The Lake Erie Emo Club is bringing pop punk and Midwest classics to Cleveland

Starting as a joke between two friends, the Lake Erie Emo Club has quickly grown into a home for Cleveland’s emo music lovers.
Cleveland natives Michael Saliba and John Hillbery originally pitched hosting their own “Emo Nite” to each other as a joke. But, after years of brainstorming, The Lake Erie Emo Club was born. Photo credit: Lake Erie Emo Club

It started out with a kiss joke, how did it end up like this?

Cleveland natives Michael Saliba and John Hillbery originally pitched hosting their own “Emo Nite” to each other as a joke. After years of harmlessly brainstorming over a few drinks and workshopping potential names like Emo-216 and CLE-mo, they finally created The Lake Erie Emo Club.

“The joke went too far,” Saliba said. “Somewhere down the line, we were like, let’s actually do this.”

Three months, five shows and nearly 1,000 Instagram followers later – The Lake Erie Emo Club is no longer a running joke but an actual brand looking to grow. It boasts custom stickers, weekly playlists, t-shirts and even glitter cannons (which they kindly offer to sweep up for the venue after their show). 

“When we locked in our first show, I was like oh my god we are really doing this,” said Hillbery. “The most nervous part was pressing play on the first song and then it was like, okay, here we go!”

Saliba and Hillbery met at Mahall’s in Lakewood during a similar “Emo Night.” They credit the event for bringing them together and aim to rally more of the Cleveland community with their shows.

“The support of our friends has done wonders for us. It’s more than just the two of us,” Saliba said to Right Down Euclid. “There’s such a big audience out there for this type of stuff and we just want to rally the community together.”

With roots in punk and metal, emo music is generally a sound for outsiders. The combination of hard rock and melodramatic lyrics wasn’t a mixture that was fully embraced right away. At least when I was in school, screaming about your feelings over a guitar riff wasn’t exactly considered “cool.” But the genre has always had a dedicated fanbase of outcasts and has rapidly grown in popularity.

Hillbery also recalls the earlier days of emo as a heavy metal fan who wasn’t quite sure if he should embrace his love for emo at the time.

“I lowkey, kinda liked Emo but I didn’t want to show it off,” Hillbery told Right Down Euclid. “It was something that outsiders listened to… but now, I feel like people are more expressive with their feelings – and emo music feeds into that perfectly.” 

Saliba and Hillbery have a passion for Cleveland and want to unite the community with the emo and pop punk scene all while having a good time. Photo credit: Lake Erie Emo Club

Early 2000s bands such as Fall Out Boy, Paramore, My Chemical Romance and Panic! at the Disco delivered one of the first emo waves strong enough to break the genre into the mainstream. Now, traits of emo have thoroughly infiltrated hip-hop, alternative and modern pop music. It’s more popular than ever and the classics are just as strong as they were in their heyday. Saliba credits another Clevelander for helping to make that push in recent years.

“People might hate on me for this, but with Machine Gun Kelly doing pop punk, it really brought attention back to the genre,” said Saliba. “We want that audience of people who never really branched out to (emo) but would enjoy it if they heard it.”

Machine Gun Kelly’s influence is undeniable. Earlier this year, he became the first Ohio native to entirely sell out Cleveland’s largest venue with more than 50,000 fans pouring into First Energy Stadium in April. Machine Gun Kelly is one of many modern hip-hop artists who dove into pop-punk and emo.

So, what does The Lake Erie Emo Club have to offer? Good vibes, loud music, and a welcoming community.

“Come make a friend, I met one of my best friends (Michael) at something just like this,” Hillbery said. “It’s the ultimate way to bond with someone, just sharing music.” 

Saliba and Hillbery have a passion for Cleveland and want to unite the community with the emo and pop punk scene all while having a good time.

“We want to make it feel like people are part of the club,” Saliba said. “Our responsibility as hosts is to make sure everyone has a great time – because if they don’t, then we’re failing to do our job.” 

The Lake Erie Emo Club’s next show is Emo At the Disco on September 7 at Cleveland’s Good Night John Boy. Follow them on Instagram or Twitter to keep up with more listings whenever they’re announced.

Tony’s body of work covering the Cleveland Cavaliers can be found online. Some of his recent stops include doing social media work for Fear The Sword, breaking down the Cavs from every angle on YouTube and talking about the team on his podcast, The Junkyard Pod.

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A huge thank you to our community partners Engage! Cleveland, the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce, Studio W 117, COSE and many others!


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