of four guys who are now as close as brothers have released two records, Free to Ease, and their most recent, Bloodsweat. Since the first release, the band has performed at festivals such as Rock the Garden in Minneapolis, Beach Goth, Warped Tour and Riot Fest.
“It’s always a surprise to find out you’re playing a festival,” Blaine says. “I was stoked that the promoters would consider us for this lineup. We associate ourselves with a lot of the other bands playing, so it’s really cool to be a part of this.”
Plague Vendor performs on Saturday’s lineup and plans on playing all of their “bangers,” or fast, manick songs, for the entirety of their 30 minute set at 2 p.m. Similarly, David Kelling from Culture Abuse shares the same excitement about playing alongside some of the headlining bands he’s listened to when he was young.
“All those bands in the festival are heavy hitters and legendary, and it’s cool to see our band name next to all of them,” Kelling says. “They are pretty much what has influenced the sound of other bands.”
Culture Abuse formed at the end of 2013, and the band has taken off since. After the release of their first full-length album, Peach, the singer says they have been touring heavily in the months prior to the festival. They plan to spend the rest of the year performing globally in Hawaii and Europe. At the rate the band’s going, it won’t be a surprise to see them headlining two-day festivals in the future. For now, they are focusing on kicking off the festival as the first band performing on Saturday at noon.
“AFI has been the same band from the beginning, which shows they love what they’re doing and who they’re doing it with,” says Kelling. “I think doing what you think is right and sharing the music you create and love with your fans will help you be successful and substantial in your career.”
On the other end, singer Mike Magrann from Channel 3 is excited to get back together with some of the original punk rockers of the 1980s who’ve played with them, such as D.I., Agent Orange, The Dickies and The Stitches. It’s almost as if they’ve grown up together in the music world.
“I think it’s just a really great rounded out festival,” Magrann says. “ It’s a weird Orange County phenomenon that all the old guys are still out there and seriously touring the world and still playing, it’s pretty cool.”
Channel 3 has played consistently since the late 1970s, including Warped Tour, Punk Rock Bowling, and Rebellion festival in the UK. Magrann says the band’s been around for so long out of pure survival. He says the key to survival is finding people you can stay friends with from the start and keep doing what you love.
“That’s the best thing about playing festivals is that you get exposure to people who wouldn’t normally see you, or haven’t heard of you, and at least they’ll give you a chance,” Magrann says.
When it comes to new exposure, Kelling hopes for the best from new fans after the festival.
“The nicest thing would be to make someone feel the same way about our band that Morrissey, The Descendants or AFI has made a million people feel when they play,” he says.
All three bands help reinforce the title of the festival, thinking back to when they were young. Whether they were playing music in their youth as punk began to form— such as Channel 3— or have been inspired by the musicians from that era, like Plague Vendor and Culture Abuse, the timelessness of music will continue to be the key element for the entirety of the festival.
“The music represents the youth in all of us, regardless of age now,” says Magrann. “Music is the one thing that makes you feel like a teenager on a summer day, no matter how old you are. It’s a timeless thing.”