We saw a lot of weird things happen in 2022. The year started with the COVID Omicron remix that shut down live music again, pushing many New Year’s Eve concerts into the spring and summer. When it was time for the boys of summer to come out, Dead & Company fans were more often than not greeted by pinch hitter Jay Lane filling in on drums for Bill Kreutzmann. Meanwhile, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard became a jam band and put out five albums in a year (again). Harry Styles temporarily took over Madison Square Garden and ignited the competitive spirit in Phish fans, and Taylor Swift fans broke Ticketmaster.

Out of all those crazy storylines, these are the strange sagas we at Live For Live Music couldn’t stop following in 2022. For more year-end staff picks, check out the Best of 2022 edition of the L4LM Monthly Mix here.


Just as 2022 was in its infancy, the year died its hair black and went full emo with the announcement of When We Were Young. The inaugural festival gathered up top names from the ’90s/’00s emo scene like My Chemical Romance, ParamoreTaking Back SundayDashboard Confessional, and many, many more for a conspicuously dense single-day lineup. The Live Nation-produced event ended up selling out three times over, with organizers adding two additional days of the same lineup.

The festival was not without its growing pains. Given the wealth of artists performing in a single day, the majority of acts were relegated to 30-minute time slots. With over 60 artists playing across five stages in a little over 12 hours, scheduling conflicts were a necessity. When it finally came time for WWWY to debut on October 22nd, 30–40 mph winds blew through Las Vegas, forcing organizers to cancel day one. With the next two days of the festival already sold out, the only thing organizers could do for the fans who traveled from all over the world was issue refunds. The following two days of the festival went off smoothly, with My Chemical Romance donning elderly prosthetics to drive home their legacy as emo forefathers.

While When We Were Young had its difficulties, the festival proved the marketing power of nostalgia. Before the inaugural festival even took place, Live Nation announced the 2023 lineup for WWWY, set to include the newly-reunited classic Blink-182 lineup, which also scheduled a global arena tour.

In the wake of When We Were Young, other new fests capitalizing on ’90s and ’00s nostalgia have sprouted up around the country. Atlantic City’s Adjacent Festival also nabbed Blink-182 and Paramore for its debut over Memorial Day Weekend 2023, while the nu metal-centric Sick New World will take place at the same site as WWWY—the Las Vegas Fairgrounds—in May with System of a DownDeftones, and Incubus.

In 2022, what’s old was new again. As ’90s kids continue to grow up, grow old, and become a target marketing demographic with disposable income, events catered to millennials will continue to try and capture ’90s nostalgia like some kind of Fred Durst Beanie Baby®.

Welcome, This Is A Harry’s House

If there’s one thing Phish fans are known for, it’s their accepting nature when it comes to new music. From welcoming new generations of jam bands without a hint of competitiveness to the open-armed embrace of Phish’s latest compositions, the scene regularly meets new stuff with a welcoming atmosphere of love and light. Lol…

Between Phish’s two four-night runs at Madison Square Garden in 2022, Harry Styles decided he wanted to stop by the World’s Most Famous Arena. Amid a meteoric rise to an even higher stratum of fame due to his smash album Harry’s House and one of the top singles of the year, “As It Was”, the former One Direction singer knew that one night wouldn’t be enough. Neither would two, or three, or four, and so on. So instead, Harry’s House relocated to 4 Pennsylvania Plaza for 15 concerts… and Phish fans took that personally.

Related: MSG Is ‘Harry’s House’ (For Now): How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Harry Styles [Review]

When a banner celebrating Harry Styles’ “15 consecutive nights at The Garden” was hung in the rafters alongside those for Phish’s 13 consecutive Baker’s Dozen shows and Billy Joel‘s most consecutive performances (86) and most lifetime performances (132), Phish fans broke out the dictionary to take issue with the word “consecutive.” On one hand, Harry’s 15 shows were spread out over a month, during which time other events took place at The Garden. On the other, the pop icon played no other concerts during that time.

Many online also took issue with the fact that Styles’ setlist remained consistent from night to night while Phish didn’t repeat a song over the course of 13 concerts in 17 days (with no other acts or events taking place at MSG during that time). And that, for Golf Dads™ across Colorado and the United States, justified getting into arguments with teenage girls on Facebook.

To close out 2022, Phish returned to Madison Square Garden for yet another New Year’s Eve run. But even as the band executed a nostalgia-filled 40th birthday celebration for its second New Year’s Eve gag in eight months, Harry’s banner still loomed overhead in the rafters of MSG, fluttering in the air conditioning as a challenge to a band as committed to extravagant one-upmanship as its fans are. Rumors are already circulating that the band might now stage a 16-night run at MSG this summer to dethrone the current prince of pop.

