The Kings of the New Age Tour Featuring State Champs Reminds Us That Pop Punk Is Far From Dead

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You had a few choices of what to do on Sunday night up here in the Twin Cities. Among others, you could have sat at home with a giant bowl of chili and watched the Vikings absolutely choke or you could have made your way over to the gorgeous Varsity Theater in Dinkytown, Minneapolis to catch an evening chock full of amazing music. I chose the latter but that’s probably not a surprise to you.

Early shows are rough. Not just for people like me who are more night owls than daytime squirrels, but also for the bands. Young Culture started their set right around 5:20 which, on all accounts, is freaking early for a rock show but they didn’t let it affect them. The New York-based band played to a surprisingly large audience which, even more surprisingly seemed to know who they were. A newer band, it made my heart so full to hear the roar of applause follow their question about who has heard of them before. Although the roar that came after the question of who has never heard of the band before was much louder, the fact that there were people dancing and singing along to Young Culture was amazing. Their sound is a classic pop-punk sound that filled my heart so full of nostalgia and warmth. I may have never heard of the band prior to this set but they absolutely caught my attention and I will be doing a deep dive into their discography immediately. As they stated at the beginning of their set, it was Young Culture’s job to get the audience prepped and ready for the rest of the night. Mission accomplished and then some!

Sunday night was Australian-based Between You and Me’s second time playing the cities and, as soon as they kicked off their set, I only wished I had been at their first visit here. Much like Young Culture, BYAM has a very nostalgic pop-punk vibe to them but they come with a little extra angst in their vocals making it right up my alley. Even though they don’t come here often, the crowd’s response to BYAM was staggering. From people singing along to every word like their life depended on it to people more like me who seemed a bit caught off guard by the sheer power that the band was bringing to the stage yet instantly getting into it with the bop of a head or the tap of a toe, BYAM’s set was dynamic both on stage and in the audience. The energy was already high as BYAM was wrapping up their set but their vocalist and bassist still spent some of the last moments of their set getting the crowd even more excited by jumping into the sweaty mess of people and finishing their set from there (with the help of Youth Culture’s bassist who took over). BYAM may not come here often but they absolutely gave the audience a treat with the time they were given on stage (and in the audience).

I had seen the third band, HUNNY, multiple times before, and, if I’m being honest, they never quite stuck out to me. It wasn’t that they were ever bad but I just felt like there was rarely anything about their sets or music that really stood out to me. I could see that start to change as HUNNY played through their 40-minute set on Sunday night. Maybe they were just never on the right line-ups. In the past, they have always been with up-and-coming indie-rock-pop bands like Hockey Dad but on Sunday, they were in the company of some of the best young pop-punk bands out there and it’s as if something just clicked. Sure, their music was probably the most pop-laced sound throughout the night and it was clear that the audience wasn’t quite sure what to do about it but that didn’t stop HUNNY from giving the packed Varsity Theater a flawless sound and a spectacle of a show. Vocalist Jason Yarger seemed to have this odd aura about him. He seemed excited to be performing as h sang through the infectious bops of this band but, when it came time for banter between tracks, he felt a little bit discouraged or something. It was an odd juxtaposition but I think it just went to prove how much this band enjoys being on stage but also how they were a bit of the “odd-band-out” when it came to this line-up. Even with that, I felt that HUNNY killed it and finally caught my attention the way I have always wanted them to.

Getting people out on a Sunday night is hard. Add the fact that was pretty dang cold out and you exacerbate the harsh reality that Sundays are rough. Cherry on top? A 5 PM start with the headliner starting around 8 PM? Yeah, a rough Sunday night but the Varsity Theater was packed by the time State Champs went on stage and that made me so happy to see. Some people may say that pop punk is dead. Those people are clueless as to what is actually happening in the scene. State Champs have been around since 2010 but I feel like they are really starting to hit their stride now. With a classic pop-punk sound but their own twist on it, they are a band I have been listening to for years and will never miss a chance to see live. Although I have seen them at multiple festivals, Sunday was my first time seeing them headline their own show, and to say that they rose to the challenge would be an understatement.

Their nearly twenty-song set seemed to fly by but not before the entire audience was singing and jumping along to their infectious beats and tracks. Although I adore State Champs, I wouldn’t call them a “monumental band” in my life (sorry, guys– you’re great but just don’t hit me like that) and I think I forgot that there is a whole generation of people that do worship this band as their gateway into the pop-punk scene. Call me old and jaded but I had Good Charlotte, Finch– Hell, I grew up in the heyday of the pop-punk scene so although I appreciate State Champs, I would rather worship those bands that I grew up with. That being said, seeing everyone around me absolutely lose their minds to every song that State Champs played on Sunday was a good reminder that people still have those kinds of bands. The bands that mean everything to them. Although I go to a show nearly every night, I don’t get to see that every time and it was truly just the icing on the cake when it came to my Sunday night.

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