WHAT HAPPENED TO BATTLE HYMN.
School is back in session NYC. Labor Day weekend brings tidings of the end of summer, and the beginning of a new event season in the city. Season openers are happening, new faces are entering the scene, and it's time to choose your new friends wisely in nightlife - you're gonna be cooped up with them in the club all winter honey.
So come Sunday evening, I decided I would return to my former heart and soul, Battle Hymn.
Battle Hymn started the week I arrived in NYC, and thus is near and dear to me. I distinctly recall my joy on tumbling down the stairs at 11:11 to discover fliers for Ladyfag's new offering happening weekly on Sunday nights. I certainly would not be missing this. After all, Ladyfag's 11:11 and Holy Mountain were two of the main draws for me to come to NYC. So at the second Battle Hymn, I arrived to the venue formerly known as Flash Factory (now dubbed Mission, yes?) and entered a sanctuary of sound that embodied all I had come to this city to experience. With the clergy of hosts per Ladyfag's cast of serious fashion queens (think CT, Kyle, Aquaria, Muffy, Stephanie, Amanda, Boomer, the artist formerly known as Sussi, and more) holding court in VIP and the signature church house sermon being broadcast from the DJs pulpit, this event was a shining beacon of what it means to party in NYC.
And so we carried for the next year. Giggling, gagging, and wagging fingers to queens who think they are fierce. Battle Hymn was where I began building my nightlife persona. It's where I befriended my sweet Felipe, whom brought me out of shell in the scene. It's where I learned that my drag mother, Bambi, would not be coming back from the hospital, so I vowed to help a friend get in drag their first time to carry on her legacy. It's where I was able to sit a spell on stage with my icon Kevin Aviance and have a nice kiki as the crowd trickled out one late morning. It's where I first had my pussy turned out by the one and only Honey Dijon. Don't you hear me calling you, Miss Honey?!
I vividly recall Easter weekend of 2017, when the stars aligned to complete what I deemed The Holy Trinity - attending 11:11, Holy Mountain, and Battle Hymn in one weekend. It marked the beginning of my next chapter of NYC, a shining year April 2017 to April 2018 that I hold to be the dearest of my life.
But the Battle Hymn of old, like all things, could not last. Flash Factory, under the direction of former owners, Michael Satsky and Brian Gefter, was not making ends meet compared to the reported $7 mil pumped into the place. I will now start sauntering into mere speculation of what happened next. To help keep the club open for her crown jewel event of Manhattan, Ladyfag ended the beloved Friday night institution of 11:11 (a painful stab in my heart) to move her Sunday event to Friday, thus opening Flash Factory to full capacity with her massive success of Battle Hymn. Sunday nights had attracted the crème de la crème of New York. But Fridays gave way to a less select crowd - cross-body bag Beckys and the multitude of gays that think that harnesses are a "look.” Hm.
Yes, when Battle Hymn moved to Fridays, some celebrated. It meant that more people were able to pop a pill and do a twirl without their Monday morning desk jobs looming. I was concerned. Especially at the cost of 11:11. No, no I was not pleased.
Then it finally came, the closing of Flash Factory. Even Lady's attempt to save the club could not keep the doors open. So our Church was no more, and we were left with little to fill its place.
Interestingly enough, a certain circuit producer I'll just refer to as The Snake attempted to contract the space for one of his blasé events around December 2017. I raised an eyebrow when it was announced. Sure enough, a week before the event, an email was sent to ticket holders cancelling the event, citing “Venue under construction.” Sure, we've all heard that before. Honey, Ladyfag got wind of what was to occur, picked up the phone, and said "Not in my house!”
A lesson to all out there, don't come for Ladyfag's venues. Don't even try it. Even if they are closed, burned to the ground, or sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Her holy land is still hers, Miss Thing.
Sure enough, Ladyfag returned on Jan 7, 2018 with what was dubbed a "Season Closer.” Two weeks later, a "Special Return” event was announced, followed by a short-term schedule of Friday nights that were joyfully welcomed. It is my belief that investors wanted to see what could be done with the space and we were all guinea pigs in the changes to be made if this club could be deemed viable again. Perhaps that's not true, but I rather think it is.
I distinctly recall the last night of this short stint of the revival. I was one of the last to leave, and I spotted a new management team organizing on the dance floor for cleanup. The venue now officially belonged to a Korean group currently buying Manhattan clubs for an event space venture called Rumi (including Arena of Ladyfag's former Mouth Your Body.) We have them to thank for reopening the club and welcoming Ladyfag back, if only monthly, for Battle Hymn Sundays beginning March 2018.
Again, much of the above is guesswork and hearsay.
But something changed during that process. The distinct architectural details were stripped away to make the space less niche, favoring the standard death of nightlife staples - bottle service banquets, LED walls with half-assed visuals, cheap lasers, and fucking mirrors anywhere you can stick them. Even the Battle Hymn sound seemed to change - the music just seemed to cater to something more basic. Am I wrong? The crowd definitely became less interesting. Seriously, am I wrong?
The true shining beacon of Battle Hymn is gone. It's true that nothing in this scene lasts - how could it though? If you are here to experience true moments like that, take it all in, but be prepared to keep it moving. Next!
So I haven't been to Battle Hymn too often since the club's revamp. It breaks my heart to see something that was so perfect carrying on as a ghost of its former self. But this Labor Day weekend, I returned, primarily to spend the evening with friends there since there was no fuckin’ Alegria. I mean, what the fuck, there was no LDW Alegria! I digress…
I came with low expectations for the event itself. I was having a great time, reminding myself that I was there with friends and that's all that really matters in the end, right? One of my friends, R, was quick to point out that we're still very lucky to have a club space like that at all in Manhattan, and my perspective completely shifted in that moment. He was absolutely right. We were fortunate to be there.
So I went to the back of the room, gathered my thoughts, and sent up a prayer to my former Church for all my ambitions and the path I've set before myself. In true Battle Hymn fashion, I felt the moment of my prayer being heard, and looked out to see the vestiges of those days I hold dear - hands in the air, CT hanging off the rafters, and a dance floor comprised of all types. I let myself be lifted by the music, proceeded to the center of the dance floor, and came to accept what others have advised me. Yes, it's not the same. But nothing ever can be. If you don't come to understand that in all aspects of life, you'll be left behind in memories of what was, and never moving forward with what will be.
It marks the beginning of my own path moving forward. I came to NYC not knowing what I wanted in life, and I feel fortunate to have found it on my nights into mornings traipsing these streets. It's what I'll be working on in coming months in the hopes that one day, I will be able to give you a shining moment too. It's time to get work.
So yes, something certainly happened to Battle Hymn. It's not the same. But neither am I from the moment I first crossed its threshold. And I hope neither are you.
May "the gospel according to the dancefloor" continue to show us the Light.
David X Daisy