As a teenager struggling with then-undiagnosed depression, high-functioning anxiety and PTSD, listening to disproportionate amounts of angst-ridden emo music was the only way I could express the internal chaos within me. Although there are a number of bands that played a particularly poignant role during this time of my life, seeing Pierce the Veil live for the first time had the biggest impact on me. It was the first time, as a Mexican-American fan of a genre known for its whiteness, that I felt truly seen and welcomed by the alternative rock community.
I stumbled upon the San Diego band on April 6, 2008 at Bamboozle Left in Irvine, California. Young and naive, I had zero expectations when it came to massive concerts. I had no parental controls, $30 to my name (which I spent on a My Chemical Romance shirt instead of food), and was far too small to actually brave the pit. Instead, I found myself wandering around the festival grounds looking for free snacks and an empty place to sit and enjoy the music.
Imagine my surprise when I wandered to the back of the amphitheater to find a quartet of post-hardcore musicians putting their heart and soul into their set in front of a barely present crowd. While their music was alluring, it was the fact that the band was made up entirely of Mexican-Americans that really drew me in.
I was shocked to see a Latinx band perform at a major festival, and when I looked around the small crowd that had gathered to listen to them, I was surprised to see that they all looked like me. It was a pretty big moment of representation in my life to see that I wasn’t the only Latinx kid struggling with these overwhelming emotions. That night I went home and downloaded their album “A Flair for the Dramatic” onto my iPod and never looked back. I would go see them a few more times on the Warped Tour and some smaller shows in Southern California and New York over the next 10 years.
While Pierce the Veil was never as big as Fall Out Boy or Panic! At the disco, their fan base was incredibly dedicated, with people from all over the world falling in love with the Mexican-American rockers. Still, it wasn’t until 2022 that I felt they finally got the recognition they deserved.
Similar to the success the band found on Tumblr in the late aughts, social media had once again catapulted the band to international popularity with Gen Z taking their songs to TikTok and creating several unexpectedly popular trends.
One such trend involved a sped-up version of “A Match Into Water” with the creators lip-syncing to makeshift microphones hanging from their ceiling. One user used a hanging bottle of nail polish on a video of the trend that has since had nearly 4 million views and 1 million likes. Commenting on the video, the creator said they are being bullied for being “emo” because they listen to PTV outside of TikTok trends.
Another, much bigger trend was on the “For you page” for weeks and involved creators using transitions to enhance the tones of the song “King For a Day,” which features Sleeping With Sirens lead singer Kellin Quinn. Some creators even went so far as to use it to switch between before and after photos, like @annaxsitar, who has over 12 million followers, did for her spooky beauty look. The trend was so big that even stars like Lizzo and Landon Barker joined in. The trend’s popularity even landed the song at number one on the Billboard Hard Rock charts a decade after its release.
“Our young fans have always been our main inspiration for making new music. We have endless love and respect for them because they are the ones who come out to the shows and listen to our music. They are the ones who create the music culture, lead singer and guitarist Vic Fuentes told HuffPost about the unexpected TikTok success.
Capitalizing on the revival among Gen Z emos, PTV used the app to promote its latest single, “Go past Nirvana.” Unexpectedly, the announcement of this song helped their 2012 single “Bulls In the Bronx” go semi-viral—with Latinx fans celebrating the band’s long-awaited return with aspects of their own culture. Using @kenya_sophia danced folklorico for the song, which received over 2.2 million views and over 517,000 likes. She went so viral that the band actually invited her to perform on stage with them at an upcoming concert.
“We try to represent our Mexican culture wherever we are in the world,” Fuentes says of the band’s own appreciation for their heritage. He aims to support this celebration of Mexican and other Latin American cultures by encouraging fans to show their pride at shows. “Whether it’s through our songs, playing traditional music in our live intros, or Jaime [Preciado]our bass player, wearing his Mexican soccer kit on stage.”
It is the band’s unabashed and continuous support of Latinx fans that has kept me listening to them for almost a decade. Through their best times and worst times, the band has proven that they won’t let the commercial music industry tell them who to be. As their hometown paper said over 10 years ago, PTV brings “Spanish-flavored metal to the masses” with their “Mexi-core” take on the pop-punk scene. And that is still true today.
“[Our culture is] an important part of who we are and that will never change,” Fuentes said. “We love seeing our fans raise Mexican flags at our shows and connect with us in that special way.”