An unnaturally cool composition grad student who worked at my university radio station introduced me to listening parties. I believe I was technically his boss at the time, but I only remember being awed that I was invited to such a uniquely interesting gathering.
The idea is simple. Assemble the coolest people you know, and play music for one another. The host should, at minimum, have a good stereo and multiple playback options. You get to decide the rest.
Because I was sure this idea must have spread at least a bit, after I finished the rest of this piece, I did my due Google diligence and discovered this sort of annoying column in the San Francisco Chronicle archives about how listening parties are for dudes who love Tom Waits, Verve remix albums, and John Peel sessions. Maybe it’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but since I’m sort of tired of the old-dude-who-knows-best shtick, I’m feeling very Californian myself when I think, Whatever, man. Peace out.
Listening parties aren’t about exclusion, and the ones I’ve attended are gender-balanced and better for it. Here are some general guidelines.
1. Invite the most divergent but pleasant group of people you can corral.
Did you ever have an awkward birthday party as a kid where you invited kids from school and then two neighborhood girls and it was mad awkward because the friend groups clashed? Is that everyone’s life now, too?
Well, a listening party is your chance to make that a non-issue. People bond over random stuff, so if they can’t bond over being your friend, then help them bond over good tunes. My ideal (city-non-specific) invite list would include my trained-composer friend, her anticon-loving boyfriend, the friend I met on Turntable.fm* (no really, we did and she’s amazing), and one of my partner’s colleagues who is absolutely one of those old-dudes-who-know-best but also knows too much to be excluded.
I also strongly suggest that you invite people from other countries or at least other regions of your country if at all possible. They bring the best stuff you’ll never otherwise hear.
Alright party people, when’s your first listening shindig? What’s on the playlist? And invite me? Please and thank you!
*I am well aware that Turntable.fm IS one giant listening party, but I get off on the whole IRL/analog thing. As someone who has done a lot of both, trust me when I say it's even more fun to play DJ for pals in person.