Party Tips from Billy Reid’s Shindig

August 31, 2012 | By | Comments (2)
John T

Photo by Bradley Dean, courtesy of Billy Reid

This past weekend in Florence, Alabama, Southern designer and media darling Billy Reid hosted the be-all, end-all affair of the summer: The Billy Reid Shindig No. 4. We were there. And we can attest, lawdamercy, that man can throw a party! So as you plan your Labor Day festivities this weekend, take a few cues from what we learