Jakarta's Emo Music Scene

July 26, 2019
diverse group of crowd singing

Do you remember the early 2000's? Everyone played with Tamagotchis, was LOL-ing on AOL messenger, and having a Sidekick phone made you the coolest kid in school. You probably also remember singing your heart out to Fall Out Boy, Avril Lavigne (before she died and was replaced by an impersonator- true story), and Green Day. The US has already moved on from this dying music scene, but Emo is alive and very well in Jakarta. Don't get me wrong, rap and R&B are still very popular in Jakarta, but it's not hard to find people that still bump Pierce the Veil and know every line in every song, yet can't speak a word of English.

The city on the surface looks like it bleeds emo. It's common to see tattoos, band T shirts, and stretched ears. The fact that everyone here can ride a motorcycle only adds to the aesthetic. Many men have ear piercings and keep their hair long. There's live bands playing covers of Mr. Brightside and Hotel California at restaurants almost every night. Almost everyone can play the guitar; I have been serenaded by men singing and strumming chords while I ate meatball soup on the side of the street.

My first week in Indonesia I came across an Instagram post advertising Emo Nite Jakarta- an emo karaoke event with a live band and DJ set. I had seen similar events in Los Angeles but have always been to busy to go- this would be the perfect opportunity to see what all the hype was about and maybe meet some cool people. It as so surreal to hear songs from my teenage years played out loud, and I think other people felt the same way: girls beating their chest and singing their heart out, boys screaming and jumping up and down, and everyone hitting every note at the right time.

But within that first half hour I lost my phone. I ran around the club in a panic trying to locate where I had left it, or see if it was on the floor anywhere. I asked a boy I had been standing near if he saw a bright red phone, he didn't speak any English but understood what I was asking for because of the panicked expression on my face and my hand in a shaka gesture held up to my ear. He pointed to the DJ booth at the front where a group of girls were standing- they had my phone. I thanked them a billion times and introduced myself. They turned out to be the CrowdSurfer Girls, the organization that had organized and put on the event. We followed each other on Instagram and became fast friends.

I met a lot of people that night that I regularly visit after work, get food with, or jam with acoustic guitars and drum boxes. It's crazy to think that I would find myself in a music studio in South Jakarta or in someone's backyard in South Tangerang connected through our shared passion for music. 


boys crying because the music is too good