As Emo Nite Celebrates Seven Years Papa Roach, Underoath And More on Why Emo Never Goes Out Of Style

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Tonight (December 3) in L.A. the long-running Emo Nite will be celebrating its seventh anniversary by taking over Hollywood spot the Avalon for a Heaven-themed party.

Having started in L.A. in 2014, the event has gone national, with parties in over 30 cities across the States. What is Emo Nite and why has it lasted so long? I thought who better to answer that than people who have been part of Emo Nite over the last seven years.

I put the same six questions to musicians and industry folks who have become part of the Emo Nite legacy and culture. Here is what Jacoby Shaddix (Papa Roach), Gabe Saporta (Cobra Starship), TJ Petracca and Morgan Freed (Emo Nite founders), Taylor Thompson (YMU), Ryan Scott Graham (State Champs), Brian Logan Dales (The Summer Set) and Aaron Gillespie (Underoath) had to say.

Steve Baltin: What is your favorite Emo Nite memory?

Gabe Saporta: Ha. I’ve been to a lot of Emo Nites and remember almost nothing… that’s kind of the point, right?

Ryan Scott Graham: My favorite Emo Nite memory is coincidentally the first time I attended an L.A. event. This was about four years ago, before I had moved to Los Angeles. I went with my ultra uninterested, Valley girl ex-girlfriend, who, to her credit, took me because she knew Emo Nite would be right up my alley. She knew a few people, but didn’t know many songs. Me on the other hand, I didn’t know a soul in L.A. at the time, but knew every word to every song, growing up in the era of MySpace and Warped Tour. It was a joyous awakening.

Taylor Thompson: There are so many. I’d say having a “full circle” moment by running into and reconnecting with Bryce Avary from The Rocket Summer, my favorite band when I was in high school. We are both from Dallas and he knew me from being a front row kid at his shows back in the day. Now, we both live in L.A. and I work in music so it was surreal to have a grown up conversation.  

TJ Petracca: My favorite Emo Nite memory was walking into the Virgin Theatre when we were planning Emo Nite Vegas Vacation this year. It’s a beautiful, huge, brand new venue. Morgan and I looked at each other, and we said “we’ve come a long way since the Short Stop.” It made me realize how far we’ve come with this thing. It started out as just a silly idea to pick music at a dive bar (off of an iPad) and there we were at this beautiful venue in Las Vegas planning a huge three-day travel experience with some of our favorite bands. It was a proud moment for me and I felt incredibly grateful.

Morgan Freed: I think my favorite memory is all of it. Starting from a night where we just played music we liked for our friends to seeing the event grow and bring people all over the world together. It’s nothing like I would have ever imagined and honestly all feels like a surreal dream. Either that or the time where we had a vampire give birth on stage. 

Brian Logan Dales: I’ve gotten to do some really incredible things with Emo Nite over the last few years. They’ve let me open every show with “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King, just because. They’ve let me crowd surf a dozen boxes of pizza in New York City while playing “Welcome To The Black Parade”. They’ve even let me perform with them at “Life Is Beautiful” festival in Las Vegas on a stage with pyrotechnics. However, none of these memories even compare to how much of a privilege it was getting to sing “Grow Old With You” from The Wedding Singer” at TJ’s wedding ceremony. That takes the cake as the highest honor. I’m forever grateful. 

Aaron Gillespie: I think it was the fifth anniversary I played in the middle of the room at the Shrine and it was so awesome 

Baltin: How did you get introduced to Emo Nite?

Jacoby Shaddix: My producer, Nick Furlong, kept telling me about Emo Nite, kept trying to get me to go out but I told him, “It’s past my bedtime. Don’t you know I’m an old man?”

Saborta: I had just officially ended Cobra Starship and started TAG Music right as Emo Nite was becoming a thing. TJ & Morgan reached out asking me to DJ. I held out for about six years, and now am finally DJing this anniversary party which happened to coincide with the Cobra vinyl release (celebrating Hot Mess going gold and FBR 25), which I’m stoked to do before I disappear once more. 

