Review: Pop Punk Nite lights up the weekend and showcases a golden era of music

Editor’s Note: Van Full of Nuns will be returning to Tulsa on July 29. See the article for more details.

In the large, dark sea of black-clad young adults that were at the Cain’s Ballroom earlier this July, an unbridled spirit reverberated from the stage to the hard wood floors as they are beaten down by the crowd’s lively dancing. By the christening of their pizza-devoted communion, Van Full of Nuns’ Pop Punk Nite brought hundreds of Zillenials (Millennials and Gen Z), or people born in the 90s, together to enthusiastically and literally scream for the same thing: “Bring back Pop Punk.”

Not to be confused with either of its famous parents, pop and punk, the genre of pop punk is as dynamic in its sounds as the subculture it draws from its parentage. The era of the 2000s provided the perfect place to foster bands such as these focused on embracing the angsty, rebellious teenage spirit we all may have had many years ago. The genre, as its name implies, achieves this through a mix of the rough, in-your-face attitude of punk and the vibrant energy of pop. Although seemingly opposites on the surface, the passion put in blending the two genres together created a style of music so revolutionary to the young troublemakers of two decades ago that they still yearn to revisit their nostalgia as adults.

With how deeply felt pop punk was in its contemporary age, Tulsans were enthusiastic to resurrect it for just one night under the leadership of Texas band Van Full of Nuns. Formed in 2019, the practically brand-new band of five, featuring Michael Perez, Josh Koder, Todd Griffith, Jarrett Adlof, and Cameron Henson, has quickly reached great success in both their original music and covers. According to an interview with “Scales & Ales Podcast” the band sold out all 500 pre-sale tickets during their first time in Tulsa, playing Pop Punk’s Not Dead Fest in 2021. Now returning for the third year in a row, two more groups joined the evening’s roster: Bluprint and House Parties. The energy the crowd demanded was easily met by each of them in a show just as much in love with pop punk as its patrons.

Despite the new faces, anticipation for the night left an entry line trailing all the way to West Cameron Street, the precursor to a packed house that would only grow in attendance as the night grew longer. Bluprint, comprised of a trio from Chicago, was up first to energize the audience with a handful of its own songs as well as Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.”

House Parties, another group from Texas, followed with an introduction that caught many by surprise. Blaring from the loud speakers came a clip of “Sweet Victory,” an iconic moment from Nickelodeon cartoon “SpongeBob SquarePants” that everyone in the building was sure to remember. The concert would go on to have multiple call-backs to the 2000s, such as the “Phineas & Ferb” and “Friends” theme songs, which were unrelated to pop punk but were presented for nostalgia’s sake. After House Parties’ introduction, the band performed a number of songs, including a sneak peek of their unreleased original, “Mid Life Crisis.”

If that was not enough, the feature band, Van Full of Nuns, was soon on stage to greet a crowd demanding more and more. The Nuns’ performance boomed with a joyful adrenaline, sure to earn the allegiance of new fans. My Chemical Romance, Panic! at the Disco, Sum 41, and a dozen other staple emo artists lived again in the historic Cain’s Ballroom that Saturday night.

“We sell nostalgia. People are there to get taken back to 15 (years old) on a skateboard, drinking Mountain Dew, watching “Time Stoppers,” drummer Todd Griffith emphasizes on “Scales & Ales.”

As the show neared its end, the Nuns band had made its last call for raffle entries to win tickets to another pop punk show happening Sept. 29at the BOK Center, Paramore. The band then ended the night out with a very emotional “I Miss You” by Blink-182. From the sound of the crowd, everyone knew its lyrics by heart. It was a wonderful finale, sure, but the fans chanted for one more song knowing that the most prolific sound of 2000s’ pop punk still must be played. The loud, ecstatic cries of a flood of people who had been waiting all night for the encore utterly drowned out the opening piano of My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to the Black Parade,” which has been the anthem of this subculture since its release in 2006.

It was spectacular, possibly even religious, to be a part of such a fine celebration of this era of our young lives along with people who love its memory just the same.

At this point in the night, you could mourn that old saying, ‘all good things must come to an end,’ but Tulsa is lucky enough to have Van Full of Nuns for a second time this month to host a free street party outside of the BOK Center from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. in anticipation for the Paramore show later that night. The event will include food and drink vendors, yard games, and, of course, live music by the Nuns. It is free to the public regardless if you have tickets to Paramore or not, so their energetic performance can be enjoyed by anyone who wants to lose their voice screaming along with lead vocalist Michael Perez and his friends.

Until then, we must temporarily put our fishnets and “guyliner” away to simply reminisce on our old lives as dramatic, rebellious teenagers. Even though the things we had once been so in love with 20 years ago are no longer new, they continue to live within us as our guides in what we, as adults, choose to make new for the current day. For bands like Bluprint, House Parties, and Van Full of Nuns, that guide can sometimes turn us right back around to revive the objects of our nostalgia, forming them into fresh music for the next generation to identify with in their own way. It is a cycle of time repeated countless decades and will be repeated countless more. But, for the most part, grown-up emo kids still just really, really love pop punk.

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