It’s the first Saturday of the month, and a line of 20- and 30-somethings stretches out and around RBC, a music venue on the edge of Deep Ellum.
The bustling scene in an area packed with clubs — that’s not what’s striking. What stands out is the music blasting from the main stage, easily audible from outside: Taking Back Sunday’s 2006 single “MakeDamnSure.”
Then it’s Brand New’s “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad” from 2001, followed by Paramore’s “Misery Business” (2007); My Chemical Romance’s “Helena” (2005); Sum 41’s “In Too Deep” (2001) — a sort of greatest hits list of an oft-derided genre.
An anticipatory energy crackles through RBC and out into the line; fans wear faded band shirts and bold, colorful makeup, snapping photos with appropriately themed merch and decor emblazoned with the evening’s mantra: “Every nite is Emo Nite.”
That’s what everyone is here for: Emo Nite.
Emo Nite isn’t a live show in a traditional sense — the dream lineup of Vans Warped Tours past isn’t crammed into an intimate Dallas venue with a capacity of a few hundred. Instead, the evening features DJ sets assembled from a crowdsourced master playlist, made by and for Dallas-area emo music fans to rock out for a night.
“I honestly think there was a void in Dallas for that,” says Orlando Mendoza, 28, one of the organizers of Emo Nite Dallas. “You have your hip-hop nights, EDM nights, country nights — but there hasn’t really been anything in Dallas for our community in the rock and emo world.”
Emo Nite isn’t an isolated incident: There’s been an emo renaissance of sorts across the country. Popular bands of the genre such as Mayday Parade and Dashboard Confessional have embarked on sold-out tours within the last year. Groups like Brand New are back in the studio and releasing new music. And nostalgic early 2000s playlists on Spotify and Apple Music have fans revisiting the soundtracks of their youth.
Emo Nite is the latest wave in this trend, and not just in Dallas. Founded in Los Angeles, Emo Nite is also regularly hosted across the country, in Atlanta, Seattle, Nashville and New Orleans.
“I think people are in this transitionary period where they’re realizing that old music is cool again, and they’re seeing this is a really cool community,” says Teresa Carpenter, 23, a coordinator, along with Mendoza, of Emo Nite Dallas. To keep things fresh, Carpenter and Mendoza plan special themes and events for each Emo Nite — for example, a recent event featured a mariachi ensemble covering "Hey There Delilah" by the Plain White T's, among others.
Emo Nite is perhaps best compared to similar nostalgia-fueled events capitalizing on the music of decades past, like '80s nights or artist-themed parties. But instead of Culture Club or Depeche Mode, here you get the likes of The Get Up Kids and Fall Out Boy, artists who ruled over mid-'90s and early 2000s pop culture with a vise grip of performative melodrama, complex guitar riffs and unapologetically loud, confessional choruses.
Yet TJ Petracca, the L.A.-based 27 year-old co-founder of Emo Nite, says that this description oversimplifies the event.
“Emo, the genre, gets stereotyped as swoopy hair and Hot Topic, and that’s the furthest thing from what Emo Nite is, or what it has become,” says Petracca. “Maybe the music is 10 years old, but it’s really about what’s going on right now, and enjoying what’s happening in that room.”
Petracca and a few friends founded Emo Nite in 2014, and their initial idea — to throw a party with other people who also had a fondness for the emo music of their youth — turned out to be an untapped market of millennial nostalgia.
Three years later, Emo Nite is thriving as a social media phenomenon. It’s been in Dallas every month since March, and by word of mouth alone, people are coming out in droves, with a larger turnout every time, organizers say.
“Young people relate to it,” Carpenter says. “If you had to pick one genre to talk about your feelings, it’d be emo music, you know?”
For attendees, Emo Nite’s appeal is almost universally the same: It’s a welcome respite from the present, a return to the blind, exhilarating mayhem of teenagedom for just one night.
“All this music was popular in the MySpace age, and we all grew up with it,” says Chelsea Raine, 24, of Dallas. She’s holding a cigarette and standing with two other girls she came with, all of them with precisely winged liner and bold lipstick and outfits hearkening back to the heyday of emo — flannels and band shirts and fishnet stockings, all lovingly assembled together.
“Classics never die,” she says. “[Emo] was too big of a movement to let it just die out. It wasn’t a phase; it’ll never be a phase.”
Raine’s voice is light, her tone slightly teasing, but she trails off as she looks towards the stage. The opening drumbeat of Fall Out Boy’s “Dance, Dance” (2005) is thundering from the speakers, and she’s begun to involuntarily bob up and down, anticipating a dance.
She turns to her friends, losing her thoughts for a moment.
“Oh my God,” she says. She exhales a puff of cigarette smoke, her expression giddy, cathartic. “I love this song.”
CORRECTION, 5 p.m., Sept. 27: This story originally misstated the age of Orlando Mendoza and misspelled Teresa Carpenter's name. We regret the errors.