Dallas Debut of Emo Orchestra Coming This May | Dallas Observer

Emo Orchestra To Make Its Dallas Debut in May

You're never too old for emo.
You need not be a diehard emo fan to enjoy the music of Emo Orchestra.
You need not be a diehard emo fan to enjoy the music of Emo Orchestra. Ron Valle
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Former emo kids, rejoice. Emo Orchestra, a live performance made by and for longtime emo fans, will make its first-ever stop in Dallas-Fort Worth next month.

Emo Orchestra is a live performance built for both emo fans and classical aficionados alike. Created by Ben Mench-Thurlow and wife Kristen Mench-Thurlow, the experience combines the punk sounds of emo rock with the instrumental arrangements of a full orchestra. Escape the Fate, the spring 2024 tour’s featured performer, will perform some of its own hits and covers of other emo classics at the Lexus Box Garden in Plano on May 11.

The orchestra, which Kristen has dubbed “Ben’s brainchild,” was born out of her husband’s love for the music he grew up listening to. After over a decade of working as a booking agent, Ben and Kristen started their family, which made him want to create a show for emo rock lovers who are beginning to have kids of their own. What resulted was the couple’s own tribute to the genre that helped them grow up.

“These songs meant something to us, to all of these fans, when we were all going through our changes, and we can still listen to them, enjoy them and be nostalgic,” Ben says. “Turning 30 doesn’t mean you need to listen to ‘grown-up’ music. There’s no such thing.”

The couple say they both know how important that sense of nostalgia is for others by what they’ve seen at their own shows. Older emo fans in the crowd are often spotted dressing for the event in their former signature emo style or sporting their favorite emo band tees. Others have been seen shedding a tear to tracks that really take them back, like “Hey There, Delilah” by the Plain White T’s or Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You into the Dark.”

“Getting those reactions has been insane, because you can see just how much this can mean for people,” Ben says. “There’s a kind of community, a special kind of connection in that crowd. Those are our kind of people, and they’re a big part of why we do this.”

Even though the concerts keep emo scene OGs in mind, the Mench-Thurlows find the show’s ability to introduce newbies to the genre is just as exciting. Kristen says the biggest place they’ve seen growth in a new audience is with the children of former emo kids who are brought along to the show by their parents. While many of the kids connect with their parents over a shared love of the hits played on stage, what really attracts them to the show is its orchestral aspects.

Kristen says she and Ben have met many families after the show with kids who are in their school’s orchestra or learning to play a classical instrument and want to meet the players. After speaking with so many young aspiring musicians, Kristen realized that many people don’t realize that playing orchestral music can “look like anything.” Since its inception, Emo Orchestra has helped educate people young and old that Carnegie Hall isn’t the be-all and end-all for orchestral musicians. Cellists can rock out just as much as any guitarist.

“There’s a lot of diversity on our stage, so pretty much everybody in the audience can envision themselves out there and relate to that and it makes it really feel possible,” Kristen says. “I think the biggest gains we’ve had is with younger folks. And that's just super exciting, because it keeps the music alive for everyone.”

Although Emo Orchestra’s founders know the performances may not be for everyone, they stress that everyone is still welcome. It doesn’t matter if you grew up on emo music, are a classical music connoisseur or are unfamiliar with either genre. Emo Orchestra is all about a come-as-you-are attitude, and the hope is that all attendees, especially North Texas newbies, are able to feel accepted.

“People having a good time with us is all we could really care about,” Kristen says. “We want our Texas audience to feel comfortable coming out with their cowboy boots and their black eyeliner for a little fancy evening.”

Ben says being able to see how Emo Orchestra has grown across stages and over to new audiences makes all of the hard work of scheduling, traveling and rehearsing worth it. Every night, he and Kristen will have a glass of wine and pop open their Instagram to see fans tagging them in their posts and thanking them for the experience. He says he’s still amazed at how the account’s following has grown past its original 200 followers of friends and family to more than 10k fans today.

“And every time I’m able to see one of those people in the audience in front of the orchestra’s stage, it puts the biggest smile on my face,” Ben says. “We had a crazy idea, and it’s seemed to work out for us so far. […] There’s always time and space for the things that you love.”

Emo Orchestra will perform at the Lexus Box Garden at Legacy Hall in Plano on Saturday, May 11, at 7 p.m. For more information about the event and to purchase tickets, visit emo-orchestra.com.
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