While it feels like the meteoric renewal of pop punk happened all at once, the subgenre had slowly been edging its way back into mainstream appeal since the days of mid-2010s emo rap. Rather than a general revamp of punk music, the years since Lil Peep’s passing instead saw the resurgence of a specific era in culture: the early 2000s.

What continues to be a point of conversation is how Gen Z is leading this charge. They have revisited the canon of early aughts alternative and everything along with it. Curiously enough, much of this interest harks back to a time that many of them don’t directly remember.

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While some of this enthusiasm for the past is couched in irony, the reclaiming of early aughts culture is largely done in earnest. Gen Z could have easily sifted through Y2K aesthetics and dismissed it or scrapped it for parts. Instead, today’s youth are keen on paying homage to the pioneers who came before while borrowing their insights.

Meet Me @ The Altar’s Edith Johnson shouted out punk legend Avril Lavigne in our December issue. On the other side, artists such as Travis Barker, Pierre Bouvier and Joel Madden have actively collaborated with younger artists as a way of giving back to the musical community.

The revamp of 2000s culture has garnered the term “nowstalgia.” Gen Z seeks to be fully transparent about the limitations of the early 2000s, replacing the time period’s cruel lows with newfound highs and greater political consciousness. 

Mewling white, male-led bands who use to serve as the bastion for alternative are now starting to be balanced out by queer and POC artists. And many artists have swapped thematics about a boy’s disgruntled obsession over an uninterested girl for self-reflective songs about mental health and women’s empowerment. Most importantly, the #MeToo movement has helped support women fans and artists as they speak out and build more inclusive spaces.

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Now, Gen Z could possibly do the Y2K thing in their own way. Just possibly, they might even do it better than millennials ever did. A tectonic shift seems to be happening in 2022. The political consciousness, respect and equality touted during the early 2000s have the potential to be fully realized. Gen Z leads this wave, and they are inviting the bands that genuinely put forth that message in the past to join in for the ride. In turn, this revamp has allowed legacy artists to fully occupy their place as pioneers and veterans, bringing their leadership and influence into a new era.

On Feb. 25, Avril Lavigne and Dashboard Confessional will both return with new projects, some of their most powerful music since their legendary releases in the early 2000s. 

In an interview, Lavigne said the creative process behind upcoming record Love Sux began when MOD SUN, who has previously been referred to as “Gen Z’s Pop-Punk Consultant,” randomly showed up at her door to demand she start writing in the fall of 2020. From there, she said “everything kind of organically started,” adding that she “felt like [she] was doing what [she] needed to be doing.” Lavigne also worked with Barker, who encouraged her to return to her pop-punk roots because a new “era” was upon us.

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“If you can put the inception point of this era – if you wanna call it an era...” the interviewer asked Lavigne before she interrupted.

“It’s an era,” she said confidently.

“When does it start?”

“Now.”

Meanwhile, Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba approaches the band’s next album, All The Truth That I Can Tell, from a more personal direction. Even so, he similarly reflects a sense of perspective about his own position as an artist with a multi-decade career.

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In an interview with AltPress for our February issue, Carrabba spoke about the challenges of continuing to construct honest, meaningful music after a multi-decades-long career in music.

“I don't know if it's harder to get to a place of honesty, but it's easier when you haven't written many, many records that explore pretty much any topic,” Carrabba says. “But some topics become overexplored. Some subjects become overexplored. Often I turn the lens inward, so then I'm the subject. I've really had a career's length of music to explore how I feel about the world, how I feel I fit in the world and the effect that the world has on me.

“No one likes to think that they will one day not be able to do the thing they love,” Carrabba continues. “But everybody that writes songs worries about it. I was relieved to find that I had something personally important to say that was revelatory to me. That was the journey of discovery for me. So that's the part that is probably increasingly elusive as your tenure as a songwriter increases. And I'm now a decade, a couple of decades in, if not more.”

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Lavigne and Carrabba make it clear that they draw perspectives from the passage of time. In Carrabba's case, it involves a challenge to remain self-aware and conscious of his own changing perspective. And Lavigne is thinking about her place in a whole new era – one informed by the artistry of both musicians.

The comfort that early aught artists feel returning to their roots has led to a wave of interesting results in 2022. On Jan. 18, Live Nation announced its lineup for the When We Were Young festival, which was met with universal fanfare. The bulk of the artists on the roster were 2000s headliners such as My Chemical Romance, AFI, Jimmy Eat World and Boys Like Girls.

Matt Cutshall’s Emo’s Not Dead project also announced their “Emo’s Not Dead Cruise” at the end of January, which featured more legacy headliners such as Dashboard, Thursday and New Found Glory. It’s worth noting that billings of this niche nature were unfathomable five years ago, as similar rock-oriented festivals like Warped Tour slowly began to decline.

With all of these factors at play, it feels like the Y2K revitalization has officially exploded in 2022, to the point where nostalgia is clearly part of the water. It’s comforting to reflect on the utopian spirit of this revitalization: a world where millennial and Gen Z scene kids exist in harmony, raging away to Machine Gun Kelly, WILLOW, Dashboard and Lavigne all at the same time.

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With that said, there are risks. As nostalgia once again becomes a mainstay in the cultural sphere, it’s easy to worry about a co-opting of the spirit that undergirds our current moment.

That said, there is cause for optimism. Since 2020, we’ve all ached for the past as we struggle to exist in a world faced with apocalyptic climate change, a broken political system and a personally and socially devastating pandemic. Millennials and Gen Z both yearn for the musical honesty and playful naivete that came from Y2K fodder, and it has proven to be a connecting bridge between the two generations.

This still remains a good thing, and while it’s unclear what the future will look like, at least we’ll all be heading into the unknown together, screaming every word to Paramore’s “Brick by Boring Brick.”