On my way to the "emo night" party in San Francisco -- also known as Taking Back Tuesday -- I imagined a bunch of kids sitting in a dark-lit room, swaying to the music, dressed in stripes and skinny jeans. What I got was a room full of nostalgic adults ready to go crazy to Taking Back Sunday, and dance like no one was watching. Moshing. Crowd-surfing. Grabbing strangers by the face and singing to them.
Having recently expanded to the Bay Area from a similar weekly night in Los Angeles, Taking Back Tuesday is essentially one giant dance party wherein DJs play an assortment of nostalgic emo music — just so we emo kids can party like it’s 2005. But it's also more than that: It offers people ways to connect to their past, reassess their teen angst at a happier time in their lives, and make new friends.
It's also embroiled in a bit of controversy, as Taking Back Sunday frontman Adam Lazzara told Billboard in an interview published July 19 that he has not-entirely-positive feelings about the tribute night. But before the day's end, Lazzara posted a note to Instagram with a clarification, saying that his remarks were taken out of context.
Regardless of the nuances of Lazzara's take, it's clear they've come to mean quite a bit to quite a few people.
As for me: I came out of the emo closet during my senior year of high school. I quickly realized that emo music has two stigmas: first, that its fans are always sad, and second, that they don’t like to party. The moment one walks into an emo night, both notions are proven wrong.
With this in mind, I chatted with emo night attendees at the Rickshaw Stop on Tuesday, July 10, to hear what brought them out to relive the glory of My Chemical Romance, Brand New, Panic at the Disco, and others who'd provided the soundtrack to their coming of age.
Acknowledging an emo past
Taking Back Tuesday DJ Chad Heimann works as a talent buyer for Noise Pop -- meaning he books bands for events like the Treasure Island Music Festival. He’s excited this emo night has expanded to the the Bay Area, because it allows him to revisit his musical roots.
“It’s nice to take a step back and look back on the building blocks of my musical journey,” he says. “I listen to current music every day. I never really get to take that step back and listen to music I listen to 10 years ago. It’s a nice way to kind of revisit that.”
Not a secret anymore
Photographer Gil Riego Jr. attended the first Emo Night LA in December 2014. He’s been to almost every emo night in California since then, taking pictures — with the exception of one time when he was out of the country.
He says part of the reason the parties are so popular is the nostalgia in the air as people's favorite bands play 10- and 15-year anniversary tours. (Ed. note: Between this post being written and edited, My Chemical Romance joined the fray with a hint at resurrection.) “It’s almost like this whole new Pokémon Go thing. You never knew how many people used to listen to emo music or play Pokémon back in the day,” he says.
He also enjoys that people now are more accepting of emo culture. “I feel like emo was kind of rock's little stepbrother. It kind of got picked on, and you had to keep [liking] it a secret. For a while you didn’t want people to know you listen to this kind of music."
All about the song
Mark Melvin decided to tag along to Taking Back Tuesdays while he was out drinking with friends.
“I said ‘Why not?' I have a good buzz going, it’s Tuesday, and I know I can talk the bartender into giving me Tecate and Tequila shots for $6,” Melvin says. For him, the best part is that everyone's into it. “It’s good vibes,” he says. “The people [dancing] on stage aren’t going super crazy. They’re only there because the song is playing. It’s not like they’re up there for their own glory. It’s all about the song.”
Not an awkward phase
Bryan Hernandez heard of Emo Night LA through friends on Twitter. Once he saw that Taking Back Tuesday had sprouted up in San Francisco, he knew he had to attend. “I was like, ‘I gotta go,’ and I rounded up my friends.”
According to Hernandez, Taking Back Tuesday is unifying. “Being an angsty teenager, you’re definitely sad, and [this is] go-to music for comfort,” Hernandez says. “It’s cool that everybody has grown up and can maybe look back on it at a happier time. We can just jump around and not be so sad anymore and just celebrate it for what it is.”
While others see being “emo” as a phase, Hernandez said he never saw it as a temporary part of his life. “I’ve stayed in it the entire time. I didn’t see it as an awkward phase,” he says.
'All kinds of emo crap'
Lily Jones agreed to go to Taking Back Tuesday because one of her friends talked her into it. “She was like, ‘you guys have to come with me,'” Jones says. “She’s way into Fall Out Boy and listens to all kinds of emo crap.”
While she does enjoy emo, Jones prefers to listen to metal and '80s new wave. “I like emo music, but I can never name anything,” she says. “It sounded like a fun time. I really like themed club nights. It’s also only five bucks.”
The band that changed everything
Gerard Cabarse attended Taking Back Tuesday because he wanted to see Taking Back Sunday at the Taste of Chaos Festival, but didn’t want to drive to Concord on a work night. “For me, emo music represents a time in my life where I was looking for where I fit in, not only in my social circles but finding myself as a person,” Cabarse says.
He started listening to emo music when he was 13 years old and met a girl who liked the band Saosin. “That didn’t work out,” he says, “but hey, the music is awesome.”From there, he got into hardcore music and then moved on to bands like Mayday Parade, Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance.
“Honestly, My Chemical Romance was the band that changed everything. Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge was the first CD I ever bought with my own money,” he says. “I can sing every word on it and I still play it. They’re one of those bands that changed who I am as a person. Emo music became my identity.”
The best night of her life
Three-time Taking Back Tuesday attendee Lora Mistler comes to emo night to feel at home. “I live for this. It’s the best night of my life every time it happens,” Mistler says.
Mistler can show up with a friend or alone and still feel like she belongs. “Even if I don't have friends, this is my family,” she says. “Everyone else has that same nostalgia and that’s what brings the family in. Everyone else has that same experience you do.”
'We used to be emo girls together'
Sammie Hendricks and Jen McGowan have been friends for nearly six years. The two have been to Taking Back Tuesdays once before, and it reminds them of when their friendship started. “Once upon a time we used to be emo girls together,” Hendricks said.
Hendricks also likes how personable other people are. “Everyone is really friendly. A bunch of people try to talk to us,” she says. McGowan enjoys the community emo night brings, because most of the people she’s met had the same feelings she had as a teenager.
“A lot of people think emo is emotional or whatever. For me personally, I get excited listening to this music,” McGowan said.
“It’s nice because everyone has something in common,” she adds, “which is music.”