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The Burlington's bash isn't even the only emo night in Chicago—or, for that matter, in Logan Square. On the final Tuesday of the month East Room hosts Emo Night, which Dan Maloney (of Death Ships) and James Deia (of Storm Clouds) launched at Tuman's back in 2009.
Maloney and Deia met during their high school days in the late 90s. They grew up in different suburbs (Maloney in Skokie, Deia in Oak Park) but forged a mutual bond at the bygone headquarters for the city's all-ages punk scene—the Fireside Bowl. "It was awesome for me because we would just pile into a minivan, or my mom's minivan, or sometimes I got dropped off there before I had a license," Maloney, now 34, says. "That's where you'd meet people from all over the suburbs who were like-minded." It's also where the pair would catch emo bands and pick up records.
Years later Maloney and Deia worked together at Reckless Records, and in 2009 Deia had a side gig at Tuman's as a Sunday-night DJ. "It's funny, you find yourself every Sunday trying to get your friends to come out to a bar," Deia says. So he batted around ideas for themed nights: "Anything that seemed too stupid to try sounded like a good idea." His mind went to the emo records he'd collected since the mid-90s. "In 2009 those records were just sitting around," Deia says.
Emo Night ended up being one of the ideas Deia had that stuck. He partnered up with Maloney—Deia knew his Reckless coworker had built up a collection of emo records from their days at the Fireside—and together they made Emo Night a monthly event. "It's kind of loosely based on emo where we would also play hardcore and pop-punk," Maloney says. "It was basically a Fireside show wrapped up into a night."
Renaissance man and Reader contributor Steve Krakow, aka Plastic Crimewave, made flyers for the event, superimposing Maloney and Deia's faces on iconic emo album covers. And people showed up to sing along. "Not everyone would love it but people who do love it are so passionate about it," Maloney says.
Within a few years Emo Night went from a monthly event to an occasional one, and eventually it went out to pasture. Brent Cayson, the 35-year-old behind Chicago Emo Night at the Burlington, moved to Chicago a few years ago, and the timing of his arrival meant he never made it out to Maloney and Deia's event.
Cayson grew up in a religious household in Florida and got hooked on punk bands such as MXPX as a high school student in the late 90s. He first heard the term emo around then, and he experienced the genre's movement towards the mainstream when he moved to Atlanta at the age of 21. "I met a whole lot of people there and that's when it kind of took off," Cayson says.
He helped book shows at a small club with a capacity of 300, which hosted the Atlanta date of a 2002 tour featuring Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, and Rufio. "There were kids calling from every bordering state calling about ticket sales," Cayson says. "They had just painted the interior walls the week before and it was so hot the walls were sweaty and sheets of paint were falling off." Cayson spent a large portion of his 20s managing merchandise for punk acts on tour, and from 2006 to 2010 he was on the road with Anberlin.
Tour life lacked stability, and Cayson eventually wanted out in search of something more secure. These days he works for Raise, a digital start-up in which users can buy and sell gift cards, but recently he's found himself behind the merch booth on occasion—he's worked at last year's Riot Fest, American Football's string of Chicago reunion shows, and Joan of Arc's current residency at the Hideout.
Cayson got the idea to launch his own emo DJ night in September, and got the ball rolling on plans after linking up with the Burlington a couple months ago. As Cayson started making his event a reality Maloney and Deia relaunched Emo Night at Sportsman's Club in December. Maloney recently realized the folks who worked at the Ukrainian Village bar had a taste for emo after one of the bartenders threw on a Thursday track one night. "It seemed like one of those dirty little secrets that everyone aged 28 and onward was directly involved with at one point in their adolescence," Maloney says.
All things considered it makes sense that more than a couple people are interested in DJing a night devoted to emo (I know at least a couple other people interested in starting emo nights, and, full disclosure, I've been asked if I was interested in teaming up on one). But when Maloney and Deia discovered Cayson's emo night—and, by proxy, Cayson heard of the pair's DJ shindig—it still came as a bit of a surprise.
There's no animosity between the different parties, and as each one focuses on a different portion of emo's three-decade history there's more than enough room for both. And their hearts are in the right place. "If people weren't into it, it wouldn't be as fun," Maloney says. "It makes it more fun for us seeing how people love it so much and love hearing that kind of music all in one night."