It’ll come as news to absolutely nobody that pop-punk has made a comeback in recent months. Still, thanks to travel restrictions, it’s left to KennyHoopla to represent the whole goddamn scene at Reading Festival this year.
Not that he seems to mind. Fresh from a run of shows with Yungblud and with perhaps the most intense headline show in London this side of lockdown in his back pocket, he takes to the Dance Stage today with a certain swagger. The crowd is just as hyped. In the toilets before his set, a group of lads can be heard singing the refrain from ‘How Will I Rest In Peace If I’m Buried By A Highway’, and the cheers when he takes to the stage are the sort usually reserved for headliners.
It has all the foundations of a brilliant set but true to form, KennyHoopla over-delivers. This is the making of an icon.
It takes KennyHoopla roughly 2 minutes before he dives off the stage and into the crowd. He spends the entirety of the set ping-ponging between the two, perhaps trying to fit the experience of both punter and performer into his first trip to Reading Festival. He crowd surfs, he moshes, he breaks a microphone. It’s all gloriously chaotic.
While his music pulls heavily from the early 00’s scenes that thrived back then on the Main Stage here, KennyHoopla is more than a genre revivalist. Sure, ‘Hollywood Sucks’ is heavily influenced by the pop-punk thrash of Blink 182, ‘Inside Of Heaven’s Mouth, There Is a Sweet Tooth’ has bursts of post-hardcore fury and ‘9-5 (Love Me)’ is very Taking Back Sunday but it’s smarter than simple cover versions. Twisting the old with a Gen-Z disregard for history, his music is very much the future.
The whole thing is delivered with the sort of melodramatic sincerity that made superstars of Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco and My Chemical Romance (give it time, there’s every chance KennyHoopla will reach the same heights), but there’s power to be found in that shameless vulnerability. “I just died at the thought of being alive at the same time as you,” he sings in ‘Estella’, a stomping punk number that starts with a backflip and only gets more theatrical. There aren’t many people who can’t relate to such overwhelming emotion, which is perhaps why his crowd is so passionate.
From the moment he comes on stage, the entire tent becomes a swirling pit. The curious and the diehard united in excitement.
In a brief moment away from the intensity, Kenny tells the ever-swelling crowd that his walls were covered in posters when he was growing up and he would perform early gigs to them. Today, it’s a dream come true moment. Eager to share this moment, though, he later tells the tent, “you could be here too. All it takes is a lot of purity and embarrassing yourself.”
If Reading Festival 2021 represents the arrival of the next generation of rockstars, it’s Kennyhoopla leading the charge.