The first Emo Nite was supposed to be a small gathering of friends, a toast to the rock subculture that brought angsty hooks and whiny vocals to the mainstream in the early to mid-2000s. Los Angeles residents Morgan Freed, T.J. Petracca and Barbara "Babs" Szabo organized a Facebook event at The Short Stop, a tiny Dodgers bar, in 2014 -- and 300 people showed up.
Since then, Emo Nite has become a monthly must-attend for fans of the mothballed genre, with 3,000 partygoers showing up at the Echo and the Echoplex in L.A. for performances and DJ sets. Emo icon Dashboard Confessional played in 2015, while Skrillex reunited his rock group From First to Last at February's show. When Emo Nite expands to New York's Webster Hall on May 4, 18 artists -- including rap star and emo fan Machine Gun Kelly -- will take part.
Petracca, 27, wants to curate every minute of each event. "We've had marching bands playing My Chemical Romance," he says. "We had an airplane fly over the people in line outside holding a banner that says 'Every Nite Is Emo Nite.'"
Ahead of the Manhattan debut (an unaffiliated Emo Night has been a Brooklyn Bowl staple) and the launch of a clothing line this summer, Petracca credits the founding trio's L.A. success to its passion for moshing, scream singing and celebrating onstage proposals between emo-obsessed couples (two have happened so far). Geoff Rickly, the leader of genre mainstay Thursday who is playing the New York launch, certainly feels the love. "Instead of getting stressed about a big performance," he says, "I'm looking forward to connecting with old friends."
Emo Nite's Greatest Hits
The co-founders list the most-played songs in the monthly event's DJ sets. Memorize the lyrics before you attend!
1) Taking Back Sunday - "MakeDamnSure" (2006)
2) The Starting Line - "Best of Me" (2002)
3) My Chemical Romance - "Helena" (2005)
This article originally appeared in the May 13 issue of Billboard.