Ryan Key brings optimism to light at Cornerstone’s Emo Night Brooklyn

Joshua Jordan/Senior Staff

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Whether it’s displayed through the thousands of fans cheering at a concert or bonding with a stranger over enjoying the same album, the emotional unity of music often creates and shapes relationships.

Nevertheless, many types of music are looked down upon more than others, especially when it comes to genres such as pop punk, which many dismiss, with its grim rumination and raucous howling. But behind all that is a relatable message and emotional depth that many misunderstand.

Two friends, Alex Badanes and Ethan Maccoby, challenge this misunderstanding in a creative event known as “Emo Night Brooklyn” — a cultural phenomenon that’s sweeping the nation, with nonstop tour dates all the way to the end of April. What started off as a small bar rave in New York has turned into a concert experience unlike any other. The audience dresses in black, the music is exclusively emo rock from the 2000s and the audience’s emotional fervor becomes contagious. Ryan Key, known for his lead vocals in the band Yellowcard, volunteered as a guest DJ — his great music taste will not soon be forgotten.

If you expected a Ryan Key concert where the singer displayed his powerful vocals, then Emo Night Brooklyn was not for you. Ryan Key acted as a guest DJ who selected some of his favorite songs from the pop punk genre. Aside from one slow tune sung by one of Ryan’s good friends, most of the songs were upbeat, crowd-pleasing choices that the audience thoroughly enjoyed.

Not one of Key’s choices was a song of his own, but he still managed to stick to the theme of “emo night” to a T. Every song contained the brooding cynicism and high-pitched screaming that one would expect from a song labeled as “emo.” Paramore, Panic! At the Disco, blink-182 and so many more iconic bands known for their dark 2000s phases were all featured during the night.

The night’s overarching brooding theme in no way mirrored the audience’s reaction —  in fact, it was quite the opposite, as they danced and cheered as one. There was not one song choice for which more than half of the audience didn’t know the words. And for those who didn’t, it was hard to resist the impassioned screeches and intense dance moves emanating from the bodies around them.

Emo music is typically associated with black clothing, anger and pessimism, but as Key was quick to point out, it is so much more than that. “Emo stands for emotion,” he chanted, adding that “Rock ‘n’ roll is not dead.”

Joshua Jordan/Senior Staff

This sort of emotion was present in every member of the audience, sparking a camaraderie and unity not often seen in such a wide range of people. Strangers bonded through eye contact, gathered on the stage with the performer and worked together to sing their hearts out. In this way, it was not just Ryan Key performing, but the audience too, stimulating a mutualistic bond between artist and fan.

Ryan Key admitted that he was one of many who was initially skeptical of the themed event. He claimed that his distaste stemmed from a genuine misunderstanding of the event itself. Still, he claims that the fans’ passion was the reason he was able to understand this particular cultural phenomenon — the night wasn’t just a mutualistic experience as a performance, but mutualistic as an artistic learning experience.

Ryan Key and Emo Night Brooklyn brought an event unlike any other to Berkeley. It was about more than just dressing up, drinking beer and singing along to the music of angsty teens. The event was about the communal experience of pop punk and altering its negative perception. As Ryan Key put it best, “Somewhere, somehow we’ll be together,” suggesting that no matter where fans are, the emotional support and emo kinship will always be with them.

Contact Samantha Banchik at [email protected].