When: Sat., June 24, 10 p.m. 2017
Most people associate d.j. nights with self-important cliquishness and ephemeral decadence, set to a throbbing EDM soundtrack: club-kid stereotypes so notorious, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein poked fun at them with a damning sketch on Portlandia. But for all the kids who whiled away the nights alone in their bedroom crying to My Chemical Romance, there's Emo Night Brooklyn, a recurring celebration of the confessional, speaker-blowing pop-punk that dominated youth culture in the mid-aughts. The attendees might be out of middle school—most are between twenty and thirty-five—but here, they're suddenly back in their bedrooms, jumping and shouting along to the greats: Taking Back Sunday, Fall Out Boy, Say Anything, and the like.
If all of this seems more of a emotional karaoke session alongside several hundred of your best friends than a dance party, that's because it was conceived as such. The event's cofounders—lifelong friends Ethan Maccoby and Alex Badanes—spent their early years moshing and drinking with friends to emo in bedrooms and basements in their native London; taken aback by the initial turnout, they convinced a local bar to host the first Emo Night shortly after their move to Brooklyn in 2015. Within a year, the party was selling out regularly, with lines snaking around the block, even after its relocation to the eight-hundred-capacity Brooklyn Bowl. Never underestimate the wallflowers.
Appropriately for a burgeoning regional phenomenon, Maccoby and Badanes have managed to take Emo Night Brooklyn on the road, tapping scene notables to perform or spin playlists along the way. Most younger listeners are wont to regard figures like New Found Glory's Jordan Pundik and Yellowcard's Ryan Key as relative unknowns, but to this crowd they're luminaries, old idols descending the steps of the punk-rock pantheon to commune with mere mortals. During one Emo Night last January, Early November and Hellogoodbye frontman Ace Enders picked up his acoustic for a two-song set of hits. Later, he planted a kiss on his wife as the speakers flooded the room with "Here (In Your Arms)," Hellogoodbye's greatest hit and the evening's designated slow song. The crowd erupted in cheers.
As the fires of 2000s nostalgia continue to burn, millions of aging millenials will continue to pine for the days of swooping haircuts, thick eyeliner, and dramatic kiss-off songs (not to mention the fact that, in these uncertain political times, every night may as well be Emo Night). But the evening's true appeal stems from a force far more powerful than any Proustian magic: larger-than-life, musically enabled empathy. The Warped Tour days may have come and gone for most of us, but the fond memories of community and commiseration remain ever-present at Emo Night, uniting the crowd under the bleeding-heart big top. Who knew sad music could bring so much joy? —Zoe Camp