When states began to shut down in March in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, musicians and DJs were among many with their future left up in the air. Many turned to live sets from the comfort of their homes, but the feel of a live audience was still missing.
When Alex Chavez, who goes by the DJ name King Ding, started his emo night in Austin, TX almost five years ago, he thought he’d get a few months of gigs playing the emotional music of his youth. After a some time, the crowds only got bigger and he expanded his monthly Jimmy Eat Wednesday party to nearby San Antonio and his hometown of Houston under the umbrella of TX Emo Club. The emo night wasn’t his idea alone. Across the country emo nights began packing clubs full of people nostalgic for a counter culture they helped create, bringing along a younger audience that was still experiencing that angst. The events drew huge crowds across the country.
When the pandemic shut down the venues where he worked, he began looking at different ways to keep his monthly events alive. He tried Instagram like many big name DJ’s who were getting huge audiences with branded events or DJ battles. However, he found the platform lacking for this particular genre. “I guess I wanted to live stream a DJ night like everyone else, but because emo night was about other people and the sing-along aspect it wasn’t the same,” Chavez tells Remezcla.
Using Instagram put too much focus and expectations on him to engage, while leaving out the most important aspect, the audience. “It’s a giant community, the idea of live streaming had to be communal,”he says. He finally settled on Zoom because it allowed him to have an audience on video showcasing their emotions from their own homes. He blasted his instagram accounts and dubbed the event Streamo Night. It was an instant success, drawing hundreds of viewers every Wednesday.
Now 6 weeks in, Chavez is seeing many of the familiar faces from the clubs on his computer screen. Decked out ready to party for up to four hours. For some, it’s even become part of their quarantine routine. After being furloughed from her hospitality job in San Antonio, Selena Garza says Streamo Night is like a weekend now that days seem to have lost meaning. “People know not to bother me after 7:30PM on Wednesdays because I will be getting ready and streaming after that time. My whole Wednesdays revolve around Streamo Night. As silly as it may sound it gives me something to look forward to,” she says.
Using the help of his sister Monique Chavez in Los Angeles, they run the app like a control room and are able to highlight whoever chooses to be on camera. The highlight screen which some have dubbed the “shot cam” doesn’t linger too long on any specific person and is always changing participants. The audience members love showing off during their favorite songs. Either by singing along loudly, dancing, or being in costume. “My favorite thing is the camaraderie of being with my fellow emo kids, I feel it’s somewhere where we can tap into our childhood and pretty much return to a simpler time,” says Xochitl Ramirez, who watches from Houston.
The chat is constantly flowing, full of requests, conversations and jokes among long time friends or those who are just meeting. Some instagram handles are exchanged with promises to meet at the next IRL Jimmy Eat Wednesday, whenever that may be. “Not only does everyone hype you up, but you’re seeing connections and friendships being made in real time, and those bonds get deeper each week. The “shot cam” is always unexpected and I love how committed people can be to put a smile on your face.” says Kristin Mahon, who is locked down in Austin, TX.
Chavez knows he has a captive audience that for better or worse, doesn’t have anywhere to go so he has gotten much looser with the emo night restrictions. In Texas, hearing a Selena song is unavoidable. If listening to Selena sing about the sound her heart makes when her crush walks by isn’t emo, then nothing is. Perhaps even some Coco or Bad Bunny make their way into the rotation, newer Latinx artists who have some clear influences from emo’s heyday.
With the success of Streamo Night, Chavez hopes to have a website up soon. He hopes that with a website, the event will become more accessible without the need for a Zoom account. In the future he wants to work with other DJs or artists and get more audience engagement. Even with Texas starting to slowly open things up, things are very uncertain for bars and venues. He is unsure how his audience or he would feel about going back to a venue, but is glad he now has an option. Ultimately, Streamo Nights success is likely to continue as quarantine extends because there is nothing more Emo than sitting alone in your room listening to sad songs on the internet.