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Emo Nite LA
Photograph: Jasmine Denisse

A beloved L.A.-based emo dance party returns to Chicago

Celebrate the past, present and future of emo at Emo Nite LA, coming to Subterranean on Friday, April 1.

Written by
Lindsay Eanet
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Ahead of their April 1 stop in Chicago, Emo Nite co-founder Morgan Freed told Time Out one of his least favorite things is when outlets previewing their events lead with “put on your eyeliner and swoop your hair.” 

Needless to say, we will not be doing that. 

Although the nationally- (and internationally!) touring parties celebrate a musical genre that has spanned nearly 40 years, to call Emo Nite a throwback night—something solely focused on giving fans an opportunity to relive their glory days—would be missing the full picture. The party, which comes to Subterranean in Wicker Park this Friday, celebrates the genre’s present and future as well as its history. 

“We want to grow what the definition of emo actually means,” Emo Nite co-founder T.J. Petracca says. “You could be 18 now and find music that you love that was made 20 years ago; you could be 40 years old and find music you love that was made now. We just want everybody to be included and to have an awesome, safe time.” 

Petracca and Freed launched Emo Nite in Los Angeles in 2014 to fill a void. They would pre-game for a night out by playing the emo and pop-punk artists they loved, and then go to a club or bar and hear EDM or Top 40 hits. Freed knew a bartender at The Short Stop, a neighborhood bar with a dance floor in Echo Park, and convinced him to let them create an emo playlist and control the music for the night. After packing the place, Freed and Petracca went big and invited a special guest for their third party—Blink-182 frontman Mark Hoppus. And Mark Hoppus came. Then came more cities, festivals and even an Emo Nite wedding

Although Emo Nite has become associated with exciting cameos from heavy-hitters like Dashboard Confessional, Avril Lavigne and Machine Gun Kelly, Petracca, Freed and their local partners work to find creative ways to surprise and delight partygoers. Remixing emo standards in fresh genres remains a favorite—Freed and Petracca brought L.A. mariachi outfit Mariachi Teocuiatlan to cover Blink-182 songs, and more recently, ‘90s country tribute band Chattahoochee led a packed crowd in a rousing sing-along of My Chemical Romance’s “Teenagers” at a Dallas party.

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“We’ve really tried to make this a party that we’d want to go to ourselves and keep it not just nostalgic, but something that in 2022 we’d be fucking stoked to be at,” Petracca says.

Freed emphasizes the most important aspect of Emo Nite isn’t the big names or the special guests, but the communities that have stemmed from the parties all over the country and fostering that sense of togetherness. When Emo Nite began touring in 2015, Freed and Petracca went to cities where they “didn’t know a soul,” but over the years, they have built bonds and watch sustained communities bloom in these places.

“Whatever you do and wherever you’re at in life, it’s amazing how quickly and easily you make friends with people who also like this music,” Petracca says.

Freed and Petracca say the Chicago Emo Nite party is “one of our best ones." They praised Subterranean and their team as local partners, and say that the team plans to include Emo Nite programming on both levels of the venue in the future, with a focus on deeper-cut emo offerings downstairs and the more familiar mid-aughts pop-punk and emo upstairs. Chicagoland has been the epicenter of multiple emo waves, from the offspring of Champaign-Urbana Midwest emo pioneers Braid and American Football like Hey Mercedes, Cap’n Jazz and Owls to high-energy pop-punk juggernauts The Academy Is… and a little garage band from Wilmette called Fall Out Boy. William Beckett of local icons The Academy Is… has made an appearance at Emo Nite Chicago in the past, and more recently, Plain White T’s frontman Tom Higgenson gave a surprise performance of their ubiquitous hit “Hey There Delilah” at the December 2021 show. Friday's show will also include a special guest, as Hawthorne Heights frontman J.T. Woodruff stops by for a DJ set.

Emo Nite Chicago takes place at 9pm on Friday, April 1 at Subterranean (2011 W North Ave). Tickets are $16 and can be purchased here, and $1 from every ticket supports the Living the Dream Foundation. As of February 28, Subterranean is still requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the show for entry.

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