You are exactly the kind of person who would be at a place like this, at this time of the morning. You are here, you've been here a thousand times before, and you'll be here until the sun breaks.
The usual debris is all here, too: torn envelopes and a swamp of bottle tops, plastic bags, ashtrays, dip dyes, dirty shoes, and wandering hands all caught in the piss-weak glow of one eco-friendly lightbulb. Everyone's doing internet drugs and listening to wedding disco, and five people with heartbreak in their eyes have turned the small bedroom into some kind of cocaine call center. Where are you? Where are your friends? Someone said this was the kitchen but it looks more like New Year's Eve in a Brazilian super-prison.
You could be at any party in any part of the country. You could be any age. Ultimately, there is very little difference between a ninth grade smoke out and Hudson Mohawke's housewarming. Nothing ever seems to change. All these parties are the same. But hidden somewhere within this kingdom of grinding teeth are the rites that will define your young life.
Which is why we thought we'd finally get around to piecing together The VICE Guide to House Parties: a kind of Anarchist's Cookbook to deploy against people who still think it's acceptable to pick up that acoustic guitar.
MAKING AN ENTRANCE
If you're male, you've probably already mastered the art of making everyone at a party hate you before you've even arrived. But if you're new to this game, just remember two things: after 2:00 AM, "it's winding down now tbh" really does mean "fuck off," and people on comedowns don't generally like being disturbed at dawn by a massive gang of hammered people screaming the While Mom Isn't At Home song, even if they did bring an extra Rolling Rock. Although, on the other hand, fuck it and fuck them; it's a house party. If they don't like you, they can always call the cops.
For girls, it's a lot simpler. Never has there been a house party at which girls were not welcome. So basically, ladies, just show up whenever, wherever, and however you please. Show up on fire if you want; you'll still get in ahead of anyone in a sports jersey.
GET DRUNK, NOT HAMMERED
Whatever your gender, it's best to show up at least a little drunk. Not hammered: drunk. Hammered is morose; hammered is sat grimacing alone in the corner; hammered is daring the neighbor to go on, call the fucking police, so hammered can laugh its head off as it's led away into the dancing blue lights. Drunk, for the purpose of this article, is defined as the healthy buzz normally experienced around the sixth beer. Drunk is being alert enough to charm and chat; drunk gets you remembered in a good way, drunk helps you dance but not fall over. Arrive drunk at midnight. Arrive drunk in a gang. Barge in the door with plastic bags full of booze. Make no effort to find the hosts. Secure a location. Light a cigarette without asking. Hijack the quietest conversation and make it the loudest. Find the person with the gear and charm it out of them. If you show up the right amount of drunk, you'll leave with whomever you want.
BEING THE DJ
Hold the phones, guys: DJ Jazzy Jeff is here to play a selection of tight tunes for us all to boogie to! Oh, wait, no, it's not Jazzy Jeff, it's you, and you're trying to "drop" Burial at 11:30 PM.
Basically just don't do it. You've had six drinks, you've only listened to the same ten songs since you left school, you can't actually DJ, and the host's Wi-Fi is feeling unwell. A good house party is about harmony and coming together; it's not about obscurity or pomposity.
At some point, when everyone's drunk, they'll probably start singing along to something from your collective past which you may totally fucking hate. It could be Weezer, it could be the Spice Girls—either way, they may look silly, but the bastards in the corner rolling their eyes look worse. You shouldn't be on the sidelines, you should be in the middle of the ruckus, spilling every drink within arm's reach.
BEING THE BAND
Fuck off with your music, mariachi man. Put away your acoustic guitar before I eat your acoustic guitar, stop rapping unless you're actually in A$AP Mob, and if there happens to be a hand drum nearby, don't fucking hit it. You're in college, not Stomp.
PISSING OFF YOUR PARENTS
Fact: Every single dad who'd get mad at the idea of a house party happening under his roof also has one semi-legendary bottle of booze he's been saving for years and not once taken a sip of. Tonight, it is important that you are the one who finds it.
It's normally whiskey. ("I'll crack out a glass of this the day I retire," say dads.) Sometimes it's more exotic, something green and lurid-looking that a friend of theirs brought back from a vacation. ("He had a heart attack pretty much immediately after—bad golf swing, down in one—so that dusty bottle reminds me of Barry.") Dads attach unnecessary weight to middlingly expensive bottles of alcohol, and it's your job to puncture their laughable Don Draper daydreams by drinking them. It will be at the back of a cupboard or cabinet—you might have to reach past half-bottles of vodka or some long turned-to-vinegar port to find it, but it will be there—and is best enjoyed among a party full of people who are way too drunk to fully savor the expensive flavor notes, or even get any in their mouths. Nothing enhances the taste of a 20-year-old single malt like knowing someone will get written out of a will because of it.
You've moved on from the dad-booze and are now talking about the Bushwick street art wars with some French girls. French girls love that shit. Judging by the shapes their faces are making and the tense, terse atmosphere, this is a cocaine party, but that doesn't help really. Every party seems to be a cocaine party these days. Even if everyone keeps talking about how there isn't any cocaine.
Finally, you find your friends huddled together in the bogs, like hostages in an embassy siege. Still, you're glad; at a house party your drugs crew is like your own personal Stand By Me. You stick together, you know who has the bumps and the dabs, and if anyone tries to muscle in, you pass the buck to someone else—"It's not really mine to give away, pal, sorry." Except it is yours to give away, that's the beauty of it. Drugs aren't cool if you don't share them; no one likes the guy sitting in the corner on a beanbag keying a gram of showbiz to himself while staring intently at your sister. Pick your players, get sorted, and get out there to lord it over everyone else like you're the kings and queens of turbo-brain-smash land.
Oh, and if you're the kind of person who takes smack to a house party, fuck off.
Remember why you came here in the first place: the tribal rites of a Saturday night and all that, the pageantry of it, the stupidity, the chance of meeting your next ex, the feeling of total nothing and utter everything all at once as the blinkers of the working week are torn away. A bit of fucking madness. You want to dance with some good looking art students, or models, or whomever, and you want to fall over a sofa while "CoCo" makes the floor shudder.
You're not there to have a fight with your friend, or talk about gender politics, or cry in a toilet. You're there to have fun before you have kids.
If you remember anything about party food, the party wasn't worth remembering at all. And if you put vegetable chips out, you're your own grandma and you deserve to have your place trashed.
WHO TO HANG OUT WITH
There are two major fuck-ups people at house parties make: they either hang out with the same person all night, or they stay in a huddle of the exact friends they came with, nursing beers and muttering, "This party sucks." Yeah, it's definitely the party that sucks, guy, not the six haircuts sitting in the corner checking Twitter and worrying about the last bus home.
Be the change you want to see in the house party. Strike up a conversation with the chubby guy in the V-files pants whose sofa you stayed on that one time. Don't persecute the two girls with the cartoon unicorn hair, give them a beer. Use the garden smoking area as an amphitheatre for your libido at its most charming. Back scratch with the gurn crew. Talk to the host a bit so they invite you to the next party. If anyone finds anything weird in a forgotten corner or room of the house—absinthe, horse tranquilizers, a samurai sword—you need to be hanging out with that person. If you leave a party having only talked to the same people you talk to every other day of your shitty life, then you have fundamentally failed.
WHO TO AVOID
You aren't in the house's designated Room 1 any longer—you're upstairs, in the bedroom-cum-chillout-zone, with a bunch of sad bastards with wispy beards rolling their tits off, squinting into the middle distance and slowly wigging out to "my boy Hugo's new mix." These people suck. They've followed you all your life, and you can't work out how they keep finding you. You've moved from the suburbs to the city, and yet they're still here. They've always been here. Maybe they have your Facebook password and come to every party you get invited to.
When you were a teenager, they were listening to Dillinja, then it was Digital Mystikz, now it's probably J Dilla or deep house or something else that people used to like three years ago. They're the bumfluff Time Lords, forever stinking up house parties and rubbing their hands together when they speak, forever telling people to come to their terrible, terrible night at some jazz club next week.
WHO ELSE TO AVOID
Foreign students who get black-out drunk and start fighting people because they can't understand what anyone is saying; anyone who wants to talk to you about Berlin; anyone mixing cocktails.
PISSING VS. FUCKING: THE RULES OF THE ONLY BATHROOM
When I say the word "toilet" to you, what do you think of: yawning ceramic chasm for your turds to splash into, or a sort of cold stout stool for you to fuck on? At a house party, it is both. Therein lies a philosophical problem: if you are going to have sex in the bathroom, where is everyone else going to defecate, piss, or vomit? The answer is "in the garden." If you must use the bathroom for sex, do: just be forewarned that when you walk out panting and adjusting your underwear, a line of about eight people—each of them brim full of piss, wobbling like an overpoured pint—will be really, really mad at you. Plus the bathroom will smell like a very sweaty bag of pork rinds. When people think of your genitals, do you want them to think also of pork rinds?
If you break something, don't panic, think: How expensive and irreplaceable is the thing? Did you step on a PlayStation, or did you spill a Schaefer's over the Ark of the Covenant? Because PlayStations are easy to replace—they're covered in most domestic insurance plans, and at worst the party thrower will have to go without FIFA for a few weeks. Anything more significant might be cause for an apology. But not, like, a groveling one. So you broke a plate: so what. You did a few lines off the only remaining photo of their grandma: big deal. You smashed up a grandfather clock that was awarded to the same grandma for her services in a WWII munitions factory. Mmm, maybe a bigger deal, but even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day, amiright!?
What are you, a maid? If you do the smallest amount of tidying up—some cigarette ash coaxed into an empty can, a bottle Zeppelined vaguely toward the trash—you are subconsciously signaling to the rest of the group, "The party is over. One of us is secretly a mom." Get in, get fucked up, and leave that place looking like The City of God.
Someone's bringing in "Rip Groove" slowly, nicely. Looping that squiggly beat that makes it feel like your guts are falling away from your body. You drop into a kind of un-PC holiday camp limbo and the person you've been working your way across the room toward for the last hour starts to laugh at how funny and weird you are. You stand as the drop comes in, then you move closer. Before you know it both sets of hands are rubbing and sliding across nylon, denim, and skin, like you've just purchased each other for a considerable sum and are looking for dents in the paintwork. Still no lipsing. It keeps going like this, on and on till you're both wondering if the other is secretly married.
And then they fuck off and start talking to someone whose gender you can't quite make out behind a Mishka hoodie. No worries, though: only cheesy fuckers go out to get laid, and tonight you're a fucking spaceman.
If we were to map statistics about fights at house parties on a bell curve, the mean would occur around the 11th grade. Throwing a punch is required entry to most high school parties. But as people get older most of the guys who used to start the brawls fade away, either from being shunned by everyone else or getting stabbed after clocking the guy nobody knows standing in the kitchen next to the steak knives.
But no matter your age, if someone pushes you it's only natural that you will want to kick them in the face. The difference is that now there's a part of you that wonders if this might be your best chance of getting wasted while smoking indoors tonight, and you aren't going to let a little thing like self-respect get in the way of that. It really is a testament to the power of addiction that there aren't more fights at house parties.
DEALING WITH THE COPS
Statistically, at least one of your neighbors is a dick, and as such they have been twitching their curtains at you since your first guest showed up with a four-pack and a little cigarette made of weed. If this is the case then at some point the police are going to turn up, dicks swinging, to smash the party. Such is life.
The key here, obviously, is to be as chill as possible. When they knock on the door, turn the music down, or at the very least the bass. Find the girl at the party who went to the most expensive private school and send her to talk to the police until they go away. Give it 45 minutes—just enough time for the angry dad who called the fuzz to fall into a false sense of brink-of-sleep security—then hammer the music back up into the red zone again, pummeling some more Haxan Cloak through his bedroom wall. Take that, you fucking narc.
WHEN TO LEAVE
MIDNIGHT: You can leave now under the guise of going on to another party even if you're just going home to eat Skittles and jerk off to infomercials.
1:00 AM: You can leave now and most people won't notice you're gone. The trains are running on the nights and weekends schedule and someone will laugh at your haircut while you stand on the platform but who cares, you've still got time to grab a slice before curling up in your bed alone yet again. What's the fucking point of anything anyway?
2:00 AM: You can leave now and the girl/boy you've had a crush on for ages is going to be walking round the party you just left, asking your friends if they've seen you, and then hook up with one of them because you left.
3AM: You can leave now and you just missed the party of the century. Oh man, it was wild. Sam broke a vase and Ant kissed a girl!
4AM: You might as well just stay now. Sunday brunch is only a few hours away.
And that's that. There you lie, alone but not alone, safe in the knowledge that you have both rinsed that terrible week out of your system and ruined the next one for yourself. Your heart sounds like a Fela Kuti track, all weird beats and screams. You spent about 80 bucks and gained absolutely zero new experiences from it, but like life, it was beautiful while it lasted. You realize that even if you don't remember it, it was about the moment, not the memory.
Because however much these experiences seem to blend into one, they are at least experiences. They remind you that you're still alive, and that you're not yet one of those people who perches smugly on sofas with their significant other, bragging about how, "We never really go out any more, darling. Do we?" Before going to bed with their t-shirts on and falling asleep on opposite sides of the mattress.
So yeah, same time, same place next week. Wherever that may be.