I Still Love Emo: A Love Song From New Jersey

I couldn’t make it to last night’s first Taking Back Tuesday emo night at The Short Stop in L.A. I am super bummed about this because if you know me at all, you know that not only was I an emo kid, I have a sense of nostalgia that reigns above all else. It’s all ’90s all the time in my brain.

I’ve never hidden this love for emo. If you take one look at my purple/blue hair, star tattoos, or iTunes playlist, you’ll figure it out pretty quickly. And like any emo kid who graduated high school and left their hometown, I’ve also had to defend why I am an adult who still likes emo music.

I’m over being told that my taste in music sucks, that it hasn’t expanded at all, that I should grow up, that I should stop buying hair dye at Hot Topic. Frankly, my tastes have diversified since I was 15, I just don’t always talk about it or feel the need to tell everyone to buy some indie cred. If emo, pop-punk, and ska are what I like to listen to, there’s nothing wrong with that, no matter how old I am now. I’m simply tired of being judged for admitting I was an “emo kid.”

Don’t get me wrong — there were some terrible bangs and dye jobs in the scene and plenty of generic same-sounding bands, but there was also plenty of music that resonated with my friends and I as brats growing up in the suburbs. The lyrics spoke to how we felt and what we knew, and it made us happy to scream along and rock out and meet new people who felt the same we did. Generic suburban feelings? Maybe, but legitimate feelings nonetheless.

My sudden need to defend emo has less to do with the music itself, though I do love it, and more to do with my recent realization that I’ve been censoring a lot of the things I like to appease others. Most of my friends might think this is a weird assessment, as I’ve never been anything if not brutally honest, but I know that I haven’t taken the time to enjoy a lot of things I legitimately like lately. I’ve actually felt lost for a while now. I think the way to find my way back is to remember all of the things I like, whether it’s the music I listen to or the hikes I take or the drives I disappear on or the TV shows I watch, and to enjoy them unabashedly for myself regardless of what other people have to say about my choices.

Since the only thing I have to defend more than my musical taste is the fact that I’m from New Jersey, I’ve decided to compile a list of pop/pop-punk/emo/ska bands from the Garden State. Some are wonderful, some are awful, some influenced half the other bands on the list, and most of them soundtracked the VFW halls I danced in during high school and every trip I took down the shore. Like most lists on the Internet, this will not make you think or change the world. It simply makes me happy and may make some of you remember the joy of skanking in those sweaty VFW halls on Friday nights. Enjoy!

  • Misfits (Lodi)
  • Danzig (Lodi)
  • The Gaslight Anthem (New Brunswick)
  • Saves the Day (Princeton)
  • The Youth Ahead (Old Bridge)
  • Catch 22 (East Brunswick)
  • Bouncing Souls (New Brunswick)
  • Bedlight for Blue Eyes (Berkeley Heights)
  • Thursday (New Brunswick)
  • Gaslight Manifesto (New Brunswick)
  • Bigwig (Nutley / New Providence)
  • Midtown (New Brunswick)
  • Man Overboard (Mt. Laurel / Williamstown)
  • I Call Fives (Washington Township)
  • Adrenalin OD (Elmwood Punk)
  • My Chemical Romance (Newark)
  • Mucky Pup (Bergenfield)
  • Hidden in Plain View (Morristown)
  • Senses Fail (Ridgewood)
  • Rosemary’s Babies (Lodi)
  • Lifetime (New Brunswick)
  • Gates (New Brunswick)
  • Ted Leo (Grew up in Bloomfield, went to high school in West Orange. He counts, no? Am I just biased because of West Orange? Eh.)

I probably forgot many of those VFW hall bands. Feel free to tell me who I missed.

Also, I know New Brunswick is a college town and all, but damn. DAMN you have produced a lot of angsty suburban musicians, Rutgers.

(Originally posted on my Tumblr page)

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