The Art of the House Party
Dooga’s Guide to Throwing Great House/College Parties
In lieu of a night out, some opt to make a house party their destination of choice for the weekend. House parties can be great, but like the hit-or-miss nature of clubbing, some can fall way short of the mark due to a variety of critical oversights. I’ve been living on my own since 2004 and have thrown get-togethers of every variety, from 1 on 1’s to underwear parties, potluck dinners, movie nights, many chill out sessions, DJ showcases and full on ragers with 150-180 people (many whom I’m unfamiliar), showing up at my door with the intension to get crazy. I’ve also DJ’d loads of house parties as well and have mentally noted where things went right and where things went wrong. It’s time to take a look at the ingredients for a sick house party.
Date & Time:
Settle on a date & time before you do anything else. Research any other big nights happening elsewhere or events that a mutual friend may be scheduling the day you have decided to throw your party and assess any potential conflicts.
Registration (College Only):
Once you have your date set, you may want to register your party with the office at your campus that handles events, such as student affairs. They will bring your event up to code and inform security to keep it legit. If you are off campus, read on.
Like the schedule, always make sure there are no conflicts with any “key players” that you want to show up. There are always groups that roll deep based on the information administered by a few, so consider who you tell because your invite list can flip drastically in different ways.
- •Your key-players show up and their crew comes through as you expected, as you hoped and all is good in the Shire.
- •Your key-players only show up or don’t show at all and didn’t fulfill their end. FAIL!
- •Someone from a crew you didn’t want represented at your party gets wind and invites everyone from that world to be at your party, without asking. Twenty dudes show up at your door, empty handed, under-aged and by no means ready for a night out.
After inviting the “keys”, filling out the invites list can stress anyone out, especially if you have aligned yourself with an exclusive group or anticipate drama between mutual friends. As long as you don’t anticipate critical confrontations or any “party-consuming” vibes that can ruin your event, invite both sides of the conversation and enjoy the social experiment.
Quick Ratios Tip: Keep the invite orientation ratios tuned for the type of people at your particular party. Consider the sexual preferences and guy/girl ratios always.
Quick Security Tip: If you have some ride-or-die rough-and-tumble pals that have your back for life but are chill, it’s a good idea to have them at every party for crowd control just in case anything wildly unexpected happens.
If you live in an area where people enjoy their evenings in routine silent isolation, don’t have a house party there. If your neighbors couldn’t be bothered by the revel debauchery of you and 200 of your closest pals, by all means, throw often, throw loud, throw proud. Factor the size of the space in your decision as well.
Regardless of party size, safeguarding your belongings from damage or theft is paramount. Coming out on top after a party means everyone including you had a great time, there’s still booze left, you didn’t get shut down, and nothing was damaged or stolen. For smaller gatherings you shouldn’t really have to do anything other than provide a relatively clean space, however once you eclipse that 50 person mark, it’s time to start thinking about restricting the guests interactions with your personal shit. There is no shame in putting black plastic sheeting over in front of your book/movie & video game shelves. If you have private rooms with keys, give one to your best friend to help out and lock them only using them to store your friends’ jackets, bags and other personals. I even stash a little bounty of drinks in there for myself and my crew after the party disbands. Minimizing foot traffic in your bedroom minimizes the potential for property loss.
Providing drinks at a party is your choice, however if you enjoy practicing the art of the party thrower regularly, you have to make it feasible. A good rule of thumb is to only provide drinks for yourself and put away any alcohol you do not want getting devoured by your guests. Some may protest about your alcoholic practices, HOWEVER you are providing all aspects of production including the space, preparation, the clientele, entertainment, crowd control, security, coat check and cleanup. If someone shows up and bitches about you not providing drinks, remember that they just showed up and you threw a wild live party. Provide a decent amount of cups, ice and a couple of black sharpies to cut down on cup waste. Save the planet, yo.
Everyone thinks they know music; some think their tastes will appeal to a crowd; some want to hear their track right now and will pester you until you play it. Give the authority to one person to control the music. One truth I have learned about the importance of a DJ is that, “Regardless of the presence of controlled substances, the music selected can sully or elevate a moment.” If dancing is to ensue, provide a space. Make sure you have some musical variety in those playlists as well, as early guests might not be in the mood to vibe to heavy club bangers at 8:30pm.
