Images courtesy of Gil Riego Photography
After months of waiting for a free Tuesday night, I was finally able to make the trek down to Los Angeles for the infamous monthly “Emo Night” held at the Echo in Echo Park. I honestly had no idea what I was getting into. My friends had been cajoling me to come for months, with promises of good music, beer, and “feelings.” So I jumped at the opportunity to finally head out for what I believed would be a night of tight jeans and more than a little high school nostalgia.
I arrived to the venue about two hours early to meet with Babs, one of the founders of the event. We entered the venue where preparations for the evening were still being made. Babs introduced me to Morgan, and T.J., and I sat down to chat with the three masterminds behind the year-old party night that has been taking LA by storm each month.
As we got to talking about how the event got started (“We just started playing the music we like” T.J. repeated emphatically), it became clear to me that this was more of a labor of love for the trio than a profit-motivated venture. When I arrived in the venue, the three founders were blowing up balloons, and the production staff was virtually nonexistent. There was a small table for merch, and some limited-edition lapel pins being handed out at the door. Apart from the balloons and a few drink menus with kitschy names, the decorations were also minimal. Whether the DIY ethos was intentional or not, it really felt like this was just a big party being put on by three young music fans.
At the end of the day, Emo Night is just that—a huge party. Though most of the attendees weren’t of legal drinking age when the records being spun originally debuted, T.J. was quick to note that the party was trying “to go back to the times when we would get drunk and turn on Brand New and stand on the coffee table with your friends.”
Trying to capture some of the best moments of our collective high-school experiences is something that doesn’t go unnoticed by other promoters around the country. Though there was a certain amount of controversy last year about the trio trying to trademark “Emo Night,” for them it seems to be an issue of integrity more than financial greed. When asked about the east coast Emo Night in New York, they were quick to emphasize “We have absolutely no affiliation with them. Please make that very clear in your article. Maybe put it in bold with stars.” I commented that their feelings seemed quite strong on the matter, Morgan’s reply was simple: “They just copy everything we do.”
Emo night represented an interesting juxtaposition between the music that shaped many of us as teenagers, and the lives we’ve embraced as we move into adulthood. Although most of the crowd seemed to be in their early to mid twenties, a diverse array of styles and characters were represented. I jokingly commented that the night was for “all the sad kids from high school,” but Morgan was quick to reply “We joke around with shirts that say ‘sad as fuck’ but nothing about our show is sad. Everyone is just smiling.”
For my part, you couldn’t rip the smile off my face all night. As the homebody of my college friend group, I was routinely the one pouting in the corner whenever my friends would drag me to bars, but not at Emo Night. The atmosphere was somewhere between a nightclub and rock concert; it had great energy, but nobody was taking themselves too seriously. When the DJ spun My Chemical Romance’s “Helena,” I screamed at the top of my lungs with everyone else. When Taking Back Sunday’s “Make Damn Sure” came on, a stranger made eye contact with me and gave me a hug. When the Starting Line’s Kenny Vasoli took to the stage to spin his set, everyone’s inner high school fangirl/boy let out a collective roar.
While the celebrity DJs and kitschy cool atmosphere are what makes Emo Night on the surface, I can solidly say that after finally attending one of these legendary events, the main theme of the night seemed to just be coming together, making new friends, and having fun.
As for the future of Emo Night…according to the founders, it only gets bigger from here. They’re focusing their efforts on expanding up and down the west coast, with stops in places like Seattle, San Diego and San Francisco to name a few. Though they’ve admittedly already had several of their dream guests perform sets like Mark Hoppus and members of My Chemical Romance and The Used, they’re still hoping to get some new faces to grace the DJ booth soon as well. Though the event might go by “Taking Back Tuesday,” the members of Taking Back Sunday still haven’t made an appearance yet, but Babs, TJ, and Morgan remain hopeful for the future.