“All Good Things Have Endings” - John D from Philly's Emo Night Says Goodbye

“All Good Things Have Endings”
Parting thoughts from DJ John D


All Good Things Have Endings

John D from Philly's Emo Night Says Goodbye

Emo is not sad.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite!  Indeed, it’s almost the only connective tissue “Emo” has had throughout its long history.  After 8 years of DJing Emo, Hardcore, Post-Hardcore, Pop-punk, Screamo, and everything in between from such an amorphous genre that spans 30 years, I got to connect with thousands of people through our mutual love of this music.  We’ve shared this message non-verbally yet very clearly with each other: we are not sad.

Firstly, I have trouble with the premise that Emo is inherently “sad” in the first place because there’s a substantial catalog of songs by Emo artists that don’t have sadness as a central theme in their songs at all.  Let’s put that aside for the moment. Also, it’s not my place to say what an artist intended with any particular lyrics, whether they’re explicitly sad or not. This is not an attempt at supposing any artist’s intentions.  I’m speaking more to my own inner experiences with their music, and the outward experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to share with countless people over the years who were kind enough to come out to support my nights.

Here’s what I’ve learned, which confirmed what I and many of us have already felt:  Emo is not defined by its sadness alone. That’s only part of the equation. That’s just the tagline that the major labels of the early to mid 2000’s used to reach your demographic before they largely discarded the bands that stopped being profitable, or were deemed too weird to produce a “hit single.”  Or maybe it’s what someone who never scratched under its surface to understand it, or understand you, tried to put you down with. They missed the rest of the story. Which is what comes after that expression of sadness: the catharsis.  The release and the relief of those emotions.  In this sense, Emo is one of the most affirming and honest musical genres there has ever been.  Sometimes that affirmation is expressed in the song spiritually. Sometimes bitterly. Sometimes humorously.  But it was almost always an exorcism of, or a desire to be rid of, sadness via that expression. Not a celebration of it.  But an acknowledgement of it.

Don’t get me wrong, music can be a very personal thing, with different meanings for different people.  I think it’s perfectly valid if you disagree with everything I’ve just said as it pertains to you personally.  Whatever feelings an artist’s music makes you feel is valid. I’m just asking you to consider this: when you were done listening, did you feel better than you did beforehand?  I’m purposely not getting into specific artists, lyrics or examples because I’m hoping you take a look at that yourself and examine how the songs you like make you truly feel as opposed to the negative stigmas you’ve been spoon fed so often.  I think more often than not you’ll come out of it with a more positive notion of this music than maybe you began with.

Here in Philadelphia 8 years ago, when I volunteered myself for DJ Deejay to help him with what is by most accounts the first Emo “party” ever, we didn’t know what to expect.  In fact our expectations were pretty low. I’m so happy to have seen the concept grow into a worldwide phenomenon, a testament to all of the great artists who shaped this music.  All of these fans aren’t coming together in the name of sadness, despite outward appearances. It’s something much more. I believe they’re coming out to celebrate their conquest of sadness.  After all, I would hate to believe I spent 8 years of my life depressing my patrons, and I’m saying that as someone who also DJs Goth music (I’ll save that for another essay entirely).

So before I hang up the headphones, please take a moment to consider all the positive experiences this music has brought you, whether it be through joy or even hardship. Look at the communities being built everywhere coming together for these parties and realize nothing is sad about that.  And I’ll walk away from it all feeling like we’ve made a positive impact on this nebulous thing we love, this thing we eventually settled on naming “Emo.”

Thank you to everyone who came out and supported me, and thank you to all the artists whose inspiring true talent and creativity made it all possible in the first place.  You’ve all made me so happy.


John DeSpirito


NewsTom MullenComment