How ‘Emo Nite’ events helped bring back a lost genre

After nearly 20 years of being underground, emo music rose to dominate rock radio, MTV and MySpace during the early to mid-2000s. It captured the pent-up emotions of the post-9/11 era, resonating with outsider teens who felt they didn’t fit in. 

T.J. Petracca and Morgan Freed are among those who considered themselves “emo kids.” 

“The music that came from like 2001 to 2005 was really just a shift inward. ‘What is affecting my life, and how can I deal with it?'” Petracca said. “No matter how much of a reject you were, you always felt welcome at these shows.”

Eight years ago, Petracca and Freed began dreaming of reviving emo in a small bar in L.A. Today, they are the producers of “Emo Nite,” a popular event series that celebrates emo music and culture.  

Emo Nite has since grown into a nationwide phenomenon that brings out older teens and those in their 40s to enjoy performances and music from their favorite artists, while also becoming a safe place for people who are going through their own personal struggles. 

“Now it has exploded into mainstream culture in a way that I never would have thought, like, sexuality, talking about mental illness, talking about mental health, finding out who you are,” Freed said. 

Part concert and part karaoke singalong, artists like Mod Sun fire up crowds with their music. He said that the current emo revival is about championing the “weird kids” and giving them a platform, which wasn’t always the case in the past. 

“It’s all about empowering yourself, believing in your dreams. And whatever you see in your head, you can eventually hold it in your hand,” said Mod Sun.  

During Emo Nite events, theatrics are a must and fans are often invited on stage to participate. 

While fashion remains an integral part of the emo identity, the trend has shifted toward geek-chic styles. 

Emo style often involves black clothing, skinny jeans, band T-shirts, studded belts, and accessories such as wristbands, necklaces and piercings. Hair is styled in a choppy, layered or spiky manner and heavy eyeliner or dark eye makeup is used. 

“I was the only person at my school with purple hair and everybody looked at me like a weirdo and now it’s a trend,” one person who attended an Emo Nite event in Los Angeles said.  

Landon Barker, the 19-year-old son of Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, attended his first Emo Nite at the same event. 

Last year, the song Barker co-wrote with Machine Gun Kelly, “Die in California,” went viral and helped him start his own music career built around the emo sound. 

“Emo music, rock music, there’s no end to it ever. It can go away for 10 years, but it’ll always make a comeback,” Barker said.  

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