In our humble opinion, a good house party can change the world. Whether that’s DJ Kool Herc soundtracking a gathering of friends at an apartment bash in New York City’s The Bronx in 1973 and birthing the global phenomenon of hip hop, or DJ Deeon taking over houses and gymnasiums in Chicago’s South Side in the ‘80s and pioneering the ghetto house genre when clubs were slow to catch onto his genius, or the blues parties of the UK’s Windrush generation which were the foundational to many strands of dance music and the birth of rave culture — or any of the friendships, community bonds and grand plans that have been made in the haze of a living room at whenever o’clock that have gone on to make a massive impact in many lives.
A house is comfortable and a blank canvas culturally, making it the perfect starting point for trying something new. That’s why when we joined forces with Monkey Shoulder to rewrite nightlife for the better, we knew that house parties should be at the centre of the Shoulder To Shoulder campaign. Calling for input from the nightlife community through a series of polls, we gathered the intel necessary to throw next-level house parties in Leeds and London with the goal of making a difference beyond the garden gate. During this challenging period for nightlife, support was garnered for important nightlife institutions and a spotlight was shone on new creatives and artists in a difficult time for the creative industry. A blueprint was created on how to throw the ultimate good vibes house party from the music to the drinks to the layout of the rooms.
To further spread the gospel of house parties and make a positive change, we spoke to our four headline artists from each party – Jayda G, Ruby Savage, Norman Jay MBE and Melvo Baptiste – to get their top house party tips and stories.
They all agree that you have to get the music right. “I remember we went to this house party one time and it was such bad music, and I immediately got upset,” warns Jayda G. She advises going for “Sing-a-long tunes, tunes that are going to bring people together. A little vibey, a little sexy.” Norman Jay MBE agrees. “Always make friends with the dancefloor with the first track,” he advises. “Please everyone in the room with tracks that they know, it’s not a school lesson — and if you’re that way inclined, include one or two requests, especially from the host or the host’s family. Keep it light, smiley and fun.”
Ruby Savage recommends Tweet’s ‘Boogie 2Nite’ or Womack & Womack’s ‘Teardrops’ as tracks that are guaranteed to get people going, while Norman Jay MBE picks Chic’s ‘Good Times’ and Melvo Baptiste tips Gwen McRae’s ‘All This Love That I’m Giving’.
The drinks also have to be top notch (and there’s all sorts of tasty inspiration on that front on Monkey Shoulder’s website). Ruby Savage thinks you can’t go wrong with a good punch, pairing your alcohol of choice with “your favourite tropical fruit juices, some bitters, grate some cardamom and cinnamon, squeeze of lime, grenadine and soda water”. That last ingredient is critical. “You’ve got to get the fizz in!” she exclaims.
The guestlist is also key. “The most important thing is the people!” says Melvo Baptiste. “You can have the best tunes on, the best drinks, the best setting, the best garden — but if your friends are dry and they don’t know how to get down, it’ll be pretty bad to be honest. So make sure your friends are fun.”
The various rooms of a house party offer interesting possibilities. At our London event with Monkey Shoulder, Norman Jay MBE and Melvo Baptiste whipped up a frenzy in the garden, while in Leeds Jayda G and Ruby Savage nearly tore the roof off with their kitchen set. Other rooms can be sites of more music, chilling or chatting, all playing their own crucial role in the overall mood of the event. “I think my favourite thing is the flow of a house party. You go to different rooms and it’s a whole different vibe. It’s like, better than a club,” says Jayda G.
House parties are certainly an important place for a new generation of DJs to cut their teeth and work their way towards playing bigger rooms and events. “I think it’s the best place to learn your chops,” says Ruby Savage. “If you can play well in front of your friends and family, you’re gonna be alright as a DJ out in the world. My scariest gigs are when all my mates or my family come.”
“You have to start at the beginning, if you get the keys to a Ferrari it doesn’t mean you’re going to know how to drive it,” adds Norman Jay MBE. “We learned our craft at home, away from gatekeepers telling you what to play, telling you how to play.” Melvo Baptiste agrees that house parties are where new tastes are formed and musical evolutions can occur, allowing the new generation of DJs to build their experience towards playing in clubs. “The next generation aren’t in clubs yet, they are on SoundCloud, they are making edits — mixing modern grime records with amapiano. They are testing out their taste and skills at house parties, not the club,” he says. “If we look at lockdown, a lot of the DJs who had started they played at home and now they are headlining clubs, it was proof that it works.”
“That’s how I learned,” says Jayda G. “The Western part of Canada is very much bass music, dubstep. House music was only at house parties and not in clubs at all. I was part of this little crew in Vancouver. I think it was every Thursday, everyone just knew to come, and people were allowed to practise, everyone got a half hour slot. That’s the community part, you’re supporting each other.”
“I think that’s how communities start, is in a house, coming together in a smaller space where it’s safe,” adds Jayda G. “It’s safe, it’s somebody’s home, there’s a level of respect that goes on which creates a certain vibe,” says Ruby Savage.
Community bonds are essential to the success of any scene, and they’re made strong at house gatherings. “It’s already a proven science,” says Norman Jay MBE, who believes connections can be formed that then uplift the music industry — the success of his Good Times soundsystem being a prime example. “That’s why people have wedding receptions or christenings, it starts there — then you go to find little underground places where they only play the music you like, 50 people who love what you love. It’s all connected.”
By giving the nightlife community a physical space to come together and celebrate dance music culture, there’s a whole new world of potential for positive changes to occur — which was a driving force at the core of our Shoulder To Shoulder campaign with Monkey Shoulder, the 100% malt whisky made for mixing.
“If you look back at so many music genres or local styles, they all start in a space. Small, intimate — whatever’s just available to express and be free,” reflects Ruby Savage. “That’s the other thing, there’s no strings attached. You can just be yourself and that’s when the most beautiful creation happens, right?”
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Written by: Tim Hopkins