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Pop punk is making a comeback thanks to new and old(er) stars

Machine Gun Kelly, Avril Lavigne and other singers will bring energetic new music to a Fargodome show this week.

Machine Gun Kelly.jpg
Singer Machine Gun Kelly plays the Fargodome on Wednesday, July 27.
Contributed / Special to The Forum
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FARGO — Machine Gun Kelly’s sixth album, “Mainstream Sellout,” may be a tongue-in-cheek swipe at critics of his transition from rap to pop punk, but the singer is having the last laugh.

The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, just like its 2020 predecessor, “Tickets to My Downfall,” the first to show his new punk side.

The singer brings his new tour to the Fargodome on Wednesday night , July 27, featuring sets by Avril Lavigne and Willow — and all three are finding new success with a pop punk sound.

“It’s coming back in a different way,” Jack Stenerson says of the pop punk resurgence. “It’s hip-hop inspired, more produced. It’s a new blood of pop punk, which is cool, but different from the stuff older people grew up on.”

At 32 — “pretty old in terms of punk,” he says — Stenerson is referring to the edgy and energetic sounds of the early 2000s, like Green Day and Blink-182.

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“That changed the landscape forever,” he says.

Green Day
Green Day performs in July at the Fargodome in 2009.
Forum file photo

He was too young to go to the Vans Warped Tour when it came to the Fargodome in 2002, but attended in Minneapolis every year from 2006 until 2018, the last full year the show was on the road.

He started booking shows for his own punk band in 2006 and now works as a talent buyer for the Fargo-based concert promotion company, Jade Presents.

Stenerson says the Vans Warped Tour was a good indicator of how pop punk’s popularity waned through the 2000s, giving way to more hip-hop and electronic dance music acts.

That seems to have changed over the last few years. First, Machine Gun Kelly released “I Think I’m Going to Be OK” in the summer of 2019. The track was more pop rock than punk, but featured drummer Travis Barker from Blink-182. Barker would co-write and produce Kelly’s breakthrough “Tickets to My Downfall” and “Mainstream Sellout” albums.

Avril-Lavigne-Travis-Barker-Photo-Credit_-Ryan-McFadden.jpg
Avril Lavigne and Travis Barker.
Contributed / Ryan McFadden

In fact, Barker’s fingerprints are all over pop punk’s resurgence. He played on Willow’s 2021 album, “Lately I Feel Everything,” a departure from her more pop R&B sounds, like her 2010 hit, “Whip My Hair.” The album also features Lavigne, who earlier this year released her seventh album, “Live Sux,” produced by Barker for his DTA label.

Lavigne’s latest was lauded by critics and fans who cheered her return to her edgier 2002 debut and hits like “Sk8er Boi.” The new album also includes “Bois Lie,” featuring MGK.

An odd inspiration for pop punk’s comeback may be a reaction to artists being cooped up during the early days of COVID-19.

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“During the pandemic, I found myself going back to a lot of the old records I used to love growing up,” Lavigne told the Spokane Spokesman-Review earlier this month. “I found myself listening to a lot of Blink-182, the Offspring, Green Day and NOFX. Music back then was so raw and natural. I definitely found myself gravitating towards that sound whenever I got into the studio.”

Among those happy that Lavigne has returned to her roots is Stenerson.

“I loved Avril when I was younger. She’s been on my bucket list for a long time,” he says.

Lavigne was an influence on Willow and Olivia Rodrigo, who scored hits last summer with the energetic “Good 4 U” and “Brutal,” both brimming with teen angst.

Stenerson says that seeing artists like Lavigne, Willow and Rodrigo get attention for pop punk sounds helps break down what 20 years ago was mostly a boys club.

“I think it opens the doors to non-men, non-white, non-straight fans. That’s way different than the pop punk scene was before,” he says.

While he’s not as big a fan of MGK, Stenerson gives him credit for sharing a stage with Lavigne.

“He’s putting her in front of people that weren’t alive when she first came out,” he says.

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He adds that MGK, Lavigne, Willow, Rodrigo and more are all making an impact on not only today’s audiences, but tomorrow’s musicians.

“I hope younger kids are going to pick up guitars and start bands,” he says. “There’s nothing cooler than being a kid and watching someone up there playing a guitar.”

If you go

What: Machine Gun Kelly with Avril Lavigne and Willow
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 27
Where: Fargodome, 1800 N. University Drive
Info: Tickets range from $29.50 to $129.50; fargodome.com

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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