Emo Night Brooklyn

Skip the EDM and Party to Emo

How a basement music ritual for teens became a nationally touring party for the enduring emo scene

In January 2015, about 100 partiers packed a tiny room in Brooklyn’s Cameo bar to witness a DJ set by Ethan Maccoby and Alex Badanes. Their collaborative set list didn’t include the hottest trap banger or newest tropical-house hit, however; it didn’t consist of any EDM or hip-hop at all, for that matter. As the line for entry curved around the block, the denizens inside screamed back lyrics to a curated selection of early 2000s emo/pop punk. But this isn’t some bizarre cult ritual; this is Emo Night Brooklyn. Maccoby and Badanes have since provided doses of swoopy haired nostalgia to thousands in New York, Las Vegas, Toronto and London, and the party’s just getting started.

This story begins on the foggy streets of London. “Ethan and I have been best friends since we were 4, and we’ve always clicked when it comes to music,” says Badanes. The two, both 26, were particularly fond of American rock bands at the time, acts such as Yellowcard and Taking Back Sunday, who were spearheading the emo/pop-punk revival of the early aughts. They’d attend concerts on a weekly basis, and if there wasn’t one scheduled during a particular week, they’d take matters into their own hands. “We’d play emo and pop-punk in our parents’ basement,” Badanes says. “We’d rock out and have the best time. Sometimes there was beer involved—actually there was beer involved the majority of the time.”

Emo Night BrooklynSam Cohen

Alex Badanes (left), Yellowcard’s Ryan Key (center) and Ethan Maccoby.

The childhood friends moved to Boston together to attend college (Badanes at Berklee College of Music; Maccoby at Tufts), and their bond remained strong. They continued the weekly tradition of attending concerts, which were more accessible given the geography, and jammed out in their dorm rooms if no such event was happening. Mind you, these were mainly listening parties, but air guitar and air drums were definitely involved. “It became our favorite activity—the perfect pregame for concerts. Then we both moved to apartments in New York and suddenly, all of our friends got involved,” Badanes says. The move to the Big Apple marked a turning point for the two, as they moved their dance parties to the basement of Cameo, a small bar across from Badanes’ apartment. The result was groundbreaking. “It exceeded our biggest expectations. We invited friends for a party with free beer and no cover, and it was absolutely insane right off the bat. Everybody was singing to Saves the Day, and the line went out the door.”

Emo Night at Cameo became a monthly event, and the turnout exploded such that Badanes and Maccoby were forced to move the party to bigger rooms. They spread the word via Facebook and relentlessly promoted the flier online, which garnered local press, which, in turn, grew the parties even bigger. Their dreams came true when a local 800-capacity venue, Brooklyn Bowl, opened its doors to the party. “It’s one of our favorite spots. We live near there, we go to shows there,” Badanes says. Although they were nervous, the night sold out, and more than 800 people indulged in nostalgia via songs by My Chemical Romance, New Found Glory and others of the genre. Emo Night Brooklyn became a recurring event, getting co-signs and guest spots from the likes of Jordan Pundik of New Found Glory and Fred Mascherino of Taking Back Sunday. It opened the doors for the party to go national—which brings us to Las Vegas.

Emo Night BrooklynNick Karp

After seeing the party’s success in New York, Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas reached out to Badanes and Maccoby to bring the party to the center of the Strip. The gig, set as an after-party for the New Found Glory and Yellowcard concert in November, would be the most daunting endeavor yet, representing a number of firsts: It was the first time the two would take the party west of the Mississippi, and the first time they’d spin after a live band, which proved to be nerve-racking. “People just watched two amazing emo bands play live; now they’re just going to listen to it,” Maccoby says. “We had the help of Ryan [Key, singer/guitarist of Yellowcard], who was doing a DJ set, but that’s the most nervous I’ve ever been.” As Key, Maccoby and Badanes switched off on the virtual turntables, they saw that this party would work in Vegas, too. “Standing on that stage and saying, ‘What’s up, Vegas?’ was just so surreal, and everybody was into it!” says Maccoby. And they still are: The two recently locked in a bimonthly residency at Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas.

Emo Night BrooklynNick Karp

So what drives thousands to dig up their old band tees and tight jeans just for a night? Badanes and Maccoby attribute it to the 10-year anniversary celebrations and tours of landmark albums such as New Found Glory’s Sticks and Stones and Brand New’s Deja Entendu. “The people in our age bracket were kids when those albums came out, and now they’re adults in the real world with real jobs and real problems. This is an escape,” Badanes says.

As for the future of Emo Night Brooklyn, Badanes and Maccoby hope to expand. “We want to bring it to more venues, more cities and have more guest DJs,” Maccoby says. “But if it gets smaller and we’re back to our bedrooms sipping beers while rocking out to Thrice, that’s cool, too.”

Emo Night Brooklyn

$8, 11:30 p.m. July 15, Brooklyn Bowl, BrooklynBowl.com/Las-Vegas.