Housing emo in Bushwick, Brooklyn

Local NY-based emo band These Dragons play Suburbia, 1/30. Credit: Chris Leo Palermino.

“Emo may be dead and buried, but emo is experiencing another boom; the press just hasn’t been paying much attention to the bands keeping the dream alive, and the next generation reaching back into the genre’s roots for inspiration,” said writer Luke O’Neil in a piece on emo’s revival last spring for the Village Voice.

One of the places that still champions the genre often thought of as washed up is in an unlikely location: in the center of the traditionally forward-leaning Bushwick neighborhood in Brooklyn.

In a basement apartment nicknamed Suburbia, tight shirts, hoodies, black-framed glasses and ’90s nostalgia run supreme. Run by a group of emo aficionados from Long Island, the house feels different from most DIY venues in Brooklyn. For one, you enter the venue through the kitchen of the apartment. Beyond that, it looks more like a house of middle class 20-and-30-somes who have their friend’s bands perform than the typical model for a DIY space in Brooklyn (often, an enterprising group of music lovers in their early 20s trying to emulate legal venues).

Amidst a rapidly changing DIY music scene in Brooklyn (see: 285 Kent closing, Silent Barn re-opening as a non-profit space), it’s comforting to see people come to a venue for the sole purpose of supporting an under-represented scene.

“We have to stay on the down-low a little bit,” said Kevin, who lives at Suburbia, to Buzzfeed last year. “But luckily we’ve got a bit of a built-in crowd who are just going to come for the party… people who like the same kind of music we do.”

When we checked out Suburbia last night, their first Thursday night show (because their upstairs neighbors were out of town, as a band member mentioned onstage), it certainly felt like a tight-knit scene. The main venue space, a large room reminiscent of a suburban community center, has few frills and only a rug as a stage. But, to a crowd of about fifty who watched local bands play their heart out, nothing else mattered.


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