photo courtesy of Emo Night North

Emo Night with DJ Katie Sutton, Starlite Room, Edmonton, AB, Oct 22 2022 by C E Hoffman

Nov 03, 2022

A Night Out with My Demons/Ghosts

My type is (almost*) everyone at Emo Night.

*Caveat required for the slimy guys whose hands slip onto your waist too many times, or the mean girls who don’t understand we’re all losers here, and losers should always be kind.

I show up early, trembling with anticipatory anxiety/ecstasy. My last Emo Night was in Toronto at Sneaky Dee’s, and though Toronto was only two years ago, it feels like forever.

We’re all losers here, and losers should always be kind.

My tarot reader told me I needed to go dancing more. I told him, “I’m going tonight!” He was satisfied.

I forgot the Starlite Room has a slanting floor; it’s like stepping onto a lesser plain of gravity. I strut my weird stuff all the way to the bar to ask for my favorite fluid: water. I’m directed to a gigantic water cooler. Thank god. I’m gonna need it tonight!

I don’t believe in alcohol, particularly not in public. I’m already drunk on the vibes. There are a few little groups already on the dance floor, groove-adjacent. I admire them from the balcony, nursing my hydration, calculating the risk of my dress riding up too high.

I’m not wearing the uniform. My tarot reader encouraged me to wear more color, so I’ve donned the gummy bear rave princess costume I’d saved for Sticky Buds: a dress of flashy neon spandex, gummy bear earrings/socks/bracelets, all of which are rendered moot under the glare of the lights and thunder of the bass.

It’s true this music was manufactured, but for us the movement was real. Little weirdos like me found liberation in these litanies. Our revolutions were personal, private, taped to our walls, buried in our bedrooms.

For most of us, the songs spoke the truth. We weren’t invited to parties. Our riots were alone in our rooms. There was no Hot Topic for me to peruse; I ripped my own jeans, disinfected my own safety pins.

People thought it was the look that mattered, but for me, it was always the music.

Which song beckons me forth onto the floor? Where do I end, and where does sound begin?

I don’t know when the floor fills; I don’t know which cute guys are single and which cute girls are gay. I don’t know what it’s like to have a partner who understands how fucking vital Fall Out Boy is, or who could rant with me about how they didn’t play enough All Time Low, but at the end of the day (or night), emo is my lover, and I am happily betrothed.

It’s only when I’m alone that I can see the shy girls get bold, courtesy of the bar, while old friends attack one another with sweaty, loving hugs.

My sad/sweet/scary teenage self grins at me through the crowd as if to say; Thank you for coming here; Thank you for lasting this long; Thank you for showing me there’s a future beyond cuts and bullies and meds and misery.

DJ Katie Sutton | photo courtesy of Emo Night North

Katie is one of those exemplar DJs who ascends into rock star territory. Plus, they clearly love this music as much as the crowd does.

How many of these songs did I forget, only for them to erupt back into consciousness?

How many of these songs did I forget, only for them to erupt back into consciousness? When was the last time I listened to Linkin Park?! How many of these songs mention leaving whatever shitty-ass city you were born in, running away and never coming back, even though I’ve returned to Edmonton more times than I’d like to admit.

Will next time be the last time? Will I finally practice what I preach/sing?

How can people pack themselves around strangers and scream the same lyrics, though we don’t know each other’s ages or names? How can I headbang with boys who are almost half my age?

All we know is these songs saved us. People didn’t care enough about us to want us dead. Our deaths were jokes, and our lives were, too. We tried so hard to be cool, and now here we are, no shame in chorusing along to Avril Lavigne or Simple Plan, making room for the mosh pits the harder songs invariably beget, conducting our own exorcisms again and again, until we tire out, or the demons finally bid us farewell.

photo courtesy of Emo Night North

These songs saved us.

Modern heroes dominate the dance floor. There’s the femme who spins her hair like a whirling dervish on a merry-go-round, or the curvy kid who moves with formidable groove.

I’m old (read: smart) enough to take breaks. Thirty’s incongruent with Blink’s “What’s My Age Again,” but I smile/bob on the sidelines.

I freak out once or twice, usually when My Chemical Romance is on. (Okay, fine, any time My Chemical Romance is on!)

I need this like my body needs sweat, like my soul needs to alchemize pain into beauty and draw words from experience. 

During “I’m Not Okay,” someone has the brilliant idea to push me into the pit.

I haven’t been in a pit since I was twenty-one, and my body knows it.

Someone shoves me out almost as soon as I get in, and I hear my bad knee go CRACK like a firework lit too soon.

Crap. Oh well. I’ll pogo one-footed; I’ll throw my fists in lieu of my body.

photo courtesy of Emo Night North

Not every moment can be a peak. Life is long, and I’m here for the long run. Like I’ll open this bar and close it, too, hair and legs sticky from someone else’s beer.

The DJ conducts the last song. We all sing along:

“When I was a young boy,
my father took me into the city
to see a marching band
He said, Son, when you grow up
would you be
the savior of the broken
the beaten
and the damned?”

Fuck yes, I will.
Fuck yes, I am.

All my stories and songs align to this purpose: to give the freaks a friend, the orphans a home, the losers a win.

As the songs say, we’re not afraid to keep on living. We are not afraid to walk this world alone, like I’m fine hobbling away on my wayward tendons to hail the cab my mom insisted I couldn’t find, because I say “fuck you” to fear, and although death hovers like kaleidoscopic portents when I close my eyes (did someone spike my water?), I am alive, which means I survived.

(Just gotta ice my knee when I get home.)