Partygoers dance their hearts out at Cryfest Emo Night, a locally-run emo night party that often features DJs, live music, a mini market and art show.

It’s happened to many millennials — you put on your My Chemical Romance shirt, comb your thick bangs over to the side and smudge jet-black eyeliner across your eyelids for what you didn’t know would be the last time. 

As it turns out, maybe your mom was right. Maybe it was just a phase.

But one Tucsonan is on a mission to prove that emo is more than a teenage phase. Emo is forever.

Right before the pandemic struck, 39-year-old Katt Kassidy hosted a birthday party at Corbett Brewing. She made flyers inviting her friends to celebrate her mid-30s with a DJ spinning emo and indie records and a live performance by an emo rapper.

She dubbed the party Cryfest Emo Night. The name and idea seemed to spark a lot of interest in the community.

“When we threw that party, so many people from outside (of my friend group) came in that it was so packed,” she said. “I was like, ‘I have to do this again.’”

A DJ spins some throwback emo tunes for Cryfest Emo Night attendees.

During the pandemic shutdown, Kassidy created concepts and themes for more Cryfest Emo Nights. By the time the world opened up again, she was ready to talk with local venues about hosting the event. 

As she reached out to locations around town, she received “no” after “no” after “no.”

“We do not want anything like that. We don't think anyone would care,” she said venue organizers told her. 

But then she connected with Thunder Canyon Brewery owner James Owens, who gave her the first yes. The first official public Cryfest Emo Night was held in July 2021.

However, the first few events weren’t met with much enthusiasm from people in the local rock scene. 

“In the beginning when I first started throwing shows, everyone hated them,” Kassidy said. “I actually had people saying some of the meanest things I've ever heard. People were saying that I was just really bad at promoting, saying that the events were horrible, saying that the DJs were horrible, saying just really negative stuff, saying we're never coming to this specific emo night ever again.”

Kassidy tried to turn the initial negative feedback into something positive. She took screenshots of almost every bad review, printed them onto T-shirts and sold them as merch at future Cryfest Emo Nights. She even made stickers and buttons that had “Worst Emo Night Ever” scrawled on them.

“So, now we're just the worst emo night ever. But it's the best party ever,” she said.

Since that first official event in July 2021, she says the 21+ events have only gotten bigger and better at Thunder Canyon Brewery (which is now called Brick Box Brewery) and rotating venues like the Downtown Clifton, Sky Bar Tucson and Hotel Congress. She hopes to organize under 21 events in the future, too.

Cryfest Emo Night is now more than just a big emo dance party — it’s a mini market and art show, too, with alternative creations from local makers and artists.

“I do want to put philanthropy as the fourth thing that we do because I love working with the community and doing volunteer work and stuff,” Kassidy said. “But right now, I'm struggling to just make enough money to pay the artists that work for me. So, I can't even think about donating money right now. It goes to all the artists.”

Cryfest Emo Night attendees often dress up in their best emo attire for the events.

Each Cryfest Emo Night usually has a fun theme, allowing attendees to dress up and occasionally grab a specialized themed drink from the bar. Some previous themes include “Emo Prom,” “Emo Night Underwear Party” and “GlitterBomb,” in honor of last summer’s Barbenheimer box office takeover. 

At a typical event, you’ll hear the sounds of classic emo and pop-punk artists like Fall Out Boy, Paramore and Say Anything. There’s also something for the younger generation who appreciate more indie and Midwest emo music like The Front Bottoms, Modern Baseball and Mom Jeans.

Recently, Kassidy added live bands and musicians to the shows, which she says has helped increase attendance. The largest show she’s hosted reached around 300 people, she says.

“I have had a lot of musicians perform at (Cryfest) Emo Night that have never performed in front of anybody,” she said. “And I love being that person that gets to do that for them. And also a lot of artists have never shown their art before and they would show it at Emo Night. So for me, that's my favorite thing, is being able to be that person that says yes to them.”

'I feel like I've created a lot of memories for people. So to me, that means everything.'

While there are other major “Emo Night” tours that roll through the city every year, Kassidy says she wanted to create her version just for Tucson — except more of a “swinging from the chandeliers” party, rather than a bar experience.

Kassidy is a musician who studied music business at Pima Community College and has always loved being involved in the music scene in some way or another. After taking a “break from life,” she says, she decided to get into booking and event organizing.

Her dive into music booking led her to create her event management company Desert Goth Club, which oversees Cryfest Emo Night, among other events like a desert oddities market, goth brunch and a goth clothing swap.

While Desert Goth Club used to be a group effort, it’s now a solo endeavor for Kassidy.

“I think my goal now that I'm doing well and I'm kind of on my own, I just want to see it continue with or without me. I just want it to keep going,” she said. “And I want to be able to book shows at least once every three months. So, four times a year would be perfect. I did so many shows last year that I burned myself out. And I just don't want to make that mistake (again).”

Kassidy is currently working on booking a Cryfest Emo Night event for this summer, but there isn't an official date yet.

Buttons made for Cryfest Emo Night attendees.

Eventually, Kassidy hopes to host more events that give back to the community. She also wants to help others by writing a book that discusses lessons she’s learned about music booking.

“I love having an idea and then seeing it happen and just seeing everybody dancing and smiling and I'm just like, ‘Dude, it's crazy to think that you could just have a stupid idea and then you're doing it and then everyone's so happy,’” Kassidy said. “And I feel like I've created a lot of memories for people. So to me, that means everything.”

For more information about Cryfest Emo Night, check out their Instagram.

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