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Rash Returns to Bushwick, Two Years After an Arson Attack

The bar and nightclub will return to serving pulsing, dark dance music near the Myrtle-Broadway subway stop. Plus, more links for your weekend.

(Hell Gate)

Two years after being burned down in an act of arson, the Bushwick LGBTQ electronic music bar and nightclub Rash reopened on Wednesday evening with a performance by a jazz trio. The music at the venue's first night open eventually transitioned into the type of music it had become known for in the few months since it opened its doors at the end of 2021: pulsing, dark dance music produced and DJed by mostly LGBTQ artists.

At the opening, I bumped into one of the bar's two co-owners, the painter Claire Bendiner, while she was eating tacos, to ask for an interview. She declined politely, thanking me for coming and telling me to send questions over email, which she hasn't replied to yet. So I wandered through the bar, past a single huge, semi-circular bench that comprised most of the club's seating, where club kids rested, looked at their phones, and broke haltingly into conversation with the people they were forced to make eye contact with. Past the bench was a surprisingly spacious room where most of the dancing took place. Back here, phones were in pockets, a strobe light flared, and a couple dozen techno heads stared at the DJ booth, noggins nodding and swaying. 

(Hell Gate)

I mistook a clubgoer named Jordan for management because he was wearing a soccer jersey in Rash red. He was a little pissed at having bought a ticket online for 30 bucks, he said, when he discovered, security at the door was only charging 10 bucks, but he was having a good time listening to the evening's second act, a DJ set by the musician Daffy Scanlan, who performs as drumloop. And anyway, Jordan said, he was happy to support the return of the space.

John Lhota, the 24-year-old Brooklynite who's alleged to have walked into a mostly empty Rash in April 2022, dumping out a canister of gasoline and then setting it off with a lighter, ended up not being charged with a hate crime. Two of Rash's employees suffered minor injuries. But the attack shook clubgoers, particularly those who found community in subcultural nightlife spaces like Rash—even Mayor Eric Adams all but speculated it was a targeted attack. The nearby bar Bossa Nova Civic Club, also located by the Myrtle-Broadway subway stop that's now a nightlife hub, had suffered a fire just months earlier. Even two years later, on Wednesday night, partygoers were still guessing at Lhota's motives. Jordan said he heard that in 2022, Lhota had attended an event at the club the night before the arson. A group outside the entrance asked me, only half-joking, if I wanted to help them find him and kill him. Another clubgoer told me, while we were talking about the fire, that they went to Hunter College High School with him, bought their first iPhone from him, and said they never would have believed Lhota was capable of that.

In the brief time Rash had been open before the arson attack shut it down, it had become an incubator for the particularly the internet-influenced rave and hyperpop scenes that has spawned acts like umru, Angel Money, and other members of the Club Cringe collective. The scene is supporting Rash's reopening this week, designing flyers, performing, and lending their faces to a photoshoot for the club's merch. The club's plans to raise revenue include a Patreon with a $40 monthly tier that gets you into all shows. The club's other co-owner, Jen Sillen, said on the podcast Seeking Derangements, "Listen, if you live in Bushwick, and you live between Wyckoff and Broadway, and you know to use a CDJ, you are going to save money with this plan." 

A GoFundMe after the fire raised $125,000. The most recent comment on the page reads, "On behalf of another LGBT community deeply impacted by an arson attack (The Up Stairs Lounge, New Orleans, 1973), we stand in solidarity with the Rash family & Brooklyn LGBTQ+ community."

Adlan Jackson

And some other links in solidarity:

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