It was dark but not pitch black at Kilo Lounge one night in December. Red light bathed the crowd made up of people dressed in dark graphic tees, jeans, and Vans Old Skools. Their hair was jet black or Joker green. They looked like they time-travelled from 2006. Hands waving in the air, they sang along to My Chemical Romance's "Helena." It was EMONIGHTSG.
Growing up in Singapore, I struggled to fit in during middle school. I had a hard time making friends as I lacked social skills, something brought on by my ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome. Ripe for the bullies, I was teased by my peers.
To cope with being picked on, my ears glued to the words of Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, and Taking Back Sunday. I didn’t know how to express my struggles but they were easily cured by a song. It’s still the same now that I’m 26 years old, which is why I frequent EMONIGHTSG, a monthly event where DJs play deep cuts from my favourite bands.
Though I came to party, I was also ready to release all my pent-up rage inside the mosh pit that night. We flailed our arms and legs and screamed until our throats were sore as Paramore, The All American Rejects, Green Day, Neck Deep, and +44 played. It was a place for therapeutic healing.
It's not just me. Others go to Emo Night for the same reason.
"I was admitted to IMH (Institute of Mental Health) for anxiety. I think if people have it and they listen to music and go to events like this, it's good for their mental health," musician MaiK, 22, told me.
"I think it's great because a lot of it helps you to purge your emotions. I have a little bit of anxiety, but I do have sad episodes. I go to Emo Night every month to relieve that," freelance director Abby, 20, said.
University student Jason has a similar experience. "The lyrics are relatable – it's helped me cope through tough times. I suffer a bit of anxiety from school and personal life. It has given me companionship when I'm alone,” he said.
Though it’s an outlier in Singapore’s nightlife that consists mostly of EDM clubs, events like EMONIGHTSG are popular among certain crowds who still experience the angst and alienation they felt as teens. Now that we’re older, these are caused by pressure from society, work, and family to do better. Singapore society puts a lot of importance on education and emo music comforts us whenever we feel like “failures.” The emo resurgence is also an extension of a trend happening around the world, including in cities like Jakarta, Los Angeles, and Miami, where emo-themed nights are also popular.
But Bryan Sta Maria, the 27-year-old co-founder of EMONIGHTSG, wants the event to be about more than just individual self-care.
“We just hope that people will become more empathetic to each other [and] that people will think about the earth,” he said, explaining that some of the proceeds from the event go towards tree-planting initiatives.
“Just question everything and be the best person to yourself and to others. We’re not the leaders of anyone or anything, but literally, we’re just trying to have a good time.”