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After-dark inquiry: The Rub

DJs Ayres and Eleven relaunch their beloved funkfest at the Bell House.

Photographer: Kenny Rodriguez
The Rub's Ayres, left, and Eleven

The Rub’s ancestral home of Southpaw may have closed, and party cofounder Cosmo Baker may currently be touring as a solo DJ, but you can’t keep a good party down—and this funk-fueled affair is a very good party. On Saturday 28, DJs Ayres and Eleven bring the decade-old fiesta to its new Brooklyn home, the Bell House.

You guys started the Rub in 2002. I’m guessing that continuing to do the party for so long wasn’t part of the master plan, right?
Ayres: Ha! No, not at all. We were all playing at a lot of different clubs back then, but that wasn’t really our vision. They were the kind of gigs where you mostly cater to whoever walks in the door, with just a few of our friends showing up. There was always a lot of compromise with the music that we could get away with playing. We had done a few parties together—we had gone to play Cosmo’s party in Philly when he was still based down there, for instance—and I think were all trying to find the bigger stage where we could make a living yet still be ourselves. By that time we were in our mid twenties, and we were all starting to think about where we were going with this. So we joined forces, and we’re very fortunate that it worked. It was like lightning in a bottle; we knew we had something pretty special right away.

Were you at Southpaw from the start?

Ayres: Yeah. The very first one was my birthday party. Darshan Jesrani from Metro Area played, and Mikey Palms, who was one of Southpaw’s owners, played that night too.

When you found out that Southpaw was closing, was there any thought of going on hiatus, or even shutting the party down?
Eleven: No, not at all. We’ve actually known for a while—several years at least—that we had sort of outgrown Southpaw, but we definitely never wanted to stop doing the Rub. What happened was, Southpaw told us they were closing down about ten days before the last party we did there. And Ayres and I literally left that meeting, walked a couple doors down to a coffee place and began to figure out what we were gonna do next. We didn’t skip a beat. You know, the Rub pays our bills, but it’s also something that’s near and dear to our hearts. It’s not something we want to walk away from because we have to. When we do walk away someday, it’ll be because we want to.

The Rub can get notoriously crowded, so you must be happy that the Bell House is a bit larger than Southpaw.
Ayres: Yeah, it’s a little bigger, and it’s got a different feel; the room is a little shorter and a lot wider. It’s going to be kind of like performing in the round! It’s going to take a little time to get used to. But at the one party we’ve done there so far, sort of a pre-reopening party, the crowd really felt the same. It actually went better than we thought.

Clubbers can be notoriously fickle. Were you worried at all about whether or not your crowd would come out to the Bell House?
Ayres: That first edition was a little bit like a blind date; you work really hard at it working out, but you still don’t know what’s going to happen. This was the first time we had to worry about whether people were going to show up. But they did, so we’re happy. It was a really good date.

I used to think of the Rub as a somewhat hip-hop–oriented party, but in reality, you guys select from a wide swath of music. Is there any musical philosophy behind what you play?
Eleven: We’ll play whatever feels right, but we make a conscious effort to draw from things that we ourselves are excited about, whether it’s old music or new music. If there’s any philosophy at all, it’s that the Rub is a party, and we’re gonna play like it’s a party. If one of us wants to play some nu-shoegazey style of music or something, we’ll play it—but only before 11 o’clock. When it’s party time, it’s party time, you know?

Do the two of you have different deejaying styles?
Ayres: I think Eleven’s strength is that he goes for the jugular, and he doesn’t make any mistakes. He’s really good at taking it up and up and up. I tend to try and play weirder stuff, and push the crowd further left-field. But we’re always mindful of the party’s arc. It’s not like one of us will just stand up there and do whatever we want, and leave it to the other guy to pick up the pieces. We do our best not to burn each other.

I would imagine that playing off each other well is second nature by now.
Eleven: We’ve done it for a gazillion years, so everyone pretty much knows what to do.

Other than the music, what else do you think accounts for the Rub’s long run?
Ayres: We have a really good doorgirl! Rahnon has been with us for the Rub’s entire run.
Eleven: Ever since we realized we needed a doorperson and cashier, she’s been doing it.

People who run parties and clubs tend to forget how important the experience of actually stepping into a place is to the mood of a party.
Ayres: Yeah, you want to have a good interaction with people. If you have to wait in line, you want somebody that going to make you be happy and smile as soon as you walk in the door. Not just because you finally got in, but because she’s great. Also, Southpaw and the Bell House are both places that people want to go to anyway; the sound is good, and the drinks aren’t too expensive.

Does being in Brooklyn help?
Ayres: Definitely. When we started, there weren’t very many big parties at all in Brooklyn, and I think that let us have the Rub develop in a more natural way. We always wanted it to feel like a house party.

It’s always had the reputation of being a very unpretentious affair.
Eleven: That’s very important—probably the most important thing about the Rub. We know we have to take care of our friends, but we’ve always avoided creating a feeling of elitism. If you’ve got ten bucks and you’re okay with waiting in line for a bit, then we want you. Just be ready to party.

The Rub is at the Bell House on Saturday, April 28.

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