People have said that the music we listen to around the age of 14 or so goes on to define our taste in music forever. In some ways I feel like that's true, at least for me anyway. So when Tunes/Toons started, I knew we'd inevitably steer towards talking about emo music. It's funny that a genre can be boiled down to three letters (cc: ska), and I think about how hard it is to even define the genre. What IS emo? Older fans tend to say that "real" emo started in D.C. and is more akin to punk. People around my age (30 at the time of writing) might be quick to reference bands like My Chemical Romance or Fall Out Boy - depending on their familiarity with the genre. Having these conversations with guests, friends, or whoever, was always fun to me. Hearing what people think and why they think it. It's like they are inviting you into their mind to peruse their library at your leisure. I think those conversations are really what planted the idea.
I came up with the title in November of 2019. "March Sadness." Man, I felt like a goddamn genius. A Google search, however, can humble even the most inflated of egos. I still knew the idea was rad. This is where I've got to give a huge shoutout to Ryan Drake. He's been crushing it at Speakeasy with his dance parties for the last few years and had even started throwing an emo night into the mix. Him and Beau Brady are the dynamic DJ duo you didn't know you needed in your life. Ryan helped me figure out the structure and seeding portion of the bracket. I'm not exaggerating when I say I GROSSLY underestimated how hard it'd be to build a 64-band bracket. Especially when it came to figuring out the regions.
While I decided to overthink everything possible while trying to figure out the regions, Beau came from the top rope with a little sage wisdom: just split them up by where the band is physically from. This really did seem like the best option, honestly. No one came up with anything better, so it stuck. I knew I had Beau and Ryan to help me build this, but I knew in order to maintain objectivity I had to bring in a third person to host. Plus, it's just fun to get my pontius pilate on while other people duke it out. I can't imagine not having Emily Strickler help us from the beginning on this. She brought it up a notch and helped us carve out bands, seeding, the works.
We gathered bands by crowdsourcing. "Who would you include in a list of the top 64 emo bands?" we asked our friends. We played it pretty fast and loose. If a band was big around the late 90's to mid-aughts, they probably made the cut. That question still lingered though. What is emo? I think we all decide that for ourselves honestly. I didn't want to put constraints on them, because that's not what music is about. After hitting everyone up for bands, the four of us met up at Tower Theatre to hash out the master list and to start seeding. In the end we had a whiteboard full of premium, grade-a emo bands.
To add to the chaos after we figured out seeding, I thought I'd kick the original three out until the very last episode to finish the bracket. I liked the idea of them coming back and thinking, "what the fuck were you guys thinking?" ...which ended up being more true than I could ever have planned for. I knew so many people that I wanted to include in this series, which is how I came up with the idea to have each episode be a hand off to the the next one. Everyone building upon the previous group's work. Make it a team effort and look back to see how we got to where we were.
If you listened to the series just know: no matter how pissed off I sounded by the end of the last episode, I'm proud of how it turned out. Candidly, I made it a point to pre-record all of the episodes in February of 2020 - before COVID had become the biggest event in recent human history. To have this series as a snapshot in time for a world-changing event is truly bizarre. I don't need to tell anyone that 2020 was a tough year - we've heard it a million times already.
In the end, I think I just wanted the series to be me getting to bullshit with my friends about stuff we loved. There wasn't an enormous pressure or huge buzz around the series. It was just something cool I wanted to do and thankfully other people thought the idea was fun. I'm glad that our sadness could bring people just a little bit of happiness.
Without these people, March Sadness would've never happened. Thank you all so much.
Ryan Drake, Beau Brady, Emily Strickler, Alex Joseph, Ashley Rush, Alisha Germany, Brendan Nutter, Matt Jewett, James Nghiem, Robby Harris, and Josh Montgomery. Special shoutout to the presenting sponsor for this series, Vanessa House Beer Company.