The Unspoken Revolution Of Midwest Emo


Carson Thurman, Staff Writer

While many different genres of rock music have risen into and out of the mainstream in past decades, one genre has consistently stayed in the background of punk and indie rock. This genre is called Midwest Emo, owing to its emotional sound/lyrics and its popularity in the mid-western United States. 

Emo music as a whole spawned in the late 80s as a reaction to the hardcore punk rock scenes of major cities that favored heavy guitars, fast riffs and melodies, and anger-filled screaming vocals. Bands such as Rites Of Spring, Embrace, and Dag Nasty replaced these characteristics with slower melodies, introspective lyrics, and whining vocals. 

In the middle and late 90s, bands including but not limited to American Football, Cap’n Jazz, and Sunny Day Real Estate took elements prominent in the math rock genre* and mingled them with elements from the aforementioned emo genre. This movement is considered the second wave of Emo music as well as the beginning of Midwest Emo. 

The genre has many assorted stereotypes such as band members that dress “nerdy,” names of bands that reference sports, and album covers that feature suburban houses. While some consider these as inside jokes, it’s also used by some to easily associate themselves with the genre. 

In the early 2000’s, Emo music saw a third wave emerging which overshadowed Midwest Emo. This wave of black t-shirts, guy-liner, and dyed dark hair is what’s most associated nowadays with the term ‘emo’. My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and Panic! At The Disco grew quickly into the mainstream and left the second wave in the dust. 

However, many bands are now taking inspiration from the original Midwest Emo movement in a fourth wave called Emo Revival. Modern Baseball, Mom Jeans, and Cardboard Swords are among the very many bands taking part in this revival. If you’re tired of listening to the same old music every day, I’ve created and embedded a Spotify playlist of Midwest Emo/Emo Revival songs here:


*Math Rock is a genre of music that originated in the late 80’s and 90’s that uses complex rhythms and atypical melodies that sound almost mathematical in origin to many listeners.