The Stranger Things Effect

To reiterate an earlier point, in 2022 what’s old was new again. One of the most successful nostalgiafests in recent memory is Netflix‘s smash-hit sci-fi/horror drama Stranger Things. The show about teenagers fighting evil in alternate dimensions in the 1980s has built a massive following for its homages to retro culture, from classic thriller tropes to authentic fashion and, most notably for our purposes, its soundtrack. (Warning: spoilers ahead).

The fourth season, which premiered in two installments in May and July, respectively, finds the children and young adults of Hawkins, IN fighting the evil force known as Vecna from the Upside Down. The entity begins killing off townspeople from his alternate dimension after first possessing them by exploiting their fears and insecurities. As he tries to claim yet another victim, Max Mayfield, the characters discover that by listening to music they can save themselves from Vecna’s pull.

Rather than choosing some hair-rising ’80s anthem for this thematic centerpiece, the show’s creators instead picked Kate Bush‘s 1985 synth-pop track, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)”. Though the track peaked at #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985, it was nothing compared to the resurgence the song received in 2022. Thanks to Stranger Things, 37 years after its release, “Running Up That Hill” became one of the year’s most successful singles, peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hanging around the top spots for the bulk of the summer.

Part of the charm was that it wasn’t some obvious ’80s track from Madonna or Van Halen. Gen Zers hadn’t heard the track on their parents’ oldies station and weren’t already numb to it. Combined with the writing of Matt and Ross Duffer, a.k.a. the Duffer Brothers, the track became symbolic of the way that music provides an escape for us all. It doesn’t hurt that the song is super catchy. Not even pop hitmaker Halsey was immune to the song’s resurgence. The millennial singer-songwriter covering “Running Up The Hill” during her set at Governors Ball two weeks after the first installment of season four dropped—and the mostly early-20-something crowd all seemed to know the words.

The Stranger Things effect wasn’t over there. Two months later, when the remaining season four episodes arrived to widespread fanfare, yet another ’80s classic featured in the show caught a resurgent wave. As antagonist Eddie Munson sacrifices himself to a swarm of flying hellions, he grabs his electric guitar and turns it up to 11 for a climactic rendition of Metallica‘s “Master of Puppets”. According to Luminate, the song’s daily U.S. audio streams grew nearly 400% from 224,000 the day before Stranger Things premiered to 1.11 million streams the day after. It soon cracked the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time ever.

The Stranger Things episode didn’t just propel “Master of Puppets” back into the spotlight but also gave Munson actor Joseph Quinn the opportunity for a real-life rockstar moment. Ahead of Metallica’s headlining set at Lollapalooza, the metal icons got in on the Stranger Things effect just like Halsey by jamming with Munson backstage, later posting about it on social media. When Halloween came around, Metallica frontman James Hetfield even dressed as Munson—in true dad fashion, as the reference had faded from memory many months prior. To quote Dustin Henderson, “Most metal ever!”

While we don’t know exactly when the fifth and final season of Stranger Things will arrive, it’s safe to say that it will feature more of the ’80s nostalgia that made the show into its own cultural moment. What songs could the Duffer Brothers resurrect for a final Stranger Things boost? Will the stoner pizza delivery driver Argyle find a Grateful Dead cassette and rocket “Touch of Grey” to another commercial peak? Stranger things have happened…

Swifties v. Ticketmaster

The idea that Ticketmaster is a thorn in the wallets of live music fans everywhere is nothing new. While many have grown to accept inflated ticket prices and egregious service fees as costs of doing business, there’s a new generation willing to challenge the status quo. A 2021 study from Billboard found that the post-lockdown live music comeback is largely fueled by Gen Z, many of whom are going to concerts for the first time.

So, when Taylor Swift announced The Eras Tour, her first full outing since 2018, many fans young and old wanted tickets. With 52 shows scheduled in stadiums across the United States, getting tickets seemed mathematically plausible. To expedite the process, Ticketmaster made fans register ahead of time for a fan pre-sale. While Ticketmaster expected only 1.5 million fans to virtually get in line for the pre-sale, the online service was instead overloaded by 14 million users, resulting in hours-long waits and customer service response times that stretched into days.

In the end, Ticketmaster canceled the general on-sale for tickets to the Taylor Swift Eras Tour. The platform ultimately sold two million tickets to Taylor Swift during the pre-sale, the most for any single artist in one day. While the company blamed bots and people without codes trying to buy tickets for the pre-sale fiasco, fans made their disappointment known across social media. Those calls were soon echoed by politicians, musicians, and eventually the United States Department of Justice, which has since opened an antitrust investigation into Ticketmaster.

