Morgan Freed and T.J. Petracca aren’t DJs, musicians or producers. They’re the engineers of the party known as Emo Nite, a cultural phenomenon with which Las Vegas is suddenly very familiar.
Not being a DJ duo didn’t stop Emo Nite from landing a residency at Zouk Nightclub at Resorts World this year, launched during last month’s When We Were Young emo and pop-punk music festival on the Las Vegas Strip.
“There were hundreds of thousands of emo kids in Las Vegas,” Petracca says. “The festival was canceled Saturday [due to high winds], and so many people were bummed, ourselves included, but it sort of made it all the more special for us on Saturday. We were able to pull in a few more special guests to perform during our set, and we got a lot of feedback from people saying, ‘You saved the weekend for us,’ which was really nice to hear.”
Known to regularly incorporate a wide range of artists as guest performers in their parties, Emo Nite gathered Boys Like Girls singer Martin Johnson, State Champs singer Derek DiScanio, Neck Deep singer Ben Barlow and electronic duo 3OH3! for the Zouk debut.
Freed and Petracca founded Emo Nite eight years ago as a party at a small dive bar in LA’s Echo Park neighborhood, a celebration of the often-maligned genres of rock they never stopped loving. It wasn’t designed or intended to scale up to a major Vegas nightclub, but the guys never imagined they’d play at Coachella, either. Welcome to 2022.
“T.J. and I started doing Emo Nite because we wanted to give space for people who didn’t fit in. This is not a normal nightclub thing. You don’t hear this stuff in clubs,” Freed says. “We didn’t realize we’d grow up to be entertainers, but that’s kind of who we are. We want to make sure every single person who walks into that club is entertained until the moment they leave. Whether you know Emo Nite or not, you’re gonna have a good time.”
The Coachella set actually paved the way for the Vegas residency; the Zouk Group’s careful curators caught the show and started imagining how the enhanced experience would play in the hi-tech environment at Resorts World.
Petracca says this stage of Emo Nite is about evolution: “How do we take these anthems everyone comes to sing along to and combine them with house music, EDM, the club hits everyone wants to dance to? We had to create a whole new product here [at Zouk].
“When we got the residency, we had to double the amount of music we created for Coachella, work on a whole bunch of new mixes and mashups, and create new visuals to go along with all of it,” he continues. “It’s a unique thing for us, and I don’t think it’s like anything else Zouk has on the roster.”
Emo Nite is actually unlike anything happening at any Las Vegas nightclub, given the built-in culture for its core genres. And with at least half a dozen dates coming next year at Zouk and Ayu Dayclub—and When We Were Young returning to the Las Vegas Festival Grounds in October 2023—there’s clearly plenty more space for emo on the Strip.
“I think when the world went through a lot of big changes, people were more willing to feel more emotions, and maybe they would go back and listen to what they felt when they were growing up,” Freed says. “We hate the word ‘resurgence,’ because it never went away for us, but in the mainstream, there has been a bit of a resurgence, because people have been through all these things these songs talk about.”
EMO NITE November 23, 10 p.m., $25+. Zouk Nightclub, zoukgrouplv.com.
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