On a Friday night at the Brooklyn Monarch, an East Williamsburg music venue, the 1999 Smash Mouth hit “All Star” blared through the speakers to start the party around 10 p.m., causing the crowd to erupt in dancing and sing-alongs.
One contestant, who gave his name only as Nick, rolled on the floor, unbuttoned his short-sleeved shirt, and spun around while singing along to the lyrics, “Hey, you’re a rock star now/Get the show on, get pays.” ”
When the song ended, he caught his breath from one of the large speakers near the stage before explaining what had gotten into him.
“When people say there’s a Shrek rave, where else do you go?” asked Nick, 28. “I found out about it a day and a half ago. I wish I had known sooner, I would have brought earwax.”
“Shrek” has been a recurring obsession of the internet, particularly among millennials, since the animated film debuted in 2001. Memes and GIFs from the film, often depicting the characters in silly and sometimes explicit contexts, are hard to miss on social media. So it’s not surprising that some of this online fandom has morphed into the real-life party known as the Shrek Rave.
At the first meme-inspired Shrek Rave, held in Los Angeles in March, a sell-out crowd turned out in costumes inspired by the film and its memes. Rapper Rico Nasty made a surprise appearance and one partygoer even brought a bag full of onions – which look like ogres – to share.
The party’s host, Jordan Craig, a Los Angeles-based artist, content creator and screenwriter named Ka5sh (the 5 is silent), first came up with the idea of hosting the 2020 rave. He said that Shrek, like SpongeBob SquarePants, continued to age well online and that was reason enough to throw the party.
“We all used it at the same time, so we all have a relationship with it,” Mr. Craig said in a video interview. “It’s one of those two things that I feel like everyone has seen and that no one feels embarrassed about.”
After the strong turnout at that first party, Mr. Craig decided to bring the rave to New York.
At the Brooklyn Monarch, which has several rooms, a large bar and a green lawn-covered backyard, hundreds of partygoers — many of whom arrived in regular attire, while some struggled with green complexion — had filled the space by midnight. Artificial tendrils, plush thrones, posters and artificial apple trees served as props. Large cardboard cutouts of the ogre of the hour were also scattered around, including one that was slightly crumpled at the base after someone used it for selfies and twerking.
The evening’s DJ lineup played a variety of genres including pop, hip-hop and EDM. “All Star,” which is inseparable from the film, played on the hour and brought the partygoers back while they spilled back cocktails and beers. The backdrop for the whole night was a large backstage screen that played various Shrek memes and videos on a continuous loop.
Among the costumed attendees, a few stood out, including three guys with faces covered in green paint and foam chins who wore button-down shirts with suspenders — a look they admitted didn’t quite fit the theme, but still noticed.
“I’m just excited to meet people who share the same love for Shrek as we do,” said one of the men, Rob Troiano, 22. “It’s just a silly, nonsensical thing that we can all embrace.”
A group of friends entered wearing fluffy green ears made out of pipe cleaners and had green glitter shimmering on their faces and bodies. Another person appeared with a large mascot-style gingerbread man head.
Gavin Ryan, a DJ who spins as Baetovin, came dressed as the villainous Lord Farquaad, wearing a red cape, ruffled white top and gold crown.
“I think Lord Farquaad definitely rocked Givenchy and Balenciaga, maybe some Hermès,” said Mr. Ryan, who performed a set that night. “And a bit of Tory Burch, to be honest.”
Comedian and actor Jaboukie Young-White was seen walking past the dance floor and heading towards one of the back rooms. When asked what he thinks is the reason behind millennials’ endless obsession with Shrek, Mr. Young-White only responded after confirming that his answer would indeed be published in the New York Times.
“‘Shrek’ really embodies a sort of post-9/11 urge for homeliness and American comfort, and the idea of defending one’s homeland from a threat really captured that American paranoia in a cinematic event,” he said, without one to miss a shot.
The night continued with an electro drag performance by the Boy Diva, dressed as the fairy godmother from Shrek 2, who performed the song Holding Out for a Hero. Punk rapper LustSickPuppy took the stage at around 1am, when the smell of booze, drugs and sweat had long since filled the room. Her music, which she described as a “circus in purgatory,” quickly sparked a mosh pit.
Towards the end of the night, many guests moved into the backyard and cleared out most of the main room. Just after 2am, Mr. Craig took the stage to play “All Star” again.
“Someone asked for this,” he explained, wearing a large, fluffy green hat over his lime-green dreadlocks.
Before the first verse of the song was over, people flew back inside and ran toward the DJ booth.