Reflections on Growing Old From an Elder Emo Who Can’t Do Mosh Pits Anymore
Top image: Skesh Entertainment / Facebook

It’s about 11 PM, and my lower back is killing me. I’m thinking of getting a proper Herman Miller Aeron chair if my budget fits—I need to set aside some money for someone to service my air-conditioners. Nah, maybe I’ll get one after I finish paying off the loans I took to refurbish my kitchen cabinets. 

My back hurts because I just spent an entire evening watching Saosin play live at *SCAPE. Amidst the thoughts of housing finances and the lingering screams of post-hardcore staple ‘Seven Years’ playing in my head, it hits me. We emo kids have grown the hell up. 

To be fair, it already was an out-of-body experience at the Saosin show. Half the time, the crowd had their phones out to record Instagram story clips as they played old hits from the 2000s. I caught glimpses of their phone wallpapers—they’re snapshots of them and their kids.

It sparked an existential crisis. 

old emo
Image courtesy of author

Lost Symphonies

Fine, call me melodramatic. Can you really blame me? I grew up worshipping bands that came up with choruses like “Your tears don’t fall / They crash around me” and “You could slit my throat / And with my one last gasping breath I’d apologise for bleeding on your shirt”. 

And that’s exactly why it feels so surreal. Emo is so… adolescent. During the genre’s peak in the 2000s, the songs of My Chemical Romance, Silverstein, Alesana and more sang/screamed anthems of teenage angst and unreturned longing through the filter of distorted guitars, heavy percussions and overdramatic lyrics. 

More than a decade later, the emo kids of the 2000s have since outgrown the melodrama (and awkward teen phases) to become Standard Singaporean Adults who worry about housing loans, job security, and CPF retirement sums. And yet, I find myself frequently returning to the comfort of Fall Out Boy telling me we’re going down swingin’. 

Clearly, I’m not the only one who enjoys the succour of emo-driven nostalgia. Saosin managed to sell out tickets for their Singapore gig last year before they cancelled their Southeast Asia tour due to exhaustion and COVID. Fellow post-hardcore stalwarts Silverstein played a sold-out show earlier this month. Emo Night is as popular as ever, attracting a whole legion of attendees who were probably born after At The Drive-In released the seminal Relationship of Command.

(Not that it’s a bad thing! Unlike the musings of a snarky RICE piece about Emo Night from 2018, I’m happy that a new generation is getting into the eyeliner-fuelled fun, even if they can’t name anything from Thursday or Thrice.)

Voices

It’s this clash between adolescent emotions (I mean, it’s right there in the genre’s name) and the physical incapability to take a bashing in the circle pit that brings to mind how mortal we all are in the end. We’ve flailed our way through our awkward teen days, and now we’re flailing our way through exhausting adulthood. With plenty of backaches to remind us about it.

But I guess that’s why nights like these with our old, screaming musical heroes give us so much joy. It’s an opportunity for elder emos who’ve never truly outgrown the genre to escape their adult woes for a little while and succumb to the addictive melodrama of our youth. 

Image: Skesh Entertainment / Facebook

It’s a time to remember the tinge of excitement you had after finding out someone else also listens to the same angsty music as you—a sense of solidarity you felt going to local gigs and finding other outcasts who don’t feel like they fit in. 

We miss the days when we had simpler worries, like if our crush liked that song you sent on MSN Messenger (Ghost_of_You-MCR.mp3). But we sure as hell are glad that those awkward days are over. Because now we know we’re not alone anymore.


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