Whether you had an Avril Lavigne or a Plain White T’s phase, two L.A.-based emo-punk lovers want you to reconnect to your heartbroken, teenage self this summer and beyond—while partying hard like it’s 2004.
Emo Nite founders Morgan Freed and T.J. Petracca are committed to reviving the emo scene of the early to mid-aughts with a tour taking place at nightclubs nationwide. Fans can expect sets featuring the smash hit emo and punk classics mashed up with today’s pop and electronic songs at the events.
Emerging from 80s punk, bands like Rites of Spring and Embrace paved the way for 90s alternative rock groups, like Weezer, Jawbreaker and Sunny Day Real Estate, which brought emotional expression closer to mainstream alt-rock. Then, 2000s groups, such as My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy, bred the modern, heart-on-sleeve emo subculture, whose fashion features black eyeliner and skinny jeans. In the past decade, this has evolved further into emo rap. As even today’s pop stars pull from emo’s introspective and progressive elements, Emo Nite is aggregating the decades-old tradition of outsider art—but with a punk edge.
Petracca says that as DJs, he and Freed often pick their music on the fly, based on what they feel will connect to each Emo Nite audience, especially nostalgic hits that he said make people go, “‘oh s—! I remember.’”
“There’s no rulebook,” Freed added, “Every day. we get to make up what our jobs are and how to throw the best events, make the coolest merge, and bring people together.”
With parties in cities from Cleveland to Boise to San Francisco (and that’s just in one weekend), Freed and Petracca are popping up in every corner of the country with events frequently hosted by their emo-loving friends in each city. However, these two didn’t always see themselves throwing emo dance parties for a living; Emo Nite was born when Freed and Petracca dropped a Facebook event, inviting their friends out to a classic L.A. dive bar, Shortstop, one night.
When more people turned up that first night than Shortstop was able to accommodate, the two decided to grow the event from there; it soon moved to Echoplex and now takes place at the Avalon. Though they tour nationwide, they say that they couldn’t have seen themselves launching Emo Nite in any other city than L.A.
“This is such a creative and cultural hub for so many people,” Petracca said. “It’s like the creative Mecca.”
As the two explored different venues and were introduced to new communities, Freed says they soon met the people in various cities that work o the events, and their network of parties was born.
The two have also performed festival sets at Coachella, Life is Beautiful, and Firefly. This year, they are offering their fans the chance to travel to New Orleans for a weekend full of emo parties. With all of their different ventures, Petracca noted, “Whether it’s at a nightclub, and we’re DJing for eight hours, or five hours, or if we’re just doing one set, we want to create the most fun environment and experience.”
Speaking of the event’s inherent paradox, Freed addressed the divide between such a dark genre of music and a vibrant party atmosphere.
“At its core, it’s not about being sad or glorifying depression. It’s really about being open and honest and vulnerable about your feelings and being able to just express that with a roomful of people,” he told LAMag.
Another Emo Nite staple is special guest performances, DJ sets, and appearances from major artists. In the past, Freed and Petracca have been joined by All Time Low, Machine Gun Kelly, and Skrillex.
Even though Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus didn’t know how to DJ before performing, he said he found that “people there didn’t care at all about the crossfades or cool DJ moves. All they cared about was listening to the music,” as he recalled his guest DJ set at Emo Nite’s third event to Rolling Stone, adding that Emo Nite was the “first time I had the experience to see a bunch of people cheering on a DJ as much as they did a band at a live show.”
With an even wider variety of stars participating in Emo Nite, Petracca says that though all of their guests aren’t necessarily quintessentially emo, they all love the genre.
“Regardless of what they’re doing now, whether they’re working in hip hop or whether they’re working in film, or whether working in electronic music, or whether they’re a massive pop star like Post Malone or Demi Lovato, everybody has an appreciation for this music and how it affected them,” he says.
The universality of emo music is something Freed and Petracca both noticed everywhere. Petracca explains: “You could be from any walk of life, but as soon as you found out that people were hitting the genre, you had an instant connection.”
This sense of community is at the core of their party. Petracca said it continues to amaze him, as some partygoers even end up meeting their next spouse or roommate at Emo Nite.
Though emo music is what Freed and Petracca grew up listening to in L.A., they say they’ve now found themselves ushering in a new generation of fanatics—undoubtedly attributable to their Instagram and TikTok followings, Freed said he isn’t surprised by their young fans.
He sees emo as a genre that speaks to universal teen experiences of heartbreak. “No matter what, there’s always going to be teenagers that are falling in love for the first time, getting our hearts broken for the first time,” he says. “I feel like this was the first type of music that openly expressed what that felt like.”
For anyone getting ready to re-enter their emo phase or discovering the music for the first time, these two are here and traveling across the country, to guide for through it. Your first stop is Emo Nite.
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