Dales: If my memory serves me correctly, I think they had tried to book The Summer Set several years ago and we said “no” because I didn’t really understand what it was all about. At the time, The Summer Set was about to go on hiatus and I was feeling pretty disenfranchised with the entire scene we came from. I’m glad we finally said yes, because I learned very quickly that emo was more than just a genre of music. This was a real die hard community and it took DJing an Emo Nite to truly understand how important it was to people. 

Baltin: Why do you think this night has become so successful and have you been surprised by how much it means to people?

Shaddix: The reason I think it’s so successful is it’s just such a fun time in music. The fashion was wild, the bands were wild, the sound was super unique. And just people pouring their heart out into the music and I think people can really relate to the songs and the messaging. As far as why it’s popular, still, is cause this s**t’s timeless. I’m just glad to be part of it. 

Thompson: I think because even when the genre was peaking, it was still at the fringe of pop culture. I was alone when I screamed the lyrics over scratched CDs in my car on the way to college, where no one had heard of the band names that were printed on my t-shirts. I’m not surprised there are others like me, I meet them at each Emo Nite. In fact, I think that makes the tagline “Every night is Emo Nite” all the more relatable. The emotions we felt when we first connected with the music come flooding back 10 fold on the dancefloor. We make eye contact, we hold hands and scream with strangers who also no longer feel alone in that moment.

Petracca: Emo Nite is only successful because of the community. We don’t make our own music, all we really do is try to inspire people to connect with each other and build relationships and bonds in our spaces (whether physical or digital.) I think the fact that we were able to successfully survive and thrive during the pandemic proved that. Over COVID we launched and built our discord server. People from all over the country became friends, hung out in Zooms, and built relationships during a time when many people felt alone. It was interesting because even though we were all isolated in our own homes, I felt like I made so many new friends. We are constantly surprised by what Emo Nite can be and what it means to people, but we also just want to keep pushing the boundaries and raising the bar for what an event like ours can be. 

Freed: To me, success means something different to our community than I think it means for other people. We weren’t ever planning to be “successful.” I think because we did what we thought was cool (even when people said it wasn’t) with cool people and are able to continue to do that for our day to day lives, and hopefully impact the lives of other people in a positive way, that is why, to me, it is successful. I’m always surprised when our weird ideas mean so much to people, but I think it’s the people that come to the events  and the friendships and relationships formed that are truly the success here.

Saporta: Yes and no. I think it’s all about the music. The purists will argue forever about what is and isn’t really emo, but putting that aside for a minute, what was really special about the music of that era was the sense of community. The scene was a group of kids who were weird and didn’t fit in anywhere else, and they listened to music that was weird and didn’t fit anywhere else in culture. It became something of a lighthouse, and brought in so many people that it broke through the mainstream and had a big moment in pop culture. After that moment was over though, and many of those bands broke up or stopped touring, the scene kids were kind of wandering in a cultural wasteland until Emo Nite helped them build a new home. So I wasn’t really surprised that this music still meant something to people. The part that was revolutionary however was that before Emo Nite you’d never really hear these songs outside of going to a show and seeing the band play them live. I guess when festival/dance culture became so big, and people wanted to come together to listen to pre-recorded music, all these scene kids felt like outcasts once more, and Emo Nite created a space for them to belong and come together. 

Graham: Honestly, I’m not surprised by what something like Emo Nite means to people. If you’re anything like me, I run on nostalgia, for better or for worse, and Emo Nite sells it. There are plenty of people out there looking to buy something like that. It’s a simple concept, really, but they go above and beyond to give you that unique experience each time. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been once, twice or go every month – the music might not vary all that much, but the experience surely does. I don’t see how you could lose with an event that boasts of drinking, dancing and listening to your favorite 2000’s music. Those songs will be ingrained in 30-somethings for the rest of their lives, who doesn’t want to scream the lyrics at the top of their lungs on a night out with friends and like-minded strangers?

Dales: What Emo Nite does better than any of their competitors is they make “emo culture” feel both nostalgic and brand new at the same time. You can go to an Emo Nite with your best friends and singing along to old songs you grew up with, and at the same time, discover a brand new artist who’s making music today because they grew up on that very same music as you. They’ve taken the emo of the past and helped it forge a new path for the future. I’m not sure this “emo & pop-punk” revival in the current cultural zeitgeist would be happening if it weren’t for companies like Emo Nite. 

Gillespie: Of course I’ve been surprised, but at the same time I get it. People need community and this is a throwback musically in a lot of ways but also is so special ‘cause it feels fresh.

Baltin: What does Emo Nite mean to you and why?

Saporta: For me personally I had that experience of community as a fan before I was an artist, but then I was really lucky to be a part of a tight knit family within the scene. The Decaydance label started by Pete Wentz (which itself was a sub label of the scene cornerstone Fueled By Ramen) was incredible because all of our bands that were signed there (FOB, Panic, Gym Class Heroes, The Academy Is) – we were all actually friends in real life – we not only toured together, but we recorded with each other, featured on everybody else’s records and hung out even when we weren’t touring. It truly was a family. I mean we even opened a bar together in the east village (Angels & Kings) which became our clubhouse. In many ways I feel like the community that TJ, Morgan and the whole Emo Nite crew have built reminds me of the same vibe I felt then and it’s awesome to be around it. 

Shaddix: Good excuse to get out and go party with the homies. 

Thompson: To me, it’s an outlet. A place where I can go and find a community of outcasts that truly understand what it feels like to just, feel. I wander from room to room, only stopping when I hear a DJ play a song from my past, see a band embodying that culture in the present on stage or bump into a friend that I’ve made along the way. I’ve taken people with me that were visiting from out of state, I’ve gone to Emo Nites in other cities and I’ve met incredible people in the dark between songs as we catch our breath from singing along. It means a lot. It feels like home, a dysfunctional home of misfits like me.

Petracca: Emo music was the first place where I kind of found my identity when I was in my teens. After college, when I moved to LA and started working in the music industry, I never felt like I really fit in until we started Emo Nite. I remember pre-Emo Nite going to band’s “industry showcases” and just feeling so bored and out of place. Everyone would stand there, acting too cool to enjoy the music. With Emo Nite we always wanted to create an environment where you could let your guard down, enjoy the music, and have a good time. Now that the event has grown, we’ve been able to bring younger, newer bands into our events across the country and help get them in front of eager new fans. It’s been awesome to watch so many new artists grow from performing at Emo Nite to reaching new huge levels of success. Some examples include include Magnolia Park, Movements, Yungblud, IDKHOW, UnityTX, and so many more.

Freed: Emo Nite feels like an extension of my childhood. But now with more people. It feels like the right thing to do and honestly, maybe the only thing I’m okay at and I think that’s why it means so much to me. Growing up and feeling super different I never thought I’d see a place where I felt truly accepted and now being able to see so many people who might have felt the same in one place is beyond words for me. I love the aspect of seeing people you never thought you’d have common ground with form bonds over music. There aren’t many genres that mean this much to people and I think unless you’re in it, it’s hard to understand how important it actually is. 

Dales: I’m gonna sound like a broken record but honestly, Emo Nite has given me a better understanding of how much this genre really means to people, which in turn has helped me understand just how much my own band means to people. Part of the reason The Summer Set is back together as a band again today is because I’ve been able to remove my own ego, zoom out to 10,000 feet, and understand how important this community is. Emo Nite has helped me fall back in love with the whole experience. 

Gillespie: It’s just fun, man. Anytime people come together under a common goal its fun, but Emo Nite is so special cause it’s not just “for the cool kids.” It’s everyone’s. 

Baltin: Who are the three artists that to you best encapsulate what Emo Nite is and why?

Shaddix: I would say My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy and Hawthorne Heights. 

Thompson: From First to Last – I never was a fan of their music, I fell into EDM after college so I only knew Sonny Moore as Skrillex. But being there when they reunited on the Emo Nite stage was a really special moment I was thrilled to witness. Taking Back Sunday – my favorite band in the genre. The original event name was ripped off of their band name. I don’t know why, but I could listen to that band every day for the rest of my life and never get sick of it. Same with Emo Nite, I will always feel compelled to go. Captain Cuts – They DJ late nights at Emo Nite in LA and its always a dance party. They mash-up current hits with emo music and so they really encapsulate the nostalgia with the present moment.

Petracca: We have been super fortunate to have received the support of so many artists that we always looked up to and we can now call friends. It is a huge honor to have artists understand what we’re doing with Emo Nite and want to be involved in our events. It’s super hard to narrow it down to just three, but if I had to give some examples — MGK? Mark Hoppus? Aaron G? Lil Aaron? IDK

Saporta: My Chemical Romance. Once in a generation a band comes around that encapsulates a certain aspect of the culture. My Chem is that band for the emo generation. The fact that they’ve grown exponentially since they’ve broken up is a testament to their legacy and their ability to define what emo means to this generation. Fall Out Boy. Say what you want about whether they’re really emo or not, but you can’t deny that Fall Out Boy is the band that brought that word into the popular lexicon. Patrick’s soulful vocals sounded like no other scene band that came before, and helped pave the way for FOB to be the first artist from our world to break into the mainstream. Plus their catalog is a beast— hit after hit— I don’t think there’s been an Emo Nite on record that hasn’t featured at least one Fall Out Boy song. Lil Aaron. I wanted to pick a newer artist as well and I think Lil Aaron in many ways embodies what Emo Nite is. He’s a kid that grew up in the scene, then started his career as a SoundCloud rapper (which is itself a phenomenon that happened and probably requires its own article- all these emo kids got face tattoos and started producing hip hop in their bedrooms – bringing with them the same community ethos from the scene).

Graham: It goes without saying that My Chemical Romance has a seat at the throne as an Emo Nite legend. The moment you hear that first piano note on “Welcome To The Black Parade,” you know what’s about to go down. Others may disagree, and this may come as a surprise to some, but I don’t think anything goes off harder than when The Killers “Mr. Brightside” starts playing. I mean the crowd absolutely erupts. And finally, although maybe not technically an “emo” band, Blink-182 encapsulates the Emo Nite spirit well, with multiple songs on the playlist. The reason I give them a nod is because when you’re at an Emo Nite event bouncing around in the crowd, it feels like you’re at a rock show. I just get that special feeling when “First Date” or “The Rock Show” queues up. 

Dales: I feel like it would be unfair to pick just three, because there are so many artists that make this genre what it is, both past and present. But I do want to specifically highlight Paramore above all else— it is amazing how hard every song in their discography goes off at an Emo Nite party, and it’s just invaluable the impact Hayley Williams has made for women in this community. She’s the ultimate trailblazer. 

Baltin: What do you say to people who have never been to tell them what Emo Nite is?

Saporta: Imagine Cheers but with face tattoos and eyeliner. 

Thompson: “You have to go… if you like that music.” I wouldn’t want to subject anyone to being immersed in a scene they weren’t already involved in. This scene is so intuitive. You either get it, or you don’t. And I’d hate for someone to have a bad time at Emo Nite. But I also can’t imagine anyone having a bad time at Emo Nite! I describe it as a high school reunion with people you’ve never met, but you already know.

Freed: It’s not like any event I’ve ever been to before. We wanted to make an something that you can’t get anywhere else. There’s an energy and emotion that’s coming from all around you, not just the person or people on stage. It’s a collective experience with surprises along the way. The best way I can describe Emo Nite to people that have never been there before is it feels like going home. 

Graham: It’s like a club, but with guitars and a Hot Topic dress code.

Dales: I wouldn’t tell then anything. Go into it blind and be ready to sing along to all your favorite songs with people just like you. There’s some real magic in that room. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. 

Gillespie: That you just have to go to understand what it is. Anything I type here won’t suffice

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