The city’s premier punk fest returns
Fuck You We Rule OK returns to The Vanguard for its seventh annual “punk rock family reunion.”
Picture a “punk” in your head. Is it a neon mohawk-ed, pierced kid wearing a vegan leather jacket? What do you picture that punk doing? Trashing a hotel room? Smashing their guitar on stage? Pogoing in a mosh pit? How about spending a whole year meticulously planning a three-day festival jam packed with events, shuttles, coordinating schedules and performances?
Meet Tony and Michelle Cozzaglio. They own a local punk shop, organize the annual Punk Rock Flea Market, Oddities and Curiosities Expo, plan countless shows throughout the year, and organize the annual punk festival Fuck You We Rule OK.
“It occupies the majority of my life. We just enjoy doing it. Over time it’s turned into something now where we can call kind of the umbrella of it all ‘our job,’” Tony said. “We’ve tried to maneuver our lives as best we can so we get to work in things that we’re interested in.”
The couple hasn’t always planned the festival. It started with Tony’s group of friends. They all traveled, played in bands and took turns putting on small DIY festivals around the country. Tony eventually moved to Tulsa to be with Michelle and figured it was the perfect place for FYWROK to call home.
“I always end up saying it’s equally inconvenient for everybody,” Tony said with a laugh. “[Tulsa] is more geographically centered so it had all the same friends that would always come from up north and we also had all these new faces from Texas and Georgia and different surrounding states.”
It’s not just people in surrounding states that attend the fest. Punks from all over the world fly in for Fuck Yeah We Rule. Steve Stackhouse of the Potato Pirates said he met people from Belgium and Mexico City at last year’s fest. Stackhouse’s band has played every FYWROK since the beginning. “Obviously when it started, I mean it was pretty big, but it was nowhere near the caliber that it is now,” he said.
Tony agreed that the fest has grown exponentially since it started. “The most easily-seen thing about how it’s grown over time is all the events. The attendance is probably 90 percent out-of-towners so there’s this massive influx of people who don’t know the town and want to do stuff when bands aren’t playing so we try to provide opportunities of other fun stuff to do,” he said.
This year there are more events than ever: a pre- and post-party, two brunches, a tattoo event, all on top of the actual two-day festival.
The pre-party kicks the weekend off on the Fourth of July with a killer four-band lineup, including locals The Stiffies. The band’s Niah Berven said he was happy to have alternative Fourth of July plans during a time where patriotism feels strange. Tony said that is no accident.
“We’ve always tried to have it around the Fourth of July and intentionally have it be an alternative to the standard fireworks, waving flags thing. We typically encourage there to be no fireworks around,” he said with a laugh.
After the pre-party is the main event: the fest itself. Thirty bands will decimate The Vanguard stage over three days starting at 3 p.m. every afternoon. The lineup boasts street punk staples like Defiance, The Unseen, and Monster Squad. Tony said FYWROK is a perfect introduction to punk.
“I feel like this is the perfect example of everything that drew me into this music,” he said. “The crowd’s energetic, the band’s energetic—you know, everyone’s crowd surfing, laughing, having fun, just everything in my mind that I want a punk rock show to be.”
If you need a break from the circle pit, drop by one of the festival’s brunch parties on July 6-7 at The Rabbit Hole Bar and Grill. Each morning features a lineup of DJs spinning punk rock classics. Stackhouse said the brunch parties are a great way for all of the people who travel to Tulsa for the fest to mingle and occupy themselves before the shows.
“Tony and Michelle do such a great job of making sure there’s something for all hours of the day,” Stackhouse said. “The show itself only goes from like three until midnight so you’ve got all those hours of the day and all these people who come in are like ‘I kind of want something to do,’ you know? So it gives them a reason to meet up and just continue that hangout.”
Outside of the brunch parties, pre-party and the actual festival, there is also a tattoo event at Black Gold Tattoos and Piercings hosted by Tattoo Punks on July 6. Tattoo artists from across the country are taking over Black Gold and giving people their pre-drawn flash for as little as $50. Niah Berven of The Stiffies will be there giving tattoos as ‘Nuke ‘Em Niah.’
After all of those festivities are over the post-party still remains—a final goodbye to your punk-rock family. Nashville’s Wrekt and Chicago’s Sopa Charge give a final performance at Rabbit Hole for one last mosh before everyone gets back in planes, cars, and Ubers home. Leaving the festival doesn’t mean it’s over, though; the attendees carry their community with them for the rest of the year.
“It’s not just music or clothing. It’s the community aspect of it,” Stackhouse said. “Things like this are one of the few times a year that a lot of these people get to see their community and hang out with them. Obviously in the beginning it’s a punk festival, you know—it’s got that chaotic element to it. But through the years it became this sort of self-sustaining thing, almost like a family reunion. Everybody loves it so much they want it to keep going every year,” he said.
Berven also said it is always the best weekend of the year. The only time he ever missed the fest was for the birth of his child. “[FYWROK] put Tulsa on the map for the punk rock scene. Before the festival I had never even thought of Tulsa as a place to go see punk shows. Lots of people have ended up moving here over the years, including myself.”
Stackhouse urges people from all walks of life to come out to the fest. “It’s not your typical show. Everyone is there for the same reason: to have a good time, to meet new people and to see old people,” he said. “You’re never not going to make a new friend when you go there.”
Fuck You We Rule OK 2019
Pre-party • July 4 - Rabbit Hole, 8 p.m.
FYWROK • July 5-7 - The Vanguard, 3 p.m.
Brunch parties • July 6-7 - Rabbit Hole, noon
Tattoo Punks • July 6 - Black Gold Tattoo and Piercing, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
After Party • July 7 - Rabbit Hole, 11 p.m