The Rash rebirth

Two years after tragedy, the Bushwick nightclub reopened with a string of quirky, quintessentially Rash nights.

Rash. Photo by umru, edit by Tyler Farmer.

The first time I went to Rash, it was for the after-party to a hyperpop show at Baby’s All Right where glaive yelled “fuck the PSAT!” while surfing a mob of moshers. Hours later, the Rash show was just as intense but instead of sweaty teens, the crowd was full of hazy smoke and musicians I recognized from the Twitter timeline. I went to the venue a bunch more times after, including once where I finally asked a bartender if it was pronounced Rosh or Rash and lost a bet. I grew to associate Rash with a quirky zoomer energy and a rabid excitement for whatever weirdness was bubbling up in the underground, from baile funk to meme-fueled Jersey club. It became something like the CBGBs for the hyperpop/digicore extended universe of DJs, a sweet corner of NYC nightlife. At one show in February 2022, the DJs pretended it was New Year’s Eve and popped a champagne bottle at midnight. Another show in April was so deliriously fun I tweeted that Rash was my second home. And then it all went up in flames.

On April 3, 2022, a man filled up a canister of gas at a local station and brought it to Rash; he walked in and poured it all across the floor, before setting it alight and then fleeing the scene. The blaze injured two staffers and destroyed the venue. He was charged with arson; many suspected that it was a hate crime since Rash was a haven for the queer community. 

Walking back up to Rash felt surreal. It’s on Myrtle Avenue under a chattering M train passage, across the street from the endearingly mid Bushwick bar Birdy’s, which somehow everyone always ends up at. While at Birdy’s over the last couple of years, I often gazed at that hollow shell of a venue. Tonight, two years after it was destroyed, the giant “R” sign finally gleamed again. People were flooding in while others smoked outside. umru stood atop a massive Red Bull van with a DJ roof extension blasting tunes. I sat on a bench and listened to the gaudy wubs of Snow Strippers’ “So What If I’m A Freak” ripple into the street. “This has very sinister energy to me,” a snooty-looking woman with a tan pea coat said to her friend as they walked by, quickening their stride. “It does,” the friend replied with an Aubrey Plaza-level deadpan.

The club reopened with a five-day extravaganza; I attended two of the nights. The first felt like a classic Rash bash with the “Back Four More” quartet of umru, underscores, Elena Fortune, and Tiam Schaper. They played a slew of sugary party bops—Kesha, Charli XCX—and looped Drake’s Metro Boomin diss (“shut your hoe ass up and make some drums”) into a bizarre transition. There was even some old-school EDM trap, that critically maligned genre often passed off as festival fodder; I got giddy when I heard “Bird Machine” and “Techno.” The theatrical smoke was so thick that all the bunny hats and baggy pants in front of and beside me disappeared, and all I could see was neon light vibrations. I felt like the guy in those Silent Hill TikToks running home in zero-visibility fog. Luckily, the venue was largely unchanged. Its triangular dancefloor was fitted with a second entrance, presumably to provide an additional exit for safety. The alcove helps reduce bottlenecking but also takes away from the way the space could feel boundless when you step in, like you’re stumbling into a radiant abyss. 

The second night had less fog, more faces. The crowd was jammed for Surf Gang producers evilgiane and Eera, who unleashed a frenzy of wonky rhythms, from xaviersobased’s dizzying “patchmade” to DJ Ess’ blisteringly burnt remix of BabyTron’s “#CERTIFIED.” It was so hot (and at some points very malodorous, like someone concealed in smoke was furtively spraying liquid ass) I had to make a few trips outside for air. The venue is so small you can leave and return in an instant. After one long moment outside, I was yanked back in by Freda Payne’s angelic “I get high on your memory” refrain (maybe the Styles P version), which DJ Swisha rewired into drum ‘n’ bass.

At first, I was a little disappointed that the club split its reopening across five nights instead of one or two huge celebrations, and for curating a somewhat expected lineup (many of these artists have played at other NYC venues or Rash’s sibling club, The End, over the last couple of years). I was hoping for something wild and rare, a resurrection night to remember. But attending the shows reminded me of how communal this scene is. There were other journalists, people I knew from Twitter, friends I’d met at past shows, a pal from middle school I brought. Everyone seemed to already know what Rash was about, whether they’d been before or only heard about its destruction. A sense of lowkey catharsis radiated in the air. Finally, this venue that had quickly become foundational to me and other young clubbers who really began enjoying musical nightlife for the first time after the pandemic, was back. It felt almost like we were in early 2022 again, throwing our limbs in the air and smiling at each other without a care.

Thoughts? Let us know