Meanwhile, in Mexico, Ticketmaster faces millions in fines after overselling a pair of Bad Bunny concerts. Less than a month after the Taylor Swift debacle, Ticketmaster Mexico and its subsidiary Ocesa were ordered to pay restitution to the nearly 2,000 fans shut out of the concerts after being told their tickets were counterfeit. The head of Mexico’s Federal Attorney’s Office for Consumers (PROFECO) said Ticketmaster Mexico could also be fined as much as 10% of its total sales for 2021.

While this is far from the first time Ticketmaster has drawn the ire of the concert-going public, the sheer volume of voices speaking out could make this battle different. With fans of some of the world’s biggest pop stars all chiming in on social media and tagging their representatives in a public forum, this renewed fight against the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger is publicized in a way that writing your representative wasn’t.

As the live music world continues its gradual return to pre-COVID normalcy, many are asking—loudly—why we must return to this broken system. Maybe all it took for us to #BreakUpTicketmaster was a pandemic and Taylor Swift finally going back out on tour.

Whose Pipe Is It Anyway?

While it may not have been one of the biggest headline-grabbing stories of 2022, we here at Live For Live Music kept up with a saga that may have otherwise gone up in smoke. Back in October, Rolling Stone broke a story that a pipe given to Jerry Garcia by Owsley “Bear” Stanley III was recovered after 30 years behind Merl Saunders‘s bed in his San Francisco home. Complete with photos, the article stated that the piece was made special for the Grateful Dead guitarist by the famed LSD chemist as a “spirit pipe.”

“Owsley would anoint people with a spirit animal,” said the pipe’s current owner Steve Cabella, who met Owsley in a jewelry-making class at the College of Marin in the late ’80s. He went on to explain that Stanley would often make a spirit pipe bearing a carved image of a person’s spirit animal and give it to them. He claimed that Jerry’s pipe, which has a cat resembling the cover of Jerry Garcia Band‘s Cats Under The Stars album, is an example of such a spirit pipe.

After picking up the story, Live For Live Music was contacted by Owsley’s sonStarfinder Stanley, who said “This is, to be blunt about it, a steaming pile of horsecrap.” Owsley’s son went on to dispute Cabella’s claims that his father would “anoint people with a spirit animal” or give them “spirit pipes,” calling such practices “utter cultural appropriation bullsh–t.” He also pointed to the fact that the alleged Owsley pipe owned by Cabella featured Stanley Mouse‘s artwork for Cats Under The Stars, noting that “Bear would never put someone else’s art on anything he made.”

Cabella retorted with claims of a letter of provenance attesting to the pipe’s authenticity, as well as pointed to the fact that Jerry deliberately hid the pipe at Saunders’ following the guitarists’ 1985 drug bust in Golden Gate Park. As for the claims about spirit animals, Cabella pointed to names like “Bear” and “Owl”—a moniker Steve said Bear gave longtime girlfriend and fellow chemist Melissa Cargill before adopting a pet owl—as proof that he did assign spiritual totems to his closest companions. Cabella also referenced “an email conversation with Owsley’s widow in which she mentions she has a pipe called ‘Owl.’”

“If you believe in the spirit animal, the concept of the spirit animal and a pipe to release that spirit animal, then you don’t talk about it,” Cabella said. “That’s probably why Jerry didn’t share the pipe. You don’t share it, you don’t talk about it. So nobody really wants to talk about their pipes.”

In a later rebuke of Cabella’s claims, Starfinder shared with L4LM photos of a simple, fish-shaped pipe that was carved by Owsley. The pipe bears little resemblance to the ornate piece that Cabella showed to Rolling Stone, and he further dispelled the notion that his father gave people spirit animals, offering his own explanation for names like “Bear” and “Owl”.

“Bear was called Bear because he sprouted body hair before his friends when they hit puberty and his friends teased him that he was turning into a Bear,” Stanley told Live For Live Music. “He liked the nickname, and it proved useful to have an alternate name when ‘Owsley’ became well known for acid in the scene.”

Referring to Cabella’s claim that Bear assigned the nickname “Owl” to Cargill because it was her spirit animal, Stanley said, “[Bear] never referred to Melissa as ‘Owl.’ Trust me, I asked her directly.” Starfinder also denied that Bear adopted a pet owl because of any spirit animal beliefs: “Terry the Tramp, a Hells Angel friend, gave him a burrowing owl because HIS name sounded like ‘OWL-sley.’ And while Bear thought names should have meaning (hence naming me Starfinder and my sister Redbird), it wasn’t related to any spirit animal claptrap.”

The younger Stanley also explained the reason why he takes umbrage at Cabella’s claims, saying, “He is trying to make Bear into some hippie caricature to suit his narrative, for his own profiteering. I find it offensive. Bear was a unique character, with many idiosyncrasies, but Cabella wasn’t privy to what is what.”

Hopefully, the two parties can gather around the peace pipe in 2023 and settle this thing once and for all.