Out Late: A night out with NYC nightlife legend Maxwell Vice

I hit a bunch of clubs with the Bushwick local and nightlife staple on a random Saturday in May.

Ian Kumamoto
Written by
Ian Kumamoto
Staff Writer
person laying on top of picnic table
Photograph: Courtesy of Maxwell Vice

"Out Late" is Time Out's nightlife and party column by DJ, Whorechata founder, and Staff Writer Ian Kumamoto. The previous edition highlighted Cuffs Cabaret, a kinky cabaret hosted by Venus Cuffs.

One thing Maxwell Vice is sure about is that Bushwick nightlife saved their life. It’s not something you hear often about a neighborhood that’s frequently memeified for its green-haired and gender-expansive transplants. But beyond all the caricatures of what Bushwick is lies a truth that few can dispute: For all its ills, it’s one of the few places in America where weirdos can truly be free. 

Don’t get it twisted, though: Vice, who is an artist, photographer and DJ, is a Bushwick native and grew up along Myrtle-Wyckoff, a micro-neighborhood that has effectively become the clubbing epicenter of the city. That wasn’t the case when Vice was growing up, though: Back then, Bushwick was a predominantly immigrant neighborhood with a strong religious presence—the type of place where people like Vice couldn’t fully be themselves. “Growing up, I was very afraid to express my queerness,” Vice tells me. “It wasn’t until the brave people of the nightlife scene came and brought queerness to the forefront that I as a native New Yorker felt like my life was worth living.”

person poses with a cigarette in hand
Photograph: Courtesy of Maxwell Vice

It’s refreshing to meet someone, especially a Bushwick native, who is optimistic about the state of nightlife when so many old heads have proclaimed to me that the city’s party scene expired sometime in the early 2010s. When I ask Vice what they think of the idea that New York nightlife is dead—it’s not uncommon to see Kips Bay frat bros waiting in line to go into some of the most exclusive “underground parties”—Vice tells me it’s not fair to judge the state of the party scene based on the quality of a few attendees. Instead, Vice says, you have to look at who’s running shit. By that measure, nightlife has never been better.

person posing for the camera
Photograph: By Maxwell ViceWe ran into Battygyal, a local DJ, at Trans Pecos

Vice's nightlife journey began when they were a teenager and were going to Superchief Gallery, a DIY art space that threw afterparties that would go on till 8am. At the time, Vice was working as a model and actor: In 2016 they got a role in Hamilton on Broadway, and subsequently booked roles on TV shows like Pose and Gossip Girls. The issue was that years would pass between gigs because there weren’t a lot of roles available for people like Vice. 

It’s refreshing to meet someone, especially a Bushwick native, who is optimistic about the state of nightlife when so many old heads have proclaimed to me that the city’s party scene expired sometime in the early 2010s.

That’s when they began to realize that they weren’t able to bring their full and complex self into their work. “In fashion and in TV and in acting, you have to sell a part of yourself, that’s part of the gig,” Vice tells me. “As a Latino actor, I only booked roles that were immigrants, drug dealers or homeless queer youth.” Nightlife, on the other hand, presented infinite possibilities for them to be whatever they wanted. “I could come up in drag and I’m a woman. I pull up in a Yankees hat and khakis and I’m trade, no question,” they say.

In between acting gigs, Vice began working at different clubs and ended up falling in love with the people of the scene. Since then, they’ve worked at or managed many of the most iconic businesses in the area, including Market Hotel, Trans Pecos, Happy Fun Hideaway, Rash, and now, at 25, they manage Nowadays. 

person in front of a camera
Photograph: By Maxwell ViceVice takes a selfie during their set

Vice’s optimistic vision for Bushwick nightlife comes from a radical place. During the pandemic, they were taking Polaroid pictures of many of the trans activists leading Black Lives Matter protests. While documenting that moment in history, Vice realized that the same activists who were leading major protests during the day were also throwing raves to raise money for housing and healthcare at night. During this time, the activist-to-nightlife worker path wasn’t a pipeline: It was a circle. Vice wanted to document this phenomenon, which is how Ice Vice magazine was born. “Every party that was happening during the pandemic was queer-, Black- or trans-run,” Vice says. “It created so many legendary DJs that we all go to today.”

Photograph: By Maxwell ViceSterling Juan Diaz at Paragon

Post-pandemic nightlife is more Black, brown, queer and trans than it's ever been. And sure, the frat bros found a lot of the underground venues, but that's just a testament to how much our culture has pushed through to the surface. “The real issue isn’t that NYC is dead,” Vice says, “It’s that it’s overpopulated.”

They go on to explain that the sheer amount of people moving to New York means that hardcore club kids now have to share spaces with people who work in finance and might not have the consciousness that you earn after being in the scene for a while: Namely, the knowledge that Black people invented techno, or that the most in-demand DJs in the city right now are trans. You can’t go to a club assuming people’s genders, or asking non-white people where they’re from, or cutting the line just because you’re blonde and pretty. But Vice has hope that once they get acquainted with the scene, even the most basic of bros can learn. 

We have our own culture over here. New York has always been free.

And that is exactly what has always made New York nightlife so radical: It's a place where the power dynamics of the real world are inverted, where the city's most powerful look to the most marginalized for direction. “As a native New Yorker, I hope that we realize that we don’t need to aspire to be European, we don’t need to aspire to be Berlin,” Vice says. “We have our own culture over here. New York has always been free."

I went out with Vice on a Saturday in May and we managed to hit four different clubs. We started out at Market Hotel on Myrtle-Broadway before heading to Paragon down the block and then Bossa Nova Civic Club. We ended the night at Trans Pecos where Vice was booked to DJ a rave called Helltekk, which is run by young New York City club kids. Vice brought their camera to document the night and snapped pictures of the people who define the scene. They wanted me to take particular note of the door people, who Vice tells me are the backbone of nightlife.

This was my night out with Maxwell Vice.


I meet up with Vice at Market Hotel, an underground venue above Mr. Kiwi’s on Myrtle-Broadway, and we see Joni out front, who curates the events there. We talk for a bit when Vice gets distracted by an ad posted right next to the venue. “I took those pictures!” they say, gawking. “I had no idea they printed them!”


We go up the stairs and enter the venue. It seems like a slow night, with a sprinkling of younger people dancing—DJ Assault, the headliner, hasn't arrived. We go backstage, where David, known in nightlife by his DJ name THELIMITDOESNOTEXIST, is chilling. He hands me a super cool chrome sticker of his hyperpop party, SKSKSKS

Vice is on a mission and goes around the venue, making sure they snap a picture of everyone they want to capture. They move with efficiency and purpose, and it's obvious they're in their element. As we're getting ready to leave Market Hotel, we run into Miss Madeline, a performance artist. Vice, of course, has to snap some shots.

“OK,” Vice tells me after they take a couple of pictures. “Let’s go.” 

person posing for the camera
Photograph: By Maxwell Vice | Miss Madeline


We cross Broadway to get to Paragon, where we're greeted by Jupiter, who's doing doors. Vice gives them a hug. "Can I take your picture?" they ask. 

person posing for the camera
Photograph: By Maxwell Vice | Jupiter


We leave Paragon and on our way out, Vice asks me to take a picture of them and Husky, a security guard who works at Paragon and Bossa.

two people pose outside a nightclub
Photograph: By Ian Kumamoto | Vice and Husky


Everybody in Bushwick who is out at this hour seems to know Vice. As we’re walking along Myrtle Avenue towards Bossa Nova Civic Club, they run into a friend who just left Bossa. She tells us she was not feeling the crowd. Vice talks her into going back with us. 

At the entrance, Max says “hi” to the security guard, Karen, and she talks to us about her recent vacation to Jamaica. Vice tells me that Karen was one of the people who would let Vice into the club when they couldn’t afford to pay cover fees and allowed them to party when they were younger and more broke. “She’s an icon,” Vice tells me. “Without her, I wouldn’t have any of the friends I have now.”

Karen poses for the camera/Maxwell Vice
Photograph: By Maxwell Vice | Karen


We take an Uber to Trans Pecos to make it in time for Vice’s DJ set at HellTekk. As soon as we get out of the car, we see a bunch of kids leaving the party. “Can I take a picture of you for Time’s Out?” Vice asks them. They’ve been saying “Time’s Out” all night and I don’t want to correct Vice because, actually, I kind of like it better. Time’s Out has a foreboding, sexy aura to it.

people posing outside at night
Photograph: By Maxwell Vice


I’m in awe of how Max moves with a self-assuredness—this is their element. They tell me how this party, HellTekk, is the closest thing to the parties they used to go to as a kid. It’s a Black and brown-run party and they keep tickets affordable. It’s mostly all city kids here, and they’re all pulling crazy looks.

person in clown makeup posing for the camera
Photograph: By Maxwell Vice | DJ and Trans Pecos employee
close up of person smoking a cigarette
Photograph: By Maxwell Vice | Puck
two people posing for the camera
Photograph: By Maxwell Vice


When Vice goes on, there’s a real sense of anticipation. They’re emceeing while they DJ and there’s an electrifying energy about them I can’t quite describe. Most of all, Vice is having fun. This is what pure, unbridled joy looks like. 

people dancing
Photograph: By Maxwell Vice
a group of people pose for the camera
Photograph: By Maxwell Vice


I say goodbye to Vice, but their night is just starting. After their DJ gig, they go on to work the door at Nowadays until 1pm the next day.

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