Once a month at around eight o’clock, a group of people in their mid-thirties wander into a bar called Jeromes at Rivington F+B, right off the Essex stop on the Lower East Side. They come to listen to and sing along with bands like American Football, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Mineral, icons from a second wave of emo that they loved when the bands were putting out records in the Nineties. As the night goes on, they’re slowly replaced by slightly younger folks who are there for a similar reason, so the soundtrack moves to the mid-2000s and the third wave — bands like Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, and Saves the Day. By the end of the night, the sounds of Jimmy Eat World, Thursday, and Jawbreaker satisfy everyone in attendance, and soon the scene’s a singalong brimming with camaraderie. This, Tom Mullen explains, is Emo Night.
Started in 2011 by Mullen and Brian Pacris as an anti–Valentine’s Day bash, Emo Night features the two friends spinning the best punk rock, emo, post-hardcore, however-you-define-it records of the last twenty years to a crowd drunk on nostalgia (and good drinks). The atmosphere is not so much that of a raucous concert as that of a community get-together.
“It’s about everyone talking to each other,” says Mullen. “You can see when we put on a band people bopping their head and talking like, ‘Oh, I saw this band in ’98!’ and ‘I saw them when they reunited in 2006!’ That’s the sort of community we want. We don’t want just a big party atmosphere. We want people to discuss their memories, and of course the music will trigger that.”
Over the past four years, Emo Night (a/k/a Do You Know Who You Are?) has successfully drawn crowds of former alternative kids ready to scream their heads off to the emotive vocals of their favorite childhood bands. Mullen’s vast list of credentials when it comes to emo — he runs WashedUpEmo.com, has a podcast of the same name that features him talking to some of the biggest names in punk and emo, and interviewed American Football’s Mike Kinsella and Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carraba for Vice — has helped the night land spectacular guest DJs like Say Anything’s Max Bemis and Chris Conley of Saves the Day.
Mullen and Pacris’s D.I.Y. attitude and sense of community — learned from their days growing up within their respective scenes — lend an inclusive atmosphere to the event.
“The one thing we keep to the night,” Pacris says, is that “we want you to be a part of it. We don’t want to be exclusionary. That’s why we don’t charge cover. Unfortunately, it’s a bar, so of course the night is 21 and up, but I remember the friendliness of the bands in [the old] days. [If a show was 21-plus] I could get in touch with the drummer and he could sneak me in backstage.”
While nostalgia obviously plays a huge factor in Emo Night’s success, Mullen and Pacris hardly think the genre has gone the way of disco or boomer rock and become “old people music.” Mullen talks excitedly about the so-called “emo revival” of circa 2010, when new bands emulated not the popular emo acts of the mid-2000s, like Hawthorne Heights, Fall Out Boy, and Panic! at the Disco (a moment Mullen playfully and derisively calls emo’s “hair-metal phase”), but groups like Sunny Day Real Estate and the Get-Up Kids. With the advent of the internet, young bands had quick access to predecessors many presumed forgotten, resulting in a mutually beneficial relationship between the younger and older generations.
“Twenty-three-year-olds are coming to me talking about obscure bands from the Nineties and telling me about new ones,” says Mullen. “They tell me about these bands that came out in 2009, 2010 that have the same aesthetic as those older bands….To have those kids get into [emo] really inspired older fans who thought no one was gonna remember the music they listened to to get back into it.”
To Mullen’s way of thinking, the term “emo revival” is silly — because emo never died. Like any genre, it’s had its “old school,” its “heyday,” its “pop phase,” and its “new wave.” But perhaps what’s most refreshing about the scene at Jeromes in 2015 is the utter lack of pretension in the room. As Mullen tells it, the event is about memories and people, not about himself, Pacris, or being cool. One of his favorite stories is about a couple whose second date was Emo Night — and who, after they got engaged several months later, had their after-party at the Emo Night DJ’d by Bemis.
“To think people connected that way is amazing,” says Mullen.
“And we never did this to ‘be cool,’ or whatever,” adds Pacris. “We just wanted to have fun, come chill, and bring the same sort of community vibe we grew up with.”
This sentiment, brought up over and over again by both its creators, is what their Emo Night is about. And they want you to know you belong there.
Emo Night NYC: Do You Know Who You Are? takes place on August 6 at Jeromes.
Follow Adam Downer on Twitter for an obscene amount of puns @AdamEDowner