Burning Down the House

Summer party 101.***image1***

You know those epic parties, the parties that, long after a friendship with the host has turned from best friends forever into former BFF, still linger lovingly in your memory. You never remember all of the details of a great party, just that you talked and flirted and danced until dawn-and never tottered over the line where drunk isn't fun anymore. This summer you can throw a seamless bash that friends will remember until 2099. With a little effort and a few good ideas, you'll be exalted to the status of a rock star.


The advent of iPods and playlists makes it easier than ever to create a soundtrack for your party, but a playlist can never gauge the energy of a party the way a real human can. Dancing to beats mixed on the spot pretty much guarantees an ass-shaking good time. Luckily, in Santa Fe it's pretty hard to turn a corner without running into another DJ. Finding the perfect one for a private shindig isn't quite so easy, though. Many seasoned DJs have given up the house party gig after one too many requests for "Pump Up the Jam" during a killer trance set.

So how do you find the perfect DJ? One who will set the mood and keep partygoers on their feet for hours on end? First, it's important to know what kind of music you want. Are you thinking more Enya or Eminem? If you're hosting a swingin' square dance, then a hip-hop DJ probably isn't going to work. He won't have the right set of tunes, nor will his enthusiasm be high. Fortunately, the DJ community here is small and if you ask one, she just might be able to recommend another to suit your taste.

"It's important to seek out DJs who play the kind of music you want to hear," DJ Miss Ginger says. "Just because a DJ is good at one genre doesn't mean they're good at all of them, although most of us can run with several different kinds of music." Her tastes, for example, run from hip-hop to funk and electronica.

DJ St. John tells SFR that party planners must "have a specific sound in mind and verbalize that ahead of time." Do you want it to sound like summer in Ibiza or Studio 54 circa 1978? If you're looking for a very specific set of songs, DJ St. John says you need to make arrangements in advance so that the DJ has time to find your tunes; if you have the music on CD, you can also offer to provide it.

If you're out at a club and you love the set the DJ is spinning, wait for a break and ask if she'd be willing to play your party. If not, ask for another recommendation. Most DJs don't advertise, but get gigs through word-of-mouth. How does DJ Miss Ginger get work? "Someone sees me playing at a bar and one of their friends knows one of my friends… ."

When budgeting for a DJ, remember that you're not just paying for music; you're renting a sound system, which most DJs can bring if needed. They're also performing, not unlike a band would, so pay them well (the going rate is anywhere from $300 to $700 for a five-hour set) and check on them periodically. The party will be a lot more fun if the DJ is happy and having a blast with you and your friends.


Mass e-mail invites are de rigueur, and while e-mail may be the easiest way to get the news out, it's not necessarily the most creative-or welcoming. How can anyone pass up a handmade invitation? As soon as the DJ is booked, head over to Paper Unlimited (328 S. Guadalupe St., #F, 982-2181) or Artisan (2601 Cerrillos Road, 954-4179) and pick up a sheaf of unique paper and other supplies. Then let out your inner artist: Draw, paint, cut and paste your heart out. So what if you've scribbled unicorns and lightning bolts all over the page?


Providing the brew for a party does two things: One, it keeps most people off the hard liquor and two, it makes you seem like the nicest friend ever. Buying a keg is an investment and people know that, so when there's a shiny one there, cold, tapped and covered in cups, it's like a little sign that says, "I love you guys, have fun." Those red plastic cups also make cleanup a hell of a lot easier than lugging 5 kagillion beer bottles out to the curb for recycling on Monday morning.

Kegs aren't even all that expensive if you can get your friends to chip in. The Santa Fe Brewing Company (35 Fire Place, 424-3333) offers kegs of its regular beers-Pale Ale, Nut Brown Ale and Wheat Beer-for $110 (plus a $60 deposit) while seasonal beers run $125. The Blue Corn Café (4056 Cerrillos Road, 438-1800) offers full kegs for $135, including tax and asks for a deposit of $150 for the shell and tap. Both breweries ask that you call at least a few days ahead, though they can take last-minute requests for some beers.

If you really love your friends, plan to set aside the guest bedroom or a couple of couches for those who overindulge. Help arrange for taxis, designated drivers and carpooling, and encourage friends who live nearby to walk or ride bicycles.


Now that you've paid for music and beer, there's not much left in the budget for grub-but you can't fill people full of beer and make them dance all night on an empty stomach. So, when people ask if there's anything they can bring, don't be shy. "Bring food!" You can even organize a BYO shish kabob party. Just fire up the grill, buy a bunch of bamboo skewers and invite people to bring their own meats and veggies. If you need a bigger or better grill than your tiny hibachi, Santa Fe Party Rentals (1006 W. Cordova Road, 986-1200) rents them for as little as $42.