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Hear Paramore’s Hayley Williams Champion Emo Scene Diversity at When We Were Young

Group's set featured two rare songs plus new single "This Is Why"
(Photo: Zachary Gray)

Paramore has only played a handful of shows this month, its first in more than four years, but frontwoman Hayley Williams continues to champion the minority voices in the ever-evolving emo scene. She discussed the issue during an extended speech after the fifth song of Paramore’s set yesterday (Oct. 23) at the When We Were Young festival in Las Vegas.

“Tonight we’re celebrating… emo, right? This is the emo fest. This is the place to be,” she said as she sat the foot of the stage. “This genre is made up of a lot of different genres, and I’ll spare you the history lesson — no I won’t, why would I do that? This started in the mid ’80s as something that had vision, and it was started by some dudes that thought that punk rock should make more space for alternative people inside of alternative music. I think that it started off pretty well, you had Minor Threat, you had Fugazi, you had a lot of that shit. But we got lost along the way. And in the early 2000s, when Paramore came onto the scene, roughly around 2005, the scene was not always a safe place to be if you were different, if you were a young women, if you were a person of color, if you were queer, and that’s really fucked up if you think about it. Because this was supposed to be the safe place, wasn’t it? Yes.”

“So, we’ve been around for almost 20 years, and I’ve had my fill of letting older people — especially older men — tell me what punk rock is and tell me what punk rock is not,” she continued. “Just today, there was a crusty old fuck on the Internet saying that punk was supposed to be anti-establishment, right? Well it is, and actually, I can think of nothing more anti-establishment than young women, than people of color, and the queer community. So what I want to say to you, if you are one of those people in those subsets, there is space for you here now. Did you hear me? There’s space for you now. We love you and we love being a part of this scene. And we’re gonna keep doing whatever we can do alongside our friends and our peers in the scene to make it feel safe for every single one of you out there, because it does not feel good to feel unwelcome. It does not feel good to be talked down to. So if you’re here tonight, thank you. Thanks for watching us. We all survived a lot to get to this night.”

Williams touched on similar themes in an Instagram post earlier in the day, writing, “Tonight, for me, at least, is about celebrating ALL the facets of what punk music actually represents. All the things it wasn’t allowed to be when we were young.”

Paramore’s 12-song set at When We Were Young opened with the live debut of “All I Wanted” from the 2009 album Brand New Eyes and included “Here We Go Again” from the band’s 2005 debut project All We Know Is Falling, which had only been played twice since 2016.

As previously reported, Paramore’s new album, This Is Why, will be released Feb. 10.