Cameron Bonomolo 100Cameron Bonomolo 375

    Photo credit: Sean Robinson


“My mind ain’t nothing but a total blank, I think I’ll just stay here and drink.” — “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink,” Merle Haggard 

Walking into Vinyl the night of Thursday, March 16th was an offbeat sight: a light crowd mingling, most with drinks in hand, standing around a barren dance floor.

It was 9 p.m. exactly. Filtering in, new arrivals made a stop at the merchandise table situated by the doors to drape themselves in Emo Nite iconography and miscellaneous memorabilia. Others made a beeline for the bar. 

Scattered about the floor were black and white balloons. "Every Nite is Emo Nite,” read some. “Sad As F—k,” read others (minus the censorship). “You Never Even Called Me by My Name,” a country western song by David Allen Coe, played robustly over the sound system. 

It couldn’t help but feel like a discrepancy in theme. It was a contrasting aesthetic, to say the least: a lot of 18-and-ups, dressed like extras in a Simple Plan music video, shuffling around to a country single from 1975. 

Emo Nite - Photo credit: Sean Robinson

Thirty minutes after doors opening, Merle Haggard’s “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” — another country hit from the 20th century — made its way into the room.

“What the f—k?” wondered one attendee, plainly, audibly. So I wasn’t the only one confused by the meandering country crooning emanating from a MacBook at the center of the stage. This was a crowd of ready-to-party twenty-somethings who came to hear Green Day and Panic! At the Disco turned up to deafening levels, and they wanted the music. Their music.

“I don’t want to waste my time, become another casualty of society. I’ll never fall in line, become another victim of your conformity.” — “Fat Lip,” Sum 41

I spoke with Carleigh Sconyers and Skylar Meyers, both attending their first Emo Nite. “[Emo music] was definitely my favorite genre in high school and it brings back memories,” Carleigh told me. “I think everybody has a little different definition of emo music, so I’m curious to see what gets played.” 

“The lyrics are so clever, that’s what I like,” said Skylar, when asked about the draw of emo music. “And it’s fun to dance to.” 

“Yeah, it’s the lyrics, and I just like the feeling of the music,” said Carleigh. “There’s a lot of jumping.” 

Emo Nite - Photo credit: Sean Robinson

“When the lights go up, I wanna watch the way you take the stage by storm.” — “Dear Maria, Count Me In,” All Time Low

At 9:45, the announcement this collective had been waiting for came. Grabbing a mic, Emo Nite LA co-founder T.J. Petracca hopped on stage: “Who wants to sing along to some Fall Out Boy?” Cheers, applause, variations of resounding yeses. 

“Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” roared to life. So did the crowd. I was leaned against a metal railing at the front of the stage, which was now vibrating from the hum of blasting music and a thunderous crowd. 

Beaming faces and big smiles betrayed Emo Nite’s “sad as f—k” mantra. An energy had overtaken the room. Petracca and fellow Emo Nite LA co-founder Babs Szabo conducted a virtual orchestra as the audience sang and shouted along to Taking Back Sunday’s “Makedamnsure,” Brand New’s “Sic Transit Gloria… Glory Fades,” Paramore’s “Misery Business” and Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again?” 

“This isn’t a show,” Petracca announced, “it’s a f—king party!” No standing around watching — if you want to crash the stage, jump on up. Needless to say, the invitation was accepted (to the chagrin of security).

Guests from the crowd became impromptu hype men, bounding from the audience, to the stage, from one corner to another and throwing hands up — as if this crowd needed any kind of directing. “Welcome to the Black Parade” initiated interchanging groups locking arms, swaying side to side,  belting out those first slow and building bars of the Mayday Parade hit. 

It was fun. It was infectious. This was every night spent with your closest friends, tightly packed into your ever-shrinking room, jumping around and lip syncing to full volume songs you all knew the words to — but amplified. 

Emo Nite - Photo credit: Sean Robinson

Vinyl at Hard Rock is a venue that, above all else, was created to celebrate music and the often overwhelming way it takes us over, moving us, compelling us to lower our inhibitions and scream our hearts out, or to dance with strangers who have become the best of friends just for this night. The way it compels regular party goers to hop on stage ahead of a crowd of 200 something strangers and command an audience like a seasoned rock star.

A young woman with dark blue hair, who had earlier been impatiently twirling to those country slow-dance tunes, polished off a drink or two — come party time, she was center stage and mouthing Sum 41’s “Fat Lip” like she was on lead vocals.

Jimmy Eat World, All Time Low, The Used — you could point to any one of the emo / punk hit tracks played as the anthem of every person in the room, which — to onlookers — looked like a bash for old friends, despite it being a venue comprised of mostly complete strangers.

It was just part of the free-for-all fun that filled the night of Emo Nite — where all were welcome, and encouraged, to let loose and have an intimate singing / screaming dance party.

The Emo Nite 2017 tour continues next at Valley Bar in Phoenix, AZ, followed by a tour-ending stop at Subterranean in Chicago, IL.