Taking Back Tuesday Parties Prove L.A.'s Appetite for Emo, and Nostalgia, Is Strong

Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional
Grizzlee Martin

Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional performs during Emo Nite L.A.

Anyone looking for proof that trends are cyclical need look no further than the Echo and Echoplex in Los Angeles on the first Tuesday of every month, where fans of emo and pop punk show up by the thousands to bask in nostalgia and sing along fervently to the anthems of their teenage angst. 

In a year and a half, the monthly Emo Night L.A. -- or Taking Back Tuesday as it's also called, nodding to the popular group Taking Back Sunday -- has grown from a barroom karaoke night started by friends T.J. Petracca, Barbara Szabo and Morgan Freed to arguably the city's most successful rock themed party night. The most recent event marked the series' first expansion to take over the upstairs Echo as well as the downstairs Echoplex, where it has run for over a year. On this first go at dominating two of Los Angeles' most popular rock clubs, Emo Night L.A. brought in almost 3,000 people over the night into the nearly 1,000-person capacity joint venues for a mix of live performances by Chris Conley of Saves The Day and Ryan Ross from Panic! at the Disco, plus DJ sets by Jack Barakat of All Time Low and local favorites production team Captain Cuts, among others. 

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Since launching in late 2014, the night has welcomed heroes of the 2000's emo scene primarily for unannounced DJ sets, including Mark Hoppus of Blink-182, Mikey Way of My Chemical Romance, Jesse Mack Johnson of Motion City Soundtrack, and many more, building a fan following easily measured by the line out the door and around the block -- a considerable feat for a weeknight. And the influence is not just in Los Angeles. Now the Emo Night brand has expanded to host parties in San Francisco, San Diego, Toronto, Portland, Seattle, Omaha, Denver and Atlanta, with a summer tour coming up. 

Walking into the Echoplex on a Taking Back Tuesday night is indeed a portal to a bizarre, drunken Warped Tour-like world from more than a decade ago. The 21-and-over event caters to nostalgia with commitment, wherein throngs of 20-somethings down beers and sing along to songs by Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, Blink-182 and contemporaries with full commitment, crowd surfing, moshing and shouting every lyric as loudly as possible. 

"I think people realize that this is really a place where you can come and let your guard down and it's not like other Hollywood clubs or bars where you kind of have to impress everyone and be someone that you're not," said Szabo, who runs a creative agency with her partners during the day. 

It's a sentiment echoed by FIDLAR's Zac Carper, who has DJed the party. Describing the experience of watching the crowd hold up lighters for Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)" during his set as "life changing" and "probably the most fun I've ever had in my entire life," Carper said, "What's amazing about [Taking Back Tuesday] is that there was zero 'cool kid' factor. Everyone was just super into music and everyone was emotional. Nobody was out to impress anyone. There was zero snobbery."

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Since DJing Taking Back Tuesday parties in San Diego and L.A., New Found Glory frontman Jordan Pundik said he's received invitations for similar events in Nashville and New York and is amazed by the level of excitement that he's seen. 

"I think the key to the success is definitely the attitudes people have going into it," he said. "Anyone that talks about it says how happy everyone is and how fun it is and that's the secret ingredient right there."

For the promotion team behind Emo Night L.A., a lot of this all comes down to creating a community around the event where they try to personally engage with as many partygoers as possible, as well as credit those fans' commitment to the music and the night in general -- something they say is a defining characteristic of the scene. 

"It was the last culture that embraced the full album before digital downloads. I remember skipping school to get the new Alkaline Trio CD and now kids can just preorder it and it's already on their phone," said Freed. "You had to wait for those things, you waited and sat in your room and you listened to the whole album and it was physical and you had to actually be a part of it.... I think we're the last generation that actually fucking wanted it."

Petracca added that fervor translates to the thousands of 20- and 30-somethings that turn out on a Tuesday night, noting the night may not have the same success were it held on a weekend.  

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He said, "It takes a lot of commitment for people to be like 'I'm gonna go I'm gonna scream my head off, I'm gonna be super hung over on Wednesday,' but that's just it -- I'm gonna commit to it."

Emo Night L.A.'s growth is not only a testament to the power of nostalgia, but to the resurgence of emo and pop punk in modern music as well. New bands such as 5 Seconds of Summer and Bring Me The Horizon have built massive followings drawing on the genre's forebears. In L.A., with the new upstairs expansion to four stages, the team behind the party promises to introduce new bands to its followers and "rebuild" the community. 

"The majority of that stuff that I currently listen to is the newer emo stuff," said Freed. "A lot of the stuff if you listen to it, it sounds like old Get Up Kids, it's fucking awesome. And I feel like every generation has that thing where it goes away and then comes back, then it goes away then comes back ... and now it's time for a newer generation to really experience what we did and do it with their own bands."

For those artists celebrated, Taking Back Tuesday is also validation of their contributions to a genre that's often maligned. 

"It's certainly encouraging to know there's this much excitement and reverence for the scene we were in, because there was a long stretch of time when we were kind of feeling like this wave's kind of crashed and we had fun and now it's time to try other things in life," said Marko DeSantis, lead guitarist for the band Sugarcult. 

"Right now, what I think Emo Night represents in addition to being an unabashed party which is awesome, it also represents this cultural vindication for what we all did," DeSantis continued. "And at the risk of sounding self important, on behalf of all the bands in our scene, there is a sense of, yeah we fucking did this and it mattered to a lot of people who are now grownups and they're not ashamed to say and raise a glass to it and scream along to these songs when they hear them."

Gil Riego Photography
Gil Riego Photography
    Gil Riego Photography