As a host, you have the last word on volume control, so exercise that authority if your DJ won’t. Our bodies get used to loudness and vibrations, so use your eyes when EQ’ing levels as bass travels though solid objects better than mid or high frequency sounds. This will help with neighbor relations.
The Sound System: This part is a tad technical but HIGHLY important.
Having the best music doesn’t mean a thing if you haven’t positioned your speakers properly. Before you stop reading, consider that speaker position can possibly make your current setup appear surprisingly loud. The rule of thumb is, that the higher the speakers are (within reason) the better. It is entirely possible to make a couple of elevated, well-placed speaker monitors sound clearer and louder than 2 PA speakers planted on the ground. If you have a decent setup, aim them inward toward the center of your space and secure them at least 8 ft up so that a room full of bodies, hair and clothes don’t absorb the sound. Provide a system more powerful than the party, so you have a little bit of electrical headroom to protect the speakers from overheating considering they could be running at high levels for at least 4 hours. Also, if your speakers start to “fart”, lower the volume to the point were they stop and don’t exceed that as you have reached the peak of your systems performance. A speaker is blown more often than not, by continuous use at peak levels rather than a single moment of clipping at intense volume, so safeguard your stuff, or whoever’s stuff you borrowed because a busted speaker is expensive to repair or replace.
Quick Audio Tip: If you need you, stretch out the power of your setup by limiting the bass while increasing the midrange sounds where the strings, trumpets and most importantly, the lyrics live.
Cops: Fear not!
Dealing with police is an interesting dance. Whether in an apartment or house, you have rights as long as you operate within the reasonable constraints of the law. If you live somewhere with a lot of tenant or neighborhood traffic and are having a crazy party, the police are going to show up eventually. If a visit is anticipated, make sure any illicit activity is going on behind locked doors in the bowels of the residence. Without a warrant, an officer of the law cannot step into your residence without your consent or a court order from a judge; something they most likely will not have as it is probably a Friday or Saturday and the judge is at home with a steak in his belly and some Powers warm in his study.
If you would like to be polite and converse with the police face to face rather than through a closed door, respectfully request that they step away so that you can step out and talk with them. Some police will take advantage of a host’s naiveté and just walk inside the resident’s home without permission in search for ticket/arrest worthy infractions such as marijuana use and underage drinking. Also, if your guests see cops inside the residence, it will be a hard sell keeping them there. Everyone will dip and that is the end of that. Instead of a party-ending downer, clear everyone from entrance view, grab a cup of water, a mint, put on your sober face and talk to the police. If it’s a noise complaint, you have a total of 2 or 3 opportunities (dependent on city or state) to appease the cops before you get a ticket. If you do get a ticket, get ticketed outside your home and if was because no one in the party wanted you to lower the music, make a speech about collective experiences, impose a donation to the party gods, and keep the party going. Don’t fret either, because if you do manage to get a ticket for noise pollution, it’s already 5am and the best of the party is behind you.
End a party when it feels right. Sometimes, it may seem that a party can go on until 8am, but 4:30 became the limit. Look at peoples faces, feel the mood, the energy. If your guests look 15 minutes away from being drunken messes, do everyone a favor by stopping the party and letting them regret their decisions elsewhere. If you look below, you’ve got a big cleanup ahead of you and a visual inventory to take care of. Get crackin’!
Lead by example and enlist your friends to help collect, dump, and bag bottles & cans. Grab a bucket to dump fluids in for a quicker cleanup. Get rid of the trash in waves, bottles & cans first, then food waste. Do all the dishes, sweep and/or vacuum the whole house, then mop. Put the furniture back in place and then relax.
You threw a ridiculously insane party that will be described as “live” today and some other superior slang tomorrow. Chill out with whoever crashed with you. Have brunch, watch a movie and just wait for the praise to roll in via text, twitter, facebook, and tumblr. Peep the photos of all the things you missed and expect the constant request for another party in the very near future by everyone who attended.
What you have read is a solid foundation for throwing a safe, kick-ass party, however don’t feel afraid to add your own personal touches. For example, lighting can completely alter the mood of a gathering, whether it be different lighting in each room or a set color scheme to evoke a certain feeling. Utilizing visual projections, having an over-the-top center piece, or requiring everyone to wear a particular color or material can be fun, but just make sure your “extras” will bode well with your guests. Swag-