The other weekend I, along with my equally-stupid friend and fellow Dallas Observer contributor Matt Wood, decided to clear all the furniture out of my house near the University of North Texas, buy about six cases of Lone Star and have four bands play in my living room.
Okay, so that's not exactly true -- we planned the whole thing out a couple of weeks in advance. But when you're throwing your first house show, planning only gets you so far.
When you're hosting an event like this -- especially for the very first time -- you really don't know what's going to happen until it does. Sometimes, you don't realize it happened until the next morning, when you wake up with a hangover so bad it has you desperately searching the room for the quickest way to end your life without getting out of bed.
Fortunately, the show we hosted went off pretty well -- there were no broken bones, no visits from the cops, no puke on the furniture. But, having been through it now, these are some things I wish I'd known going into it all:
1. Never schedule your lineup too early in the night.
When Matt and I figured out the lineup, we were a little concerned about getting shut down for noise complaints. I looked into local ordinances and determined that since the rules get stricter after sundown, we should put the first band on at 7 p.m. Don't be me. If you've got a band playing at your house and the sun's still up, you're either naive or a fascist. Make them go on at midnight. Lock them in your closet and only let them out to play their set 20 minutes before sunrise. Make them come back next week.
The thing is, if you're doing it right, you'll book bands full of nice people you actually want to talk to, not just stare at while they play five feet away from you. You're gonna want to give them some beers and maybe grill them something in the backyard before the show. Nobody really comes to a party before 6 p.m. anyway, so if we'd stuck to our original start time, the opening act would have played to about half the crowd they eventually had around 8 p.m. Besides, they really liked my beer brats. Speaking of which...
2. If you ask people to bring their own meat, they're definitely going to bring their own meat.
I have two tiny charcoal grills in my backyard, and figured I'd say something on the Facebook event page about the show being strictly "B.Y.O.M." I assumed a couple of people might bring hot dogs. Instead, we ended up with about seven pounds of chicken and sausage. I spent an inordinate amount of time around the grill that night, which is totally cool, since feeding people is one of life's purest pleasures.
Problem was, I didn't really prep to cook that much -- I hadn't bought a lot of plates, and didn't even remember to check my fridge for ketchup or mustard. That's a jabroni move. Thankfully, some glorious soul hooked me up with condiments a few hours into the party, but before that, all I could offer people was salsa, wing sauce and bug spray.
3. Have some place to store unexpected booze.
As a corollary to lesson No. 2, I soon discovered that space in your fridge goes from 100 to 0 real quick at an event like this. People were obeying the fundamentals of party law to the letter and bringing their own beer, but I hadn't factored that in before filling the whole thing up myself. Of course, that just makes you want to drink it faster to make room, but for your health I'd recommend throwing some ice in a kiddie pool or something as a community chest.
4. When you're planning the event, test the house for sound.
We booked four local bands for the show, and I like them all a lot: Cheap Haircuts, Sundae Crush, Dripping Wet and No Touching. While I wouldn't call them quiet acts, they're not exactly approaching thrash metal levels of loud. Despite this fact, I couldn't stop worrying about getting noise complaints and risking a visit from Denton's finest at our inaugural event. I should have realized that my house was built in 1965; the walls are about a foot thick, and I doubt there's a scrap of particle board or a hollow-core door in the whole place.
I spent an inordinate amount of time nailing blankets up over the windows and sealing cracks around the door with duct tape when I could have been doing literally anything else, such as building a tire swing. Once we actually had bands in the room doing a sound check and took decibel readings from the front yard, it turns out they could go even louder than we thought and never break the city noise code. If you listened from across the street, you'd probably think we were having a quiet night with our record collection. Next time, we're gonna push our luck and book a horrorcore rapper.
5. Try to remember to take some pictures.
Seriously, I was so busy barbecuing chicken and listening to the bands that I only took like five pictures. Thankfully, some of the acts brought photographers, but as a general rule you shouldn't forget to do some of this yourself if you have a camera. Half the fun of throwing an awesome party like this is bragging about it later, and how can you do that if no one believes you actually pulled it off? Plus, if you throw some shots on Facebook, more people will show up next time you get the opportunity (and beer money) to do the whole silly thing all over again.
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