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Viva Pop Punk! Really, It’s Back. In Vegas, No Less.

The Genre’s Back Bigger than Ever with the When We Were Young Fest in Vegas

By Kimmy Everman

I‘m writing this on a voice memo as I drive to pick up my kid from school. Playing in the background is blink-182, very different from how I used to listen to blink in their heyday– blasting in my car at max volume right after I got my driver’s license. Circa 2003, my homemade burned CD would skip from “Feeling This” to “Swing, Swing” by The All American Rejects or “My Friends Over You” by New Found Glory. Fast forward twenty years and, wow, how things have changed. All while my music taste has stayed pretty much the same.

Now, I play blink (right, lowercase “b,” I checked) and NFG on Spotify via Bluetooth not because their songs are edgy and new … just the opposite. They’re old… I’m old! But punk, which was so painfully uncool for the last two decades, is finally cool again. Thank the punk gods, I’m finally free to listen to Yellowcard, The Starting Line and Bowling for Soup in peace, without being judged as the biggest stuck-in-the-past dork ever. I’m thirty-six going sixteen on my way to get my kid. Wait, what’s my age again?

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Last year Avril Lavigne came out with new music and simultaneously band tees and checkered Vans came back in style with a vengeance. Heck, even a good old-fashioned Converse, which was once the signature of the emo crowd in the early 2000s, is now considered in. What was once a fringe group of punk outcasts, the emotive subculture in black has somehow made a comeback as a cool, mainstream way of being.

Above: See Avril Lavigne and All Time Low kicking it before a huge crowd at this year’s When We Were Young Festival. 

You used to have to earn band tees by going to live shows. And you bet my Green Day tee from 2000 is real and not some cheap printout from an Amazon shop. Being punk used to require major effort (remember Hot Topic?). But now it’s just that easy to buy a tee from your favorite band and rep that nostalgic punk style, recreating this look on an aesthetic whim for when you feel like channeling your inner Ashlee Simpson. My go-to band tee is a blink-182 tee from the brand Furst of a Kind (They make repurposed, vintage band and sports tees). Except these days I style it with bike shorts, Cloud sneakers and a messy mom bun as I chase my two kids. A far cry from the Abercrombie flares, Rocket Dogs and perfectly ironed hair from the band’s (and my) prime.

You can take the girl out of the punk-rock era, but you can’t take the punk outta the girl.

New musicians like Olivia Rodigo, KennyHoopla, and Machine Gun Kelly are bringing back the poppy blink-esque punk that Millennials know and love–but with a fresh modern-day edge. (For those new to Rodrigo, checkout all-american bitch. For KennyHoopla, listen to hollywood sucks//. And if you don’t know Machine Gun Kelly, then get with it already because he’s awesome and his music is seriously addictive.

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I knew punk was back when Machine Gun Kelly came out with his debut punk album Tickets To My Downfall in 2020 — an album produced by blink’s Travis Barker, who also plays the drums on it. But it wasn’t until I was dutifully scrolling Instagram — as any good Millennial does most hours of most days — and came across the IG @whenwewereyoungfest that I knew there was a major movement going on. And that I wasn’t alone. Hundreds of thousands of likeminded emos — 774 thou to be exact – were craving for pop punk to make a return too! This is greater than MGK. Dare I say, this is even greater than Travis Barker.

When We Were Young Fest is an annual music festival in Vegas featuring awesome punk pop bands of the early aughts like Green Day, The Offspring, Good Charlotte, Sum 41, Yellowcard, Something Corporate, The Ataris … the list goes on. Avril Lavigne and blink even made an appearance in WWYF ’23. It took place last weekend with lots sideshows all over Las Vegas all weekend long.

Below: Tom DeLonge, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker of blink-182

Even cooler is how the festival’s Instagram page has formed a community of punk rock fans to share posts of our beloved bands who are still out there performing in small venues all over the country. Who knew Good Charlotte still harmonizes to “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” at weddings (well, at Sophia Richie’s wedding. But a wedding nonetheless)? Who seriously knew Yellowcard and Sum 41 still play sold-out shows — mosh pits and all?

I think the takeaway is that punk isn’t dead — nor was it ever. Nowadays with social media us emo freaks don’t have to wax nostalgic our punk days alone. We can dust off that studded belt and wristband. A huge community has finally come out of the woodwork who loves this genre just as much as we do. We don’t have to feel like lonely weirdos anymore … well, speaking for myself, singular, not as much of a lonely weirdo, at least. And the best part is that the community’s expanding. With new acts like Rodrigo, the fanbase for this undeniably catchy genre only continues to grow.

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Not only isn’t punk dead, it’s here to stay this time.

Kimmy Everman is a mom of two young girls and lives in Miami. She’s into fashion, recycling, pop culture and mom stuff. Check out her third baby @poptalkbaby on Instagram, and her slime loving 7-year-old’s slime videos @valsslimeworld.


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