Part event and booking agency, music curators and creators, Emo Night Denton is a three-person collective that has brought the burgeoning North Texas emo scene online for a good cause. Local musicians send the group recordings of live performances, and Emo Night, often in collaboration with local booking agents, organizes virtual shows where attendees can chat, dance, share their love of pop-punk bangers and donate to local causes — all from the comfort of their couches.
Since April, the group has hosted six benefits raising thousands of dollars for Denton-based causes and nonprofits, including the Denton Bail Fund and Opening Doors International Services.
Originally envisioned as a live event, Emo Night Denton began in February when DIY band Bowtiger finished a set at Andy’s Bar. Steven Ramos, the group’s bassist, had been to Emo Night shows in Dallas and was a fan of Emo Nite LA, a bar party among three Los Angeles friends that grew into an overnight sensation in 2014, with scene legends like Blink 182’s Mark Hoppus and MCR’s Mikey Way DJing at events. Ramos wanted to bring the same atmosphere of easygoing nostalgia to the Denton music scene.
“There's a sense when you go to shows ... it's like, ‘Oh who's playing this show, or, like, who's playing the show down the street’ or whatever,'" Ramos says. "So, I like this idea of trying to hone in on the community and create a neutral space for people just to come like hang out, play all the songs we're all super familiar with, that we grew up with, and then also incorporate the community aspect.”
Ramos, with Bowtiger lead vocalist Maritza Vega and friend Tori Falcon, started organizing the group's first event at Andy's Bar, set for May 22. With Death Stab for Shooty headlining, a DJ to spin emo classics and merch from local vendors, Emo Night promised a night of “community x art x nostalgia”— and then, COVID-19 hit.
When the group realized in mid-April the show they’d planned wasn’t going to happen, they decided to create that atmosphere digitally. Featuring solo acts Judy Mitchell from local band Record Setter; Charlie DeBolt from Upsetting; Charlie Frizzell from Rei Clone performing stripped-down covers; and Ramos DJing between sets, the trio hosted their first stream on Twitch on May 1. Encouraging donations to Denton for Diversity and tips for the artists, the group raised $190 for the Workers Defense Project, benefiting undocumented essential workers who did not qualify for federal stimulus support.
Though a modest start, donations have grown since, and streams where the group partners with local booking agents — shows which the group has been focusing more on than their own, smaller streaming events — have brought in over $1,000 each.
“After the second one, it definitely felt more like the spotlight needs to be on musicians and creating a space for them and also benefiting whatever we've been working on,” Ramos says. “The Emo Night thing is for fun, but more energy needed to be put into the shows that are helping artists have a stage presence virtually and helping the causes.”
While creating fun digital events for anyone lamenting the loss of scene hair and black waterlines is a cornerstone of Emo Night Denton’s brand, fostering an inclusive community around the music they love is the group’s passion. The Latinx trio’s experiences in what they say is a whitewashed scene motivated them to create a space they couldn’t find themselves.
"I love the genre emo. I grew up with it, and I'm a big fan of My Chemical Romance, but I never had a chance to identify fully within that genre or fully in those spaces," Vega says. "Especially in the North Texas music scene, there's not a lot of opportunities to identify with what's going on, [and] it feels like we're providing that. I would love for somebody who is fat, brown, and into emo music to find something to identify with because when I didn't have that, it kind of sucked.”
Establishing a collective like Emo Night Denton not only dispels stereotypes about what emo looks like and its place in the community — it's indicative of the causes the group wants to support, Falcon says.
“We're not just a small corner of this community. We have been here, and we're going to continue to support everyone within this community and just hope that it gives something important back, too.” – Steven Ramos
Emo Night has focused on supporting efforts that create positive change for marginalized groups. Donations from Pockets to Faucets — a two-day event in June with Movimiento Cosecha Denton and WTFemme Podcast — went to the residents of Green Tree Estates, a majority Latinx community in Denton that had been without running water since November 2019. Emo Night, with Regina Bugarin Booking and Barf Wave, hosted a second benefit for the residents June 28, raising another $1,300.
Seven of the 15 residents were connected to city water in September, thanks to more than $45,000 in community donations.
“We’re all Latinx people, who within the Denton music scene are very rare, and the fact that we all found each other and work on this together is honestly very cool,” Falcon says. “Because we are who we are, it speaks a lot to what we choose to do.”
Being part of Latinx communities has meant many of the causes the streams benefit hit close to home for the trio. Though there are many in North Texas and the emo scene itself that offer support — the subgenre's tradition of activism lies at the heart of initiatives like Emo Night Denton — that support takes on a different meaning when it comes from someone within the community, Falcon says.
The group also tries to focus on the needs of the moment, amplifying the social issues prevalent in the Denton area. Their next joint stream, set for Oct. 11, will benefit the DJT Justice Network, a grassroots civil rights group created in honor of Darius Jerrell Tarver, who was shot by Denton police in January during a welfare check.
While emo has become synonymous with a haven for outcasts, the trio hopes fans continue to take that message of advocacy for the marginalized to heart to make their corner of the North Texas scene a little more welcoming.
“We’re planting the flag to say ‘Hey, we're here, too,’” Ramos says. “We're not just a small corner of this community. We have been here, and we're going to continue to support everyone within this community and just hope that it gives something important back, too.”