21 March, 2011  |   Comment

Party People: Rick Webb

Rick Webb is an internet legend. (Trust me, I know my legends. He’s up there.)

He’s co-founder of the barbarian group, the kind of interactive agency that makes magic out of the internet. (Literally! With cloaks and wands and code and stuff!)

I attended their party at SXSW last week, only to find myself behind Michael Cera and his backpack when ordering a drink. I say this  to demonstrate the kind of party Rick can throw.


What’s your favorite song to turn up loud and dance to at the end of the night?

New Order. Once things get going, you can play five New Order songs in a row, and the only people who notice will be PSYCHED. Mix it up through the years. Play Temptatio, then maybe Round and Round or Fine Time, then Blue Monday then Bizarre Love Triangle. It’s kind of crazy. Plus, everyone likes dancing to New Order whether they know it or not.

When I’m ready to kick everyone out, I usually play Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle’s “One from the Heart.” It sorta makes everyone feel depressed, but happy, and has an undeniable “closing time, lets sweep the floors” feeling.

Tell me about the most memorable party you’ve thrown.

I’ve thrown some great parties in clubs and bars – my company’s annual anniversary party is something like 500 people now, and my thirtieth birthday filled a club in Boston. But those are a different beast.

But home, my most remarkable party was probably back in 1999 or so. My house was just down the street from a popular night club in Boston, called The Paradise. We had a lot of afterparties there, and over time, like any regular party does, it started drawing more and more people you weren’t quite sure if you knew or not.

At the peak, the parties had a bevvy of shirtless men dancing on tabletops, random makeout sessions everywhere, and Star Wars showing on perhaps three different screens. Oh, man, thinking of it now, that sounds awful. The party was most memorable, however, because it actually spawned a pop song, by the band Freezepop, who sung about the party in detail, including the traumatic theft of a jar of Bedhead from the bathroom.

I take great pride in having a party immortalized in song:

One night he went out dancing
much too soon the night was done
so he asked some people over
they could keep on having fun
he said it’s cool, invite some friends
a lot of people soon stopped by
the house was filled with strangers
he let everyone inside
then things got a little crazy
a few more hours quickly passed
slowly people started leaving
he was up until the last
standing in his living room
he surveyed all the mess
he gave up and went to bed
declared his party a success
getting ready the next morning
went to put some product in his hair
reached over to the bathroom shelf
but the bedhead wasn’t there
he looked under the sink
blinked his eyes in disbelief
the bedhead was really gone
someone at the party was a thief
bedhead is expensive
that was a shitty thing to do
don’t drink someone’s elses beer
and then swipe their belongings too
i wrote a song about stealing bikes
you know it’s not entirely true
theft’s a lot less awesome
when it’s happening to you

Do you have a signature drink or party snack? Mind sharing the ingredients?

It’s evolved through the years. There was a period we made many custom drinks. There was “Blood,” which was Jagermeister and Coke. Then there was the “Manergizer”, which I believe was Jagermeister and Red Bull. The “merlotini” was merlot and vodka, and the “grape diet coke” which was white zinfandel and diet coke. We were also fond of “old smuge,” which was Smuggler’s Notch budget whiskey. It was usually consumed with diet coke.

Then for years it was Champagne. We threw a champagne tasting party that went through about 50 champagnes and came out with Nicolas Feuillatte as the affordable winner and Bollinger as the premium champagne winner. That stuck around for years.

These days, I prefer Fernet (a throwover from my SF days), or dry red wine.

Give me one word to sum up your hosting style.

I believe a great party is all in setup. Once the party’s going, you’re much more limited in changing things if they go wrong. A few of the things I’ve learned are vital:

– buy twice as much booze as you think you need. Buy some mixers, but don’t sweat it. If guests text and ask if they need anything, tell them to bring more mixers.

– buy twice as many plastic cups as you think you need. They always run out.

– Don’t worry too much about food – unless you want your guests to stay at your house till sunrise. Food is actually the mechanism for ending a party. The more food, the longer they stay. If you’re having a great time and want people to stay, order some pizza’s later. Consider it your “get out of jail free” card.”

– Introduce each person as they walk in the door to as many people as practically possible. Ask them the most pressing thing you’re curious about right away, because you might not get a chance to talk to them again until you’re all sloshed.

– consider flow – if your kitchen is not conducive to circular flow, put the booze in the living room.

– give up on no shoes, if you’re house is no shoes, and just plan on or arrange for mopping the next morning.

– hide the volume knob. Only move into dance mood if people are already sort of swaying. You can’t force a dance party on people.

– be considerate of your neighbors – invite them, warn them, or live where there aren’t any.

What’s your least favorite part of hosting? How do you deal?

My two least favorite parties actually have the same solution. I hate cleaning up after, and I hate the first 40 minutes when you’re alone or worried that no one will come. Both are mitigated by having a party at the same time you have a house guest, which also makes for a handy excuse to have a party.

What was your biggest party mistake? What did you learn from it?

Virtually everything bad that’s ever happened at a party has stemmed from inviting people while drunk at a bar, or making the invitation public. If a party guest doesn’t have a friend responsible for them, they’re a liability. You can tell your friends to bring friends, because then the friend will be responsible for them. But if you drunkenly invite ten people from a bar, no one wins.

What’s the most important party ingredient?

The people! always invite new people to keep everyone curious.

What’s the last thing you celebrated? How?

At my house, my last party was a going away party for a friend. This is actually great, because you a) only have to invite a subset of your friends (useful if you have more friends than house space) and b) you meet all the other friends of your friend.

Everyone wins!

Thanks Rick, you’re amazing.

Hooray for replies!