Emo Night Brooklyn: Berlin

Nostalgia for the last true music subculture hits Berlin

Connie Hwong

Date: 12.04.19
Venue: Musik & Frieden
Time: 23:00

Emo Night was founded in Brooklyn on a cold January night in 2015. Nearly a decade after bands like Newfound Glory, Taking Back Sunday, and My Chemical Romance hit their peak, more than a hundred emo fans packed the tiny basement of the now-defunct Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg to dance and sign along to their favorite MySpace-era tunes. 

Just four months later, the party was attracting more than a thousand likes on Facebook, and quickly upgraded their digs to the nearby Brooklyn Bowl, a flashy bowling alley and music venue with a capacity of 600.

ENB co-founders Ethan Maccoby and Alex Badanes grew up on the outskirts of London, not in the bland American strip-mall suburbia that has spawned so many of their favourite bands. But their British roots hasn’t stopped their emo baby from growing at a near-exponential rate over the past four years: today, Emo Night Brooklyn (its core name remains the same regardless of location) has expanded to more than 40 cities across the US. Along the way, it’s attracted guest DJ sets from emo royalty like Taking Back Sunday’s Fred Mascherino and Newfound Glory’s Jordan Pundik. And in 2018, Maccoby and Badanes, both musicians since they met in middle school, got the ultimate fanboy experience: they recorded a song produced by Yellowcard’s Ryan Key (who also got a co-writing credit), with ambitions to release more material in the near future.

And ENB keeps expanding: after taking on London, the party made its Berlin debut last June at Musik und Frieden. Regardless of the city, the format remains the same: energetic DJ sets packed with a specific subgenre of mid-2000’s emo hits and deep cuts and a sweaty dancefloor of fans rocking guyliner, piercings, and the occasional white belt. We had a chance to sit down with Amy Lima, founder of Emo Night Brooklyn: Berlin, to get her take on how emo is thriving in a techno city, her dream emo lineup, and more.

Amy and Lauren

How did you get involved in Emo Night?
I started going to Emo Night Brooklyn (ENB) parties when I was still at university in NYC. While I first considered these parties to be a funny little tradition among my friends and I, I soon saw the huge reach ENB had that was only growing. By the time I moved abroad and was returning home once a year, ENB was selling out 1000-person capacity venues and hosting parties all across the country and oftentimes in the UK. I decided to reach out to the founders personally to partner in bringing ENB to Berlin and throughout Europe.

Who else is involved in the emo nights? What does everyone do?
I manage the expansion, promotion, and execution of ENB in Europe, from booking the venues to getting the word out to curating the parties. I brought in my close friend Lauren Normandaeu to co-DJ with me and help with production and promotion.

Why did you decide to bring it to Berlin?
I knew there was already a strong alternative scene thriving in Berlin, and while we have tons of rock and indie nights going on throughout the city, there really hasn’t been any party quite like this here. I figured (hoped) there would be a natural overlap between the people attending those parties and those coming to emo night, and so far that seems to be the case!

Tell us about your first party in Berlin. Any surprises? Did the Berlin crowd go crazy for something in particular?
We were excited for the first party and imagined it would go well, but were pretty blown away by the size of the crowd. It was the middle of August during a record-breaking heatwave and we managed to pack the venue to nearly full capacity. We also learned that we had a few people had flown in or driven 7+ hours across the country and even Austria to be there. That’s when we knew we had made something special. It was also fun experimenting with different styles throughout the night to see what the crowd liked best, and to no surprise, the emos of Berlin love a harder sound. I didn’t listen to a lot of hardcore emo back in the day myself.

You have branched out into other cities, what is it about emo that makes it travel so well?
I think the cool thing about emo culture is that it has an almost universal nostalgia appeal. Most millenials remember the time when these songs were coming out, and celebrating the songs that had such an influence in pop culture and your own life alongside your friends is a pretty euphoric feeling. A wise man once sang, “We got older / But we’re still young” – I think a lot of us still feel that way.  

Were you a dedicated emo kid back in the day? What did emo mean to you?
I most certainly went through a heavy emo phase complete with circulation-suppressing skinny jeans, straightened side-swept bangs (although the rest of my hair was curly) dyed jet black because my dark brown hair apparently wasn’t dark enough, heavy black eyeliner, and most notably, a melodramatic attitude. To me, emo meant acknowledging the cumulative woes of the teenage experience, from fake friends to heartbreaking crushes to the ubiquitous desire to “leave it all behind” and roadtrip from the suburbs to California, where everything was apparently perfect. It’s amazing how relatable every song was and how communal moments like Warped Tour felt, and it just fed into the culture even more.

What band do you think were the unsung heroes of the emo era?
I think Say Anything didn’t get as much credit as they deserved. They were the ironic emo kids who didn’t take themselves too seriously and even mocked the lifestyle they were playing into. I couldn’t get enough of them.

Who do you think were the most overrated?
I love Gerard Way tremendously, but I never “got” the whole My Chemical Romance wave. I’m still a huge fan of a few songs for sure, but I definitely think they were played out more than they should have been.

The Ultimate Emo Mixtape, as compiled by Amy

What kind of people show up? Any interesting stories?
We see a lot of people coming together for these parties, from die-hard emos to casual fans who just love the concept of a nostalgia party. Our craziest story was having Bring Me The Horizon contact us asking to come to the party when they were in town for a press run this summer. We didn’t have them DJ and they just enjoyed the party, but it was pretty amazing having one of our all-time favourite bands coming to a party that’s celebrating them and the scene they helped create. That story is hard to beat.

What guest DJs have played at the events?
ENB has had a lot of legends from the scene perform, including Ryan Key (Yellowcard), William Beckett (The Academy Is), Jordan Pundik (New Found Glory), etc. We hope to have an icon to join us for one of the Berlin parties soon.

You’re putting together your emo dream lineup – who’s on the bill?
Paramore, Dashboard Confessional, Say Anything, Brand New, Bayside, Mayday Parade, All Time Low, Fall Out Boy,  Taking Back Sunday. Emo Legends.

What do you think is the most quintessential emo fashion statement? Do people craft looks for the Berlin parties?
A classic band t-shirt or hoodie, razor-cut side swept hair (as dark as possible with an optional fluorescent colour thrown in), heavy eyeliner, and at least one facial piercing. It’s no surprise we’ve seen people coming through all-out for our parties, which we love.

If you had to sum up emo night berlin in a sentence, what would you say?
The hipsters of today are the emos of yesterday, and nothing is more hipster than Berlin.

Keep up to date with all Emo Night Brooklyn dates via their website and Facebook. The next Emo Night Brooklyn: Berlin takes place on Friday, May 10.