Getting Lashed: When concept club and venue The Lash announced that it was closing at the turn of the year, hearts could practically be heard breaking all over L.A. For a decade, The Lash was a welcome space for all manner of dark angels, glorious weirdos and subculture heroes located in darkest, beautiful Downtown L.A. and, now that it’s gone, there’s a tangible hole in the city.
“We want to thank all the talented artists, DJs, promoters, hosts, staff and customers that have supported The Lash for the past 10 years,” they posted on social media. “The memories, experiences, shows, parties and & YOU made this lil DTLA club an iconic underground destination. We close our doors with a cheer, a toast, & a kiss.”
Loyal regulars replying on Facebook all agree that there was simply nowhere quite like The Lash – an alternative to the regular downtown clubs where anyone was welcome.
“The genesis of it was, Erik Hart, my good friend and the designer of the place, in February 2013, we were looking at spots with no real intention of what we thought it would become,” says owner Ross O’Carroll. “It kinda just became what it became. Basically, we were looking at a space that would be a small bar, and that’s what the front room of The Lash was. I think our intention was to create a space that we would like to go to. Some space that’s exciting and had our sensibilities. After some time, there was an option to take a bigger room in the back. So we had the front and back room, and that’s what it became. That’s where the club element that it evolved into came in. Our sensibilities would just be sort of an art space where people could collaborate and come together, but then with Erik’s aesthetics of industrial, concrete, Berlin-esque, subway tile – that lended itself to the grittiness.”
The Lash operated on themes of interaction, engagement, voyeurism, exhibitionism, reflection, and losing oneself. That might sound like standard fare for alternative nightlife venus, but it was the eclecticism of The Lash’s clientele that made it stand out.
“The first year was a little bit tenuous, but into year two was when we hit our stride,” says O’Carroll. “Our formative years, the first four or five, were great for us. We found our rhythm as far as us not doing a typical club thing where we just do top 40. We were striving for a different vibe than what most of Downtown LA had to offer. We took a lot of chances. KB [Kristal Barboza, booker] can attest to that. We’d rather do a Vogue contest on a Saturday night than do a top 40 night. Just something more interesting than any other place, where it’s just another night.”
Barboza started booking at The Lash in 2017, and her duties included booking the parties, DJs and curating the live acts.
“One thing I’m really proud of with The Lash is a lot of DJs and parties started at The Lash,” she says. “If you woke up and all of a sudden wanted to be a DJ, you could hit up The Lash and The Lash would give you a chance. There were parties that outgrew us, like Brownies and Lemonade. Now they’re huge. There were a lot of parties that started at The Lash, then they’d go to the Regent and then move on. That’s one thing of note, that a lot of people that went into DJing outgrew us.”
While The Lash’s space wasn’t really conducive for full bands with a full backline, EBM and synth/electronica acts thrived there. The likes of Light Asylum and Drab Majesty played memorable sets, as did pop powerhouse Robyn.
“Pictureplane was one of my favorite shows there,” says Barboza. Our whole thing was, we wouldn’t book someone in the top 40 essence. It would be someone up-and-coming. In a sense, we were an underground starting point. I’m proud of that. Like, a launch to the next thing. Halloween and New Year’s live shows were really special.”
O’Carroll says that of the many nights that The Lash hosted, Mustache Mondays will stick in his memories for a long time.
“They were pretty legendary in the L.A. subculture and queer culture here,” he says. “They were fantastic, and we were lucky to have them when we did. They moved around to a lot of venues, but for a time, they were with us and a lot of those times were super special. The patrons that came made it very interesting, and for a Monday night when most clubs are dark, they brought amazing things. Nacho [Ignacio Nava Jr.] was the promoter and unfortunately he passed away a couple of years ago. But people that know his name know he is a big part of L.A. nightlife.”
So why has The Lash closed? Unsurprisingly, the pandemic and lockdowns played a significant part.
“It was a tough decision for me,” O’Carroll says. “I didn’t want to do that to all the staff and all the promoters and everybody we worked with, but business-wise, we were still recovering from the pandemic. We were able to get some grants and stuff like that, but then coming out of that, everything was a bit more expensive. It was hard. Without putting a crazy amount of costs on the customer, for me personally, I thought it was time to get out. We had a good 10 years and a good tenure.”
O’Carroll will remain in the hospitality industry, and he has his own band called Dragtalk (dragtalk.bandcamp.com) to concentrate on. Barboza wants to take a break, and then she’ll be involved in local nightlife in one way or another. Neither are closing the door on the idea of a Lash revival in some form, at some point. But for now, they have their memories.
“One thing about The Lash that made it so special was how inclusive and eclectic it was,” says Barboza. “Just offering a spectrum of music and subcultures where many people would come together and have a shared experience and artistic expression without feeling weird, and just be themselves. It makes it an iconic place. L.A. nightlife will have a hole now. I can’t think of another venue aesthetically close to what The Lash was.”
“We always took a chance,” says O’Carroll in conclusion. “Whether it was a furry night or a ‘70s Japanese disco pop night, or a nu-metal night. Fuck it, it sounds fun, let’s do it. Whether that was good or bad business, it is what it is. No other place could you run into a furry night, while there’s an Italo disco night playing in the other room. For the pedestrian to stumble on something like that, that’s what got me off. Just random people would have so much fun without knowing why.”
RIP, The Lash. For now, at least.
Getting Lashed: For more info, go to thelashsocial.com.
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