Most people don’t need an excuse to party, but the end of the year provides the perfect one anyway. There’s a reason why December is known as the Friday of all months. As we switch off from work mode and slip into the festive season, there’s nothing like getting lit to get us in the holiday spirit. Especially because it’s also the best time to slap on some bling, sprinkle catchy words like “festive”, and turn an otherwise ordinary party into a marked-up holiday-themed one.
“Many holiday or New Year’s Eve parties are organised by fly-by-night operators, who don’t do this for a livelihood, but instead use this annual event to make a lot of money in one night,” Arjun Shah, a nightlife industry professional and founder of talent management agency Shark&Ink, told VICE. “If they start losing money, everything becomes chaotic.”
Shah recollected a New Year’s Eve party a few years ago that took place in the southern Indian city of Coimbatore, where his company hired a local operator to facilitate production at the venue. “My colleague was not happy with the production and the sound system of the venue. After he told this to the production crew, they got drunk and kidnapped him,” he said. He explained that the production crew had also not been paid their dues by the local facilitator, prompting them to kidnap his colleague and hold him for ransom. “That same night, someone backstage was trying to light fireworks, except they accidentally set the whole backstage on fire.”
According to the insider who has been a part of the industry for more than a decade, such cases of badly managed NYE events are not uncommon.
“There was another party where one of the organisers scammed his other partners and ran away with all the money,” he said. “So while my DJ was playing his set, the venue suddenly began to shut off the lights and sound.”
Given the grand scale of production required at many holiday parties, industry insiders recall cases where event organisers cracked under pressure, then ran away when it all came crumbling down. Other times, it’s the party revellers who lost their shit.
“There’s a reason we stopped doing ‘All You Can Drink’ packages around the holidays,” Vivek Dudani, the head of event programming at Social, a pan-India bar and restaurant chain, told VICE. “We would have all these underage kids coming in with fake IDs, getting shitfaced, and then falling down and puking everywhere. Our bartenders would have to double up as doctors and carry passed-out people outside.”
But the insider, who has been in the events space for more than a decade, added that these chaotic scenes of unconscious party-goers are nothing compared to the shit that happens behind the scenes.
“One year at Sunburn (an electronic dance music festival held in the Indian state of Goa every December), there was a huge afterparty in the artists’ arena,” said Dudani. “Local and international artists were partying together with free shots and champagne showers. Then, one really drunk artist accidentally walked into a green room built with laminated walls, and broke it. Everyone was too drunk by then, so they thought he did it on purpose and found it hilarious. Next thing you know, everyone is just going and breaking their green rooms on purpose. It was absolute carnage.”
Some people ring in the happy holidays by drowning themselves in alcohol. Others need a little more to kickstart the good times.
“At a New Year’s rave in Mumbai, where an international DJ was playing, there was a girl who did too much ketamine and fell down at the front of the dance floor,” a nightlife industry insider told VICE, requesting anonymity to protect them against legal action. “She was still conscious, but when we tried picking her up, she wouldn’t budge. She had to be given some cocaine just so she could get up.”
For some, drugs and alcohol are the key ingredients that power a New Year’s Eve party. For others, it’s the desire to flex their own power that makes a party worthwhile.
“We had organised a luxury champagne party in Goa, and this rich tourist kid, who really wanted to be part of the scene, ordered some 100 bottles of champagne,” Rishabh Joshi, a music producer and co-founder of luxury event company Caviar Noir, told VICE. “Looking at him, another rich tourist decided to order 200 bottles. He only had dollars on him that he threw into the air when we asked him to pay, after which he promptly passed out.”
Joshi explained that such instances often occur in India because people are more concerned with the social aspect of a New Year’s Eve party over the food, music or other such details. But, of course, different people have different priorities.
“One of my artists was playing at a New Year’s Eve festival in Gujarat, which is a dry state (where the government has banned alcohol sale and consumption),” said Shah. “Everyone was promised a free bottle of Coke and bhajiya (a deep-fried savoury snack) with their ticket. But at some point, the venue ran out of bhajiyas. Suddenly, it became a whole mob scene, with people fighting and hitting each other, even screaming ‘we want bhajiyas’ when the DJ came on stage. It was absolute madness.”