Jason Bass (left) and Ryan Rhodes, aka DJ Impulse, are the founders of The Night Brunch.
Jason Bass (left) and Ryan Rhodes, aka DJ Impulse, are the founders of The Night Brunch. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

Watching Jason Bass and Ryan Rhodes interact you would think the two are lifelong friends.

They share many of the same interests—from their love of Hip hop music, to ramen restaurants and snowboarding. They’ve vacationed together and their families regularly hang out with one another. They even dress alike-with a vintage, quasi-military aesthetic mixed with a tinge of urban bohemianism.

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Ultimately the pair enjoy fellowship and bringing people together.

Rhodes, who performs under the stage name DJ Impulse, and Bass, a party promoter and social media influencer, are the founders of the highly successful and buzzed about Night Brunch party series. The series has become the much-needed glue for Baltimore’s nightlife scene, which can be incredibly fragmented when it comes to race.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s Baltimore. It feels like it is somewhere else in the country,” said the engaging Bass, 39, who has a Gatsby-like quality and a series of hand tattoos. “They [attendees] really trust us to expose them to new places. They also say that it is family-friendly and date-friendly. There’s no club vibe.”

Just two years after the launch of the series—they estimate there have been more than 50 events—they are embarking on their biggest venture yet, the three-day Night Brunch Festival in Harbor Point.

The festival is expected to attract 3,000 people for the entire weekend, according to the duo. There will be a mix of brunch bites from popular restaurants and food trucks, DJs and other live music, cigar rolling and plenty of fellowship in the Harbor Point area.

The concept, with countless moving parts, while exciting and unique for the city, could also go horribly wrong in its inaugural year.

“I had a slight panic attack the other day—it lasted for 10 minutes,” Bass said as he’s seated in a high-top bar stool at Orto, the vibrant Tuscan restaurant in Station North owned by his friend, Elan Kotz. “I was saying ‘What were we thinking?’”

But the worry soon subsided. And he realized that the festival-like Night Brunch party series-was filling a void in Baltimore.

“The festival made sense to us. We had pop ups at 45 restaurants. Now was the time to really pull it all together and create a new chapter to show the growth of the community [and] the brand itself. ”

Highlighting businesses in a city still healing from a series of racially tinged controversies—the Freddie Gray uprising in 2015 and this year’s verbal attacks against the city by President Donald Trump—is of the upmost importance to Rhodes and Bass. The two know that Baltimore is in need of racial healing.

But Night Brunch bucks the city’s oftentimes fragmented social gatherings and mirrors its actual demographics. Sixty percent of attendees are black; 35 percent are white; and 5 percent are other, according to Bass.

“It’s important to have a diverse community to support this because we have a diverse city. If we are going to be the best version of ourselves then we have to include everyone,” Bass said.

The two reminisced over a recent Night Brunch at the former Parts & Labor space that 300 people attended. They said it illustrated the unified qualities and the broad appeal of the series.

“Last week damn near brought a tear to my eye,” said Rhodes. “Every possible thing was in that room—from age to ethnicity.”

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Bass said he ran into an attendee—a baby boomer-aged white man—from that party a few days later at R. House, which is located near where Bass lives in Remington.

“He pulled out his flip phone and showed me the pictures,” Bass recalled. “He said he was so happy to see so many people having a good time in one area. ‘I can’t believe they do this. I’ve never seen it {Parts and Labor] like that,’ he said.”

Attendees of past events keep returning because of the people that attend and the fun, curated vibe.

Tonee Lawson, who is black, has been to three Night Brunch events.

Lawson, who heard about the series through Instagram, attended because “it seemed like something new to do in the city and brunch is always a hit.”

The racial dynamic has also stood out to Lawson, a Baltimore resident who is the executive director of a youth development nonprofit in Baltimore, The Be. Org.

“They’re an authentic example of an interracial success,” Lawson said. “They also create a welcoming space in different venues where minorities aren’t typically welcomed or may even have trouble securing reservations.”

Liz Koontz, a Baltimore resident who is white, has been to more than 10 Night Brunches.

“I attend because I love breakfast and why shouldn’t we get to have it at night along with an amazing DJ and a diverse audience that’s more representative of Baltimore,” said Koontz, a manager at Live Baltimore. “I’ve also been to many of the venues, but not when they’ve been activated in this way and it’s a great reason to go back.”

“I think they set out to create a community and it is working. They're expanding into community projects and connecting people which goes far beyond a monthly event,” Koontz added.

Both Lawson and Koontz said they planned to attend the festival.

Bass and Rhodes chose Harbor Point after doing an event in February at Vida Taco, which anchors Central Park where most of the festivities will be.

And the businesses that participate in the brunches also see the benefits.

“The Night Brunch brings a certain type of event to Baltimore that hasn’t been seen before,” said Orto owner Elan Kotz, who will be one of the vendors for the festival. “It allows people to socialize over great food while having a great party vibe. It brings one of the most diverse crowds that I’ve seen in this city.”

“Historically different venues have had a different clientele. It’s great to see a diverse audience coming to venues that they might not have been otherwise,” Kotz added.

The three-day Night Brunch Festival will be a mix of brunch bites from popular restaurants and food trucks, DJs and other live music, cigar rolling and plenty of fellowship in the Harbor Point area.

If you go

Day One (Oct. 4)

The opening happy hour will serve as a kickoff and preview for the weekend. Held at the rooftop pool and lounge of 1405 Point, the happy hour will feature food, music, cigar rolling and mermaids. Tables, which cost $500, include admission for five guests and a bottle of top shelf alcohol, can be purchased at info@thenightbrunch.com. A portion of the proceeds from the happy hour will go to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“We’re looking to create something that people would normally see in L.A. or New York,” Bass said. “DJ Impulse will be there the entire night. Mermaids will be in the pool.”

Day Two (Oct. 5)

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Harbor Point’s Central Park will serve as the location for the day’s events, which will include DJ booths featuring DJ Impulse, DJ Jerome Baker III, DJ Harvey Dent, DJ Tanz; food trucks and plenty of mingling. Other highlights include the Jameson shipping container, which is a rectangle-like structure that transforms into a 31-feet-long by 20-feet-wide bar. Hey Baltimore, a local podcast produced by Downtown Partnership, will be doing a live broadcast from the bar. Red Bull will bring a monster truck that also serves as a DJ booth. And Truly Hard Seltzer will host a lounge where attendees will be able to make their own cocktails.

Day Three (Oct. 6)

The brunch portion of the festival will occur at Harbor Point Central Park with food vendors providing brunch options. Live music on a 20-feet-long stage will include performances from FUNSHO (Season 15 contestant on “The Voice”), Joi Carter (a Baltimore-based R&B singer), Jonathan Gimore and the Experience ( an 10-person collective of musicians and vocalists) and The Spindles, a classic R&B group.

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