You are exactly the kind of person who would be at a place like this, at this time of the morning. You are here, and you've been here a thousand times before, though you're not entirely sure where "here" is.
You're at a party, you know that much. The usual debris is all here, too: torn envelopes and a swamp of dead Glen's, dip dyes and deep Vs, 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 centre. 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.
Quickly, you realise that you've seen all these things before, that it could be any party in any part of the country, there being little difference now between that Year 9 stoner cotch that went WhatsApp viral and Johann Hari'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 round 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. Why are you still here? Fuck knows we've been trying to kick you out long enough.
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 1AM, "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 pissed gang who are screaming the Yaya-Kolo song and looking to turn someone's living room into their own weird blue-bag caliphate. Although, on the other hand, fuck it; it's a house party. There's no house party Pubwatch, is there? Just the council and the police.
For girls, it's a lot simpler. Never has there been a house party at which girls were not welcome, so basically, ladies, just turn up whenever, wherever and however you please. Turn up on fire if you want; you'll still get in ahead of anyone in a football kit.
GET PISSED, NOT DRUNK
Whatever your gender, it's best to turn up pissed. Not drunk: pissed. Drunk is morose; drunk is sat grimacing alone in the corner; drunk is daring the neighbour to go on, call the fucking police, so drunk can laugh its head off as it's led away into the dancing blue lights. Pissed is being alert enough to charm and chirpse; pissed gets you remembered in a good way. Arrive pissed at midnight. Arrive pissed in a gang. Barge in the door and loudly continue the pissed-up chat you were having on the walk down in a slang known only to you and your mates, so that everyone else knows you're running the tightest crew in all the home counties: tonight you're Good Will Huntingdon, you're Angus, Thongs and Perfect Sonning. Make no effort to find the hosts. Secure a location. Light a fag without asking. Hijack the quietest conversation and make it the loudest. Be pissed, but never bring your own bottle of spirits – some thieving drunk will throw it at next door's dog and you'll be left wishing you'd just stuffed that tenner straight down their throat at the outset.
BEING THE DJ
Hold the phones, guys: DJ Jazzy Jeff is here to play a selection of fine 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 11.30PM.
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 on the blink. A good house party is about harmony and coming together; your hilariously knowing blend of archly bait 90s R&B, gabba and "Rock DJ" is just going to send everyone outside to chain smoke rollies and talk about what a cunt you are.
Also, there may come a point where people start singing along to music you hate from their past – your Oasis, your Blur and so on. This will rile you, but unfortunately you just have to let it go. If you're the only one pouting in a room full of sweaty pissheads cry-singing "Champagne Supernova", I'm afraid it's you who looks the dick, as unfair as that may seem.
BEING THE BAND
This guide could have been written 20 years ago, it could be written 20 years in the future, and the biggest whipping boys – and it is always boys – would still be those who spend the night wandering the premises, pawing at any instrument they can find like some kind of fuckwit mariachi man. No acoustic guitars, no queue of MCs (unless your party happens to be on the roof of a tower block overlooking Poplar in 2003) and certainly no live drums. You're in Wigan, 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 dram of this the day I retire," say dads.) Sometimes it's more exotic, something green and lurid-looking that a mate of theirs brought back from a holiday. ("He had a heart attack pretty much immediately after – bad golf swing, down in one – so that dusty bottle reminds me of Don.") 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 Smirnoff or some long turned-to-vinegar port to find it, but it will be there – and is best enjoyed shared among a party full of people who are way too drunk to fully savour the expensive flavour 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 South London street art scene with some French girls. French girls love that shit. They ask where your friends are; you remember one of them went to meet someone called TJ, who you know is a drug dealer, but you can't remember what drug it is he sells. Judging by 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 there isn't any cocaine.
Finally, you find your friends, as predicted, 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, mate, 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.
The party drug hierarchy goes like this: MD; coke; pills; tabs; ket; anything that autofills "out of body experience" when typed into Google; these. If you're the kind of person who takes smack to a house party, good for you, I'm sure you'll make a friend for life out of that twinky fresher who'll mistake your horse for gak and Pulp Fiction himself into a five-day stint in intensive care.
At some point, the party shifts up a notch. It's starting to make sense now. You speak to some bloke for a bit, a nice, soft-faced man in a Bill Cosby jumper clutching a can of Foster's to his chest and belting out the high bits in "Got to Be Real". His lonely falsetto is a sign that it's getting better, that everyone's easing up a bit now the drugs have begun to ooze into throats like icicles of frozen Anadin dripping into a peat bog.
You begin to 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. That old chestnut.
It all starts to make sense, and while it's predictable, there's enough weirdness, enough sexiness, enough abandon to make it all seem worthwhile. The SoundCloud DJs have been usurped by a crew of very fucked, very good looking people with holes in their T-shirts, and naturally they've been given carte blanche to play what they want. Maybe they're models, maybe they're Fine Art students. Who cares? One of them just put "Pulse X" on and now it's time for the iced gem haircuts to do one.
In the queue for the toilet, your eyes go soft focus and you drift off into a reverie. You're somewhere else now, somewhere distant, and the crunch of an Autumn leaf pierces the air like a spoon clanging inside an empty bowl. The love you cherished for what now seems like such a short while is ebbing away from the two of you in tears. Wires, tubes, machines – yes, she's become the sad, starring marionette in a Punch and Judy show of life support. Her grey eyes beckon you closer. With all the blood left in her body she grabs your arm, gently pulling your ear towards her lips, even the breath on her tongue beginning to turn cold. She speaks weakly, but with firm judgement: "Remember that time we went to Tam's party and she put out a bowl of onions and loads of vegetable crisps? At a party. Fucking parsnip crisps." The hiss of a flatline bounces off the walls. The soundproof door closes. But it's a nightmare you'll never live. If you remember anything about party food, the party wasn't worth remembering at all.
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 mates they came with, nursing stubbies and muttering, "This house party is shit." Yeah, it's definitely the house party that's shit mate, not the six Paul Weller haircuts sat 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 Sikh guy in the V-files trousers whose sofa you stayed on that time. Don't persecute the two girls with the cartoon unicorn hair who seem determined to break any kind of flow the DJ is in by endlessly demanding "Single Ladies", or "something by Bey or Ri Ri", or some other hen party bullshit. Use the garden smoking area as an amphitheatre for your libido at its most charming. Back scratch with the gurn crew who've turned the stairs into their own shit Sacre Coeur. Talk to the host, a bit, so they invite you to the next party. Chase onto the spirited longtails of the straight-through crew. If anyone gets anything weird out of a holdall – absinthe, horse tranquilisers, 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 shit 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 zoots, squinting into the middle distance and slowly wigging out to "my boy Hugo's new mix". You hate these people. 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 provinces to the city, and yet they've always been there. 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.
You leave them for now, but when it gets to that point in the lifespan of the party when people are more concerned about the curtains than the music, you will be back, looking to give your jaw a well-earned rest with some of their weed. And you will endure their TED Talk on the pros and cons of this particular strain of "lemon kush" because McDonald's breakfasts don't taste nearly as good with a side order of tension headache nosebleed.
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 with bongos.
PISSING vs. SHAGGING: 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 shag in the bathroom, where is everyone 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 Skips. When people think of your genitals, do you want them to think also of prawns?
If you break something, don't panic, think: How expensive and irreplaceable is the thing? Did you tread on a PlayStation, or did you spill a Desperados over the Ark of the Covenant? Because PlayStations are easy to replace – they are covered on 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 grovelling one. So you broke a plate: so what. You did a few lines off the only remaining photo of their nan: big deal. You smashed up a grandfather clock that was awarded to the same nan for her services in a WWII munitions factory. Mmm, maybe a bigger deal, but every stopped clock is right twice a day. Just make sure you wind the hands on a bit, you don't want the parents to twig it got busted at 5.37AM by a gatecrasher surfing an ironing board down the stairs after boshing the last line of Benzo Fury.
If you do have to steal something, don't go too far. Leave the MacBooks and the phones; you're a junior sales manager, not DB Cooper. Unless you need to raise a Megabus fare, you're not stealing to sell things on to the market traders at dawn; you're stealing for the thrill. Go for trinkets, statuettes, candles, lipstick, fairy lights if you can get away with it. But don't just get pissed and steal from your mates' houses, you prick. Only steal from distant, maligned strangers: that's the rules.
What are you, a maid? If you do the smallest amount of tidying up – some fag ash coaxed into a Muller Corner pot, an empty Coke bottle Zeppelined vaguely towards the bin – you are subconsciously signalling to the rest of the group, "The party is over. One of us is secretly a mum." 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 to 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 Palace hoodie. No worries, though: only estate agents and footballers go out to get laid, and tonight you're a fucking spaceman.
Across the room some wasteman is having a "How high can you hold your chin up?" competition with some other wasteman in a different type of hat. It's been going on for a while but has only just become audible. The French girls look a bit scared.
Who cares? Not you, you're about to get laid, and quickly the man in the Bill Cosby jumper thrusts himself between them as the situation is diffused into embarrassing nothingness. You give him a thumbs up and a look that says, "Chapeau, Cosby, whoever you are."
If someone pushes you, it's only natural that you will want to kick them in the face. But there's always that part of you that wonders if this might be your best chance of getting laid all year, 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 sex that there aren't more fights at house parties.
DEALING WITH THE ROZZERS
Statistically, at least one of your neighbours is a wanker, and as such they have been twitching their curtains at you and dialling two 9s since your first guest showed up with a four-pack and a little cigarette made of weed at 8PM. At some point, the police are going to tire of brutalising innocents and will turn up, dicks swinging, to smash the party to death with batons. Such is life.
The key here – obviously – is to be as chill as possible. 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 nodding to the door till the police go away. Give it 45 minutes, then hammer the music back up into the red zone again – just enough time to lull the angry dad who grassed you up into a false sense of brink-of-sleep security before pummelling some more Haxan Cloak through his bedroom wall. Take that, you fucking narc.
But remember the 45 minutes are important. If you don't wait that long, the police turn up again, everyone freaks out and jumps over fences into dogshit and splinters off to have their own little 90-minute Superbad-esque experience while you're sat there explaining to the police why a girl got so drunk she managed to vomit her own teeth out.
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 wank over Take Me Out: The Gossip.
1AM: You can leave now and no one's going to notice, not even your mates, and you're going to be on a nightbus and someone's going to laugh at your haircut and you're going to sit in Morley's with four wings and chips and you're going to throw them in the fucking bin because what's the point of anything anyway?
2AM: You can leave now and the girl/boy you've fancied for ages is going to be walking round the party you just left, asking your mates if they've seen you, and then get off with 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 round now. Sunday Brunch is only a few lines 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 quid and gained absolutely zero new experiences from it, but like life, it was beautiful while it lasted. You realise 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, boasting about how, "We never really go out any more darling, do we?" Even the bumfluff boys aren't that bad.
So yeah, same time, same place next month. Wherever that may be.