WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS EMO NITE?
STORY// ANGIE PICCIRILLO
PHOTOS // MALLORY TURNER
MAKEUP ARTIST // KASHA LASSIEN
MAKEUP ASSIST// JASMINE VITAL
HAIR // ALFREA CRAIG
Every summer since 1995, the traveling rock tour called Warped Tour traveled the United States — bringing along with it, waves of skate and punk culture and of course, really great music. The festival began to focus primarily on punk rock — but included acts of diverse genres once it hit its’ later years. But in 2018, founder Kevin Lyman announced it would be its’ final tour due to the ever-changing (and difficult) landscape of the music industry..
Warped Tour was one of the last traveling festivals where you could find an inclusive community of rock-loving fans — and many fans were saddened by its’ abrupt end, because besides the music — it was a place where they felt they belonged. But just as the alt-rock band Semisonic’s 1998 hit “Closing Time,” reminds us…. “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end….” And luckily where Warped Tour left off, Emo Nite has stepped up as the next traveling tour supporting not only punk and emo-era music, but also DJ’s and even new bands and other genres.
But what’s that you say? What the fuck is Emo Nite?
Emo Nite started in Los Angeles, as an event started by three friends: Babs Szabo, T.J. Petracca and Morgan Freed at a small dive bar where they simply just “wanted to play their favorite music.” “We honestly thought Emo Nite would be a one-time event at a small dive bar where 15 of our friends would show up,” Babs says. Little did they know, the event would morph into a huge monthly event, bringing together people who share the love of emo rock music from the 90’s, 2000’s, and today — changing the idea of what a music event can be. In its’ original format, Imagine that downstairs (let’s say at The Echoplex in Los Angeles) you’ve got some of the biggest names from the original emo-era like Mark Hoppus of Blink 182, DJing remixes of your favorite emo songs. Then, upstairs (possibly at The Echo) emerging bands like I DON’T KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME are playing some of their first shows. Then imagine, bands like All Time Low and Dashboard Confessional playing full sets as the events’ headliners — just as if it were 2004 all over again!
But rewind back to the beginning, where the idea first sparked: “Pretty much TJ and Babs sang a Dashboard [Confessional] song on a work trip — it started out as us wanting to go to a bar to play songs we actually liked, and once we realized that other people also wanted that, we starting exploring how to make an event we would think is fun. We started pushing boundaries in what a live event could be — not just dj/band/dj/band etc. We wanted to create moments and experiences that couldn’t be replicated night after night,” Morgan says.
Besides being an amazing music event, the trio took things a step further with their merch. In the beginning, the first 100 kids in line would be given a special edition pin — designed by a partner of the brand and in-theme. The original merch line included staple items like the “SAD AS FUCK” t-shirt and the “Every nite is emo nite” jacket. Eventually, the merch became so collectible for the fans — Emo Nite collaborated with OBEY, Urban Outfitters, PLEASURES, Rose in Good Faith, Chinatown Market, OWSLA and more.
More so than just a “music event,” the brand has built itself into a sort of “club” — where everyone is welcome. “[It’s] the most supportive, amazing community of people. It started as an event that celebrated emo and pop-punk music, but in the past four years has evolved into a really strong community of like-minded people. Whether someone grew up listening to bands like Dashboard Confessional and The Used, or they just like to go out and dance and forget about what’s going on in the world for a few hours — I think there’s something at Emo Nite for everyone,” Babs says.
These three friends have brought a new meaning to “music event” and they have been able to bring together some of the most incredible names in music, including Halsey, Sonny Moore (Skrillex), From First to Last, The Used, Post Malone, Good Charlotte, All American Rejects, Demi Lovato, New Found Glory, Machine Gun Kelly and so many more. The night appeals to not only ultimate music fans and musicians, but also those who are there for the nostalgic memories of Jimmy Eat World, or they’re there to experience what it was like to hear that music blasting from the club speakers. This monthly event was known to have giant lines and long wait times for fans in Los Angeles just to get in. Merchandise and ticket bundles were created, and the event soon had a cult following that would pretty much buy and attend anything that had “Emo Nite” stamped on it…
But the three friends seemingly didn’t want to stop at just having their events only in Los Angeles — because there are many music fans across the country who would enjoy the experience if the event came to their town. Soon, Emo Nite started appearing in other cities across the country — to share the love of this music and spread the community beyond just Los Angeles. Unsurprisingly to Babs, TJ and Morgan — peoples’ love for Emo and pop-punk music have never gone away. Morgan says, “Everything comes back around and sometimes gets a facelift. This [is] the time for younger generations to discover all the shit they missed. This genre was one of the last before we began to hear cookie cutter songs on the radio that were created in a studio by producers finding the exact formula for “a hit”. Not saying those songs are bad, they just feel different. I also think it was right around the time CD’s went away. We all had these timeless CD’s that lived in our car and were there through some very pivotal and painful parts of life. So in a way, this genre was THE soundtrack to a lot of people’s’ lives.”
Did the three friends ever think they’d have such a following for a traveling tour of their own? “I truly cannot believe all the things that have happened in the last four years. It’s insane,” Babs laments. The crew became friends with Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman, who became an encouraging force behind what they were doing.
But when it comes to the elephant in the room, the Emo Nite crew doesn’t think that Warped Tour could ever be replaced — certainly not by Emo Nite. Morgan says, “I think it’s foolish to say we can “take the place” of Warped Tour. What warped tour did was indescribable and revolutionary for the genre and the music scene in general. I think when we do decide to take the steps to make something in this realm, it’ll look a lot different than Warped Tour, but we’ll try to capture the spirit of Kevin Lyman, who has been nothing but supportive and loving to us. We will never try to replace the Warped Tour because it cannot be replaced.”
Warped Tour Founder, Kevin Lyman, has said of the Emo Nite crew, “they remind me of my early self. They care about the fans before the dollars. They are looking towards the future without stepping on anyone to get there. [They] are true leaders who are creative but also smart business people.” Though 2018 was said to be the last official year of Warped, it has been rumored that there will be a 25th anniversary celebration in 2019 featuring bands that formerly really embraced the tour’s particular lifestyle — and chances are if that happens, the Emo Nite crew will be there to support the event as they always have.
While we await confirmation of just what that lineup will be…. Emo Nite isn’t far behind Warped’s footsteps, having taken the traveling version of Emo Nite one step further and embarking on their first concert tour with 3OH!3 and Lil Aaron, which kicked off in October. “Sean and Nat from 3OH!3 came to us with the idea of incorporating Emo Nite into their tour for the 10 year anniversary of their album WANT. We immediately realized it would be a perfect opportunity to create a tour that’s different from other tours. It’s a mashup of a traditional tour and Emo Nite. It’s not like an opening band, changeover, another band, changeover, and then a headliner. There will be performances and DJ sets sprinkled in throughout the night without any breaks,” Babs says.
Beyond Emo Nite, the trio also runs a marketing company together called Ride or Cry — which may be why Emo Nite has been so successful, given their seeming expertise in marketing and branding. TJ tells us, “We do a lot of stuff for brands, movies, and artists. We handle content creation, branding, social media strategy, music videos, photo shoots – it’s different for every client’s needs. Emo Nite has brought Ride Or Cry a lot of business because with Emo Nite we get to really showcase what Ride Or Cry can do on all fronts.”
But having great success didn’t always seem to come easy — in fact, Morgan says, “I got fired from my “dream job” right around the time Emo Nite started, and Babs urged me to just focus on Emo Nite and Ride or Cry because then we [would] have control over everything — we can be our own bosses, and we can change shit. Not waiting for lames to tell us all our ideas are wrong and won’t work. If that is the case and we’re wrong, let us figure it out ourselves and learn from our mistakes. It was super scary and we were really poor for a long time, but kept it up and continued to do these things we believed in and here we are today — On a two-bus tour around the country with a band we grew up listening to.”
From Emo Nite’s humble beginnings, the three friends still can’t believe what their idea has morphed into — some of their most insane moments include seeing some of their favorite bands playing the event. TJ tells us that moment for him was, “…Both times Chris Carrabba [of Dashboard Confessional] played — He performed at our one year anniversary Emo Nite and at Emo Nite Day. Both times were incredible and unbelievable. Dashboard was the first band in the genre that I got into, and DC led me into everything else. One of my first emo concerts that I attended as a teen was Dashboard and The GetUp Kids in Salt Lake City, so it was very surreal to have them headlining our festival.”
As for what’s next for Babs, TJ and Morgan — it seems the sky’s the limit. “I’m really happy with where things are at right now and it’s incredible to look back over the last four years and see how much things have grown and changed. I just want to keep having fun, working on projects that we enjoy, and I want to be proud of everything we do and create,” TJ says. And likely, the fans will be there, standing in the long lines, ordering the merch bundles — and most importantly, having the best times of their lives.
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