Inviting guests over for a dinner party means an inevitable scramble to get the place ready. For some of us, that dash to tighten up the place could mean finally tackling organizing the living room. Others may feel compelled to go out back and rake up those magnolia leaves. Whatever your pre-hosting routine, one thing is for certain: don’t forget the music. Guests might not notice how free your backyard is of magnolia leaves, but they will definitely notice a quiet house. Music is a detail that, at all costs, should not go overlooked. It sets the tone for the evening and acts as a natural social cohesion among guests.
And how you approach the music says a lot about your hosting skills. Set it and forget it is a standard technique these days. Playlists can come together pretty quickly in today’s digital age. On the other hand, if you want to keep things interesting, give vinyl and a turntable a shot. It’s a deliberate alternative, and a great way to change it up.
James Murphy, former front-man of LCD Soundsystem (RIP) – one of the greatest live bands of all time – gives some great pointers on how to approach spinning vinyl at parties. “The thing about relying on a turntable for music during a party is that you’re forced to make choices: It’s not just a playlist you threw together once and use for every occasion.” Murphy continues, “With a record, music becomes an active choice, all night long. It never loops, you never accidentally repeat a song, and you can’t skip ahead — and believe me, the ‘questionable’ songs do come around.”
For nearly every party at Ledbury, including our In-Store Sample Sale, we’ve relied on our good friend Marty Key, co-owner of Steady Sounds, to supply the music. Steady Sounds is a great record store here in Richmond, and naturally Marty knows a thing or two about vinyl. Turning to the turntable is a great way to give guests something new. Familiar tunes are great but so is introducing them to new ones. For Marty, he brings a little bit of everything but tends to sway towards the funkier, groovier side of thing. To keep it interesting, and he always does, he mixes in a little jazz and and some Brazilian rhythms when he can.
When Marty plays records, he usually chooses 45’s. “I’m a 45 guy, there’s just so much more music available on 45’s and they’re fun to collect, not to mention lighter. LPs are great and I use them as well, but it’s mostly 45’s for me. It also keeps you on your toes considering most songs are around 3 minutes long.”
A decision to play vinyl is, of course, a lot more work. But it shows that you are a thoughtful host with great taste and an eye for details. Seems like a good trade for a few extra minutes of thumbing through records.
You don’t have to own a record store to know what you’re doing. But to give you that extra edge, we turned to Marty for some light pointers to help get things moving:
1. Don’t be afraid to play hits. Covers of hit songs done in a different style is always a plus. I think some people just want to play their $1,000 obscure record to impress a crowd, but really you may just be impressing yourself at a party.
2. Start out mellow and build from there. Don’t play all your heaters first for the few that trickle in.
3. If playing all 45’s make sure you use the bathroom first thing. You’ll probably want to have a clear line to the bathroom. There is only three minutes per song, so it’s going to be essential to be quick on your feet. Since you’re hosting, you might want to stick with LPs. It’ll give you 20 minutes or so per side.
4. Have fun, that’s what it’s all about.
You’re probably already on eBay looking at turntables. Until you receive one, we put together a playlist, with some help from Marty, of the tunes that we will be playing at our next party: Listen here.