The Absolute Best Pop-up Party in New York

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From underground hip-hop to ballroom. Photo: Camilo Fuentealba

Most of the city’s raves have moved beyond secret, underground, drug-fueled bangers (we recommend checking out after-hours parties for those vibes), so we’ve scoured the scene to collect the weirdest and best pop-up parties where music and dancing always come first.

The Absolute Best

1. GHE20G0TH1K
Secret location in Brooklyn

The best parties spawn movements. Case in point: GHE20G0TH1K, which began in 2009 in small bars and random locations throughout the Lower East Side and Brooklyn chosen by Inwood-born Venus X and her friends; it also hatched Hood by Air, the radical darling of the fashion world. The movement eventually got too big for the parties, and Venus put them on hold, but just this year GHE20GOTH1K returned with a biweekly event. The music is disparate, bouncing from underground hip-hop to Chicago juke to bachata to ballroom, and the DJs are often local talent like MikeQ of Fade to Mind and Rizzla, who helped found KUNQ: Queer, punk, c*nt, crunk, with special guests like Total Freedom, whose harsh club sounds helped define the movement and a whole new genre of electronic music. Of course, they also invite up-and-comers who fit the aesthetic, like Awful Records’ Tommy Genesis, who just played her first New York show at GHE20G0TH1K.
Fridays (twice monthly), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; $10 to $13

2. The VS parties
Various locations; vsparties.com

Let us refer you to our most recent Best of New York issue: Pop-up hip-hop parties aren’t new to the city. But while Henny Palooza is limited to serving only Hennessy cocktails, and Grits & Biscuits just plays southern-trap tunes, the VS Saturday-night parties offer a more universal appeal. Promoter Clarence Fruster launched the roving series (it’s been held at the Roxy Hotel Tribeca and Irving Plaza) with DJs with big names like Talib Kweli as well as locals like Austin Millz spinning hour-long “versus” sets — think Beyoncé versus Rihanna, Drake versus Meek Mill, and old-school Bad Boy versus Roc-A-Fella — that elicit plenty of grinding and “yaaas” of approval from the crowd. A $15-to-$30 cover charge gets partygoers an hour’s worth of an open bar sponsored by top-shelf liquors like 1800 Tequila and Ciroc. At a recent party, a Jay Z–versus–Kanye West set concluded with a preview of West’s new album, The Life of Pablo, the night before it officially dropped. The crowd went wild.
Dates and times vary; $15 to $30

3. Holy Mountain
Slake, 251 W. 30th St., nr. Eighth Ave.; 212-695-8970

While I’d prefer to put Ladyfag’s massive warehouse event Shade on this list, it hasn’t happened in about a year, so we’re going to have to go with her monthly Holy Mountain. Inspired by the 1973 Alejandro Jodorowsky film of the same name, the party takes place in a club with three floors, four rooms, and at least eight DJs throughout the night, each catering to a different sound from house to techno to ’90s hip-hop. There have been live performances from Missy Elliott protégé Sharaya J and tarot-card readings in a room next door, while hosts like New York nightlife icon Sophia Lamar and younger faces like La’Fem Ladosha fill the house with a diverse, mostly gay crowd. They all know Ladyfag is rave royalty, and that’s reason enough to show up.
Monthly (days vary), 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.; $10 to $15

4. Mixpak x Tryna Function
Trans Pecos, 915 Wyckoff Ave., nr. Weirfield, Ridgewood

Sort of like a baby GHE20G0TH1K and drawing a similar crowd, this joint rave from Greenpoint-based record label Mixpak and party-throwers Tryna Function is strictly about the music. For a single event they’ll unite like-minded acts from around the world; they recently paired dance-hall artist Chi Ching Ching from Jamaica and Gaika from Brixton (who recently covered the cult taste-making music magazine Wire) in a Ridgewood all-ages club to demonstrate that certain sounds are, in fact, universal.
Saturdays (monthly) 10 a.m. to 4 a.m. or later; $15 to $20

5. Coke Yacht
Circle Line Cruises, cokeyacht.com

It’s a rave. On a boat. This one is backed by Rinsed, who have been throwing some of the city’s most extravagant high-concept techno raves since 2011. Last year they started by renting out a Circle Line ferry boat, reinforcing the sound system, scattering blow-up dolls (Rinsed is known for their décor), and basically turning it into a Bushwick warehouse on the water, while playing classic disco and dance like Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, and Donna Summer. It returns this summer, and although it starts earlier than your typical rave — the boat takes off at 8 p.m. and returns at 12 a.m. — that just means there’s no awkward early stage of the party. Things get serious right as the boat sets sail.
Various dates, 8 p.m. to midnight; $10 to $30

The Absolute Best Pop-up Party in New York