Hartford has never been accused of having much of a nightlife. What little bars there are cater to a crowd that enjoys the less cultured aspects of living and it's not unordinary for a night to end either in vomit or a stabbing from time to time. Locals hoping to have any dignity to their festivities must travel at least 30 miles to other cities like New Haven, which after a long night of drinking isn't the safest of circumstances.
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, a lowly little non-profit that has one mission statement and one goal in mind. They want to throw the best damn party in the state.
“The whole thing and the whole interest in this is a reaction to what I see as a tremendous amount of shitty stuff,” says Neil Brewer, one of the three founders of the Hartford Party Starters along with ben Grippo and Patrick Kennedy.
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 and since then, thanks to word of mouth and the three's considerable charm and ingenuity, they've manage to put on events that fill Hartford's parks.
“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. "It was scary (the first time), 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.”
Brewer even 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. Keep in mind this isn't a sponsored event. most everyone is a friend of a friend or acquaintance, but word spread fast that the best parties in the state were being thrown by these three.
Also keep in mind that The Hartford Party Starters Union aren'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.