In a culture obsessed with nostalgia, emo music has a vice grip on listeners who just can’t bring themselves to ditch their hair straighteners and Hot Topic skinny jeans. One Austin venue is reviving the roaring angst of yesteryear with a monthly celebration of sing-scream choruses, bleeding-heart lyricism and enough eyeliner to blot out the sea.
By Ignacio Martinez
A send-up to that summer when you wore all black, Jimmy Eat Wednesday is a themed night at Barbarella that aims to fill a niche no other venue was really contesting. Hosted by the official and oh-so-brooding ATX Emo Club, Jimmy Eat Wednesday could be your one shot this decade to hear a Rites of Spring song in a club venue. “It's like if prom night had a live journal, and then that live journal started a band,” says Aditya Pabba, frequent attendee of the event.
First branching off from post-hardcore in the early 1980s, emo music remained a mainstay within the oversized headphones of many angst-ridden teenagers until the late 2000s. The 2010 release of My Chemical Romance’s Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys saw the band take a thematic departure from their emo roots in favor of a pop-rock style, symbolizing the degradation of the genre as a whole. As other bands such as Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco partially abandoned their original style for a more pop-influenced aesthetic, it seemed that emo was gone for good.
That is, for about three years. Despite its modest sub-header on the “Emo” Wikipedia page, the emo revival is currently in full swing, with bands such as The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die and Foxing breathing new life into the genre. By approaching the concepts of romanticized sadness, unrequited love and melodramatic breakups with a level of maturity that previously eluded these bands, the emo revival seems to be the natural progression of the genre as a whole.
Seeking to capture this lightning in a bottle, Barbarella has turned Jimmy Eat Wednesday into an experience that can only be enjoyed by simultaneously giving into your own nostalgia for emo and falling in love with the genre all over again.
“The songs from the era we play at Jimmy Eat Wednesday never really got stale to me,” says Alex Chavez, ATX Emo Club representative and Jimmy Eat Wednesday event coordinator. By including “the more mainstream, fun, singalong songs” as well as “a little bit of the late ‘90s stuff” in the monthly playlists, Chavez makes it clear that he’s not just trying to piggyback on the recent success of the emo revival. “At parties, we would put some of those songs on and watch everyone rock out,” he says. “I think that those experiences, combined with the revival scene, made me believe this could be rad.”
This jubilant nostalgia is a major selling point for Pabba, who waxes poetic about the role emo music played in his past and his present. “I'm 30, and my life is different from what I thought it would be like when I was 16,” he says. “The event allows me to reconnect with the younger version of me that had hopes and dreams of an epic me. On top of that, I still love the music, and the event essentially feels like I'm hanging out with my friends and slam dancing in their living room. What's not to love?”
Of course, emo was initially a “fringe” genre of music, so not all attendees are dying to hit the dance floor from the first song. “It takes a while for everyone to come out of their corners and start dancing,” Pabba says. “But once they start dancing, it is one sweaty, amazing night.”
Barbarella currently hosts Jimmy Eat Wednesday once a month, but Chavez alludes to much more in ATX Emo Club’s future. “I just thought of it as a hashtag, and once I made the buttons, I thought it was a cool name to use as an alias,” he says. “The crazy thing is it has now become an actual thing, as I've gotten together with some local bookers and bands to work to put on cool, emo-focused shows and events and do more.”
Chavez says that the next big project on the horizon for ATX Emo Club is the ATX EMO CLUBHOUSE for SXSW 2016. To him, it’s all about reaching the community and giving up-and-comers a proper platform. “Hopefully it all comes together,” he says. “My ideal growth would be building a great way to connect fans of the early 2000s and showcase the new acts when they come through town.”
To keep up-to-date with local emo revival news, follow Jimmy Eat Wednesday at the links below: