Let’s get one thing straight right here — emo is not a music genre comprising tall, scrawny dudes with long black hair in their face with a red streak in it or something, screaming about how much life sucks and how much women just don’t understand the kind of love they have to offer.
If you’re thinking about The Used, Thursday or Thrice when you hear the word “emo,” that’s not what we’re talking about; that is emo’s edgier, younger and more popular brother screamo you’re thinking of, and emo is sick of you getting them confused. OK?
If you’re thinking Sunny Day Real Estate, Jets to Brazil or The Get Up Kids, welcome to emo’s underground revival!
Enter San Jose emo band awakebutstillinbed, who made a stop at Ruins’ Limbo Room in Deep Ellum on Thursday night while on a short headlining tour as they make their way back home after a tour with Joyce Manor and Saves the Day left them stranded on the East Coast.
The band only found out that they would be playing Dallas about a month ago when the regularly scheduled Amarillo show was dropped, and Ruins sound engineer Christopher Cotter helped them book the show.
Supporting their album what people call low self-esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you, released on the Tiny Engines record label in January 2018, awakebutstillinbed played an intimate show for about 30 people, with Denton emo bands Record Setter and Sad Cops as their support.
Band leader, guitarist and singer Shannon Taylor, who was born and raised in Mesquite until age 15 before moving east to Pennsylvania and then west to California, stepped away from some friends she went to school with long ago to talk a bit about being in Dallas for the third time since moving away and only their second time playing.
“I love coming back to Dallas,” Taylor says. “It's strange because it does feel like coming home, the weather is the same. I love this warm night we're having right now. It reminds me of like my childhood.
“There's a song on our record (‘life’) where I mention summer in Texas, and it's literally summer in Texas right now. It's a funny thing.”
While coming off a much larger tour with bigger artists comes with accepting that smaller shows will have much less promotion, Taylor enjoys playing more intimate shows for the warmer fan response that comes in the form of audience participation and mercy sales.
“It makes the music more intimate, definitely,” she says. “We had a really intimate show at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, our first show after the tour playing to 30 or 40 people, and it was awesome. Everyone was just, like, singing along having a great time.”
The show at Ruins actually turned out to be a larger show on the smaller tour, but a successful show can never be judged by the size of its audience. Even smaller shows can be more profitable.
“It's bizarre to play a house show to seven people and make more money than you make playing a sold-out show,” Taylor says.
For the all-ages show, awakebutstillinbed took the stage early for a headliner in a club in Deep Ellum, playing to the rapt attention of the intimate audience, Taylor’s old friends front and center.
There’s generally not a lot of audience movement at an emo show. Standing in three almost perfect rows, the fans preferred to slowly rock their bodies and nod their heads in agreement to the rhythm of post-rock guitars and Taylor’s vocals, which switched from kitten crooning to cat-scratch wailing with the crash of a cymbal.
Claps between songs were at times minimal, which was not a sign of dissatisfaction but rather anticipation for the band’s next movement.
The band also kept the stage banter to a minimum. Beyond the greeting, “We are awakebutstillinbed from San Jose, California,” and thanks to the bands and the venue, Taylor made a special thanks to her old friends for coming and reminding her of old stories only they would know, but she would not share.
Closing with the appropriately titled “closer,” awakebutstillinbed ultimately gave the audience a little something to dance to, which they did with much enthusiasm.
The thing about a show where bands pour their hearts out and audiences purge all the bad thoughts by looking at them come to life onstage is the collective sigh of smiling relief at the show's close.
Emo may be emotional music, but at the end of the night it’s not a sad experience.