Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Hartford Party Starters Union

The following article is from CCSU's The Recorder by Charles Desrochers / Asst. Lifestyles Editor.

Hartford has never been accused of having nightlife. What little bars there are cater to a crowd that enjoys Bud Light

But for the kind of people who think Nickelback suck, a good concert normally means driving to New Haven.

Out of this frustration and a love for their city, Neil Brewer, Ben Grippo and Patrick Kennedy, a.k.a. DJ Party Time, established The Hartford Party Starters Union.

The HPSU is a nonprofit group that organizes and promotes concerts for a niche that isn’t being catered to in the state’s capitol.

“The whole thing and the whole interest in this is a reaction to what I see as a tremendous amount of shitty stuff,” Brewer said.

This calling didn’t come overnight to the three friends. Brewer, a CCSU ’08 graduate who works for the Mayor of Hartford, explained that it all started a year ago when he had a surplus of “I Love Hartford” buttons that were normally given to legislators to sway municipal funding.

So with nearly 200 extra buttons, he started handing them out to people he would see when he, Kennedy and Grippo would go out.

“People were really hot for these pins,” said Brewer. “People were like, ‘Where are those pins? I need those pins. My mom wants those pins!’”

From this, they were surprised to find that a lot of people were interested in Hartford. So they made more T-shirts and buttons as well as a logo that resembles Hartford’s seal for their official group.

At a New Years Eve party the trio threw their first official party as the HPSU.

Since then the HPSU has been gaining popularity and snow balling.

“We specialize in Guerilla house parties,” said Grippo, whose tattoos wrap his arms and lay under his collar like a necklace made of red stars.

Grippo and Brewer spoke about one house party in particular when the second floor apartment was packed from wall to wall. They easily credited Internet promotion for the outstanding attendance and said that people arrived from as far away as Willimantic, Conn.

“It was scary, you could feel the floor moving and the people were shoulder to shoulder. I was staying out of the room because I thought we were going to end up downstairs. But it was a great time,” said Grippo.

The Hartford Party Starters Union isn’t in it for the money. After making an initial investment of about $200 each, the three haven’t seen one dime in return. Every dollar made by The HPSU goes towards planning and executing the next show.

Each one is meant to be bigger than the next. Always attempting to outdo themselves, they have moved from basements to apartments to actual venues. Their next planned show is April 25, featuring The Death Set and Ninjasonik at The Warehouse in Hartford.

“We had picked them because we saw them in New York and just thought that they were awesome. They just rocked the party,” Brewer said of The Death Set.

Some of the highly stylized flyers can be seen on campus cosrkboards. Emphasis was put on the design in response to the perceived lack of effort put into flyers that are routinely stuck under windshield wipers.

Grippo remembered when he was young that bands’ flyers were more of an art than the usual promotions seen on car windows today. He remembers lining his wall from floor to ceiling with all his favorite bands. That added focus on design, he said, is something that he thinks will attract more people to the HPSU flyers.

Despite wanting to plan bigger shows, they say they don’t choose bands on popularity. The bands are chosen on how much fun the audience is in for and the performance value.

They expressed they want the HPSU to be a name someone can trust when they can blindly go into the night knowing they will have a good time.

For the most part the trio is having fun in their new hobby. They could care less whether or not the “brand” of the Hartford Party Starter Union survives. What they want to last is the idea the HPSU represents – that Hartford can be fun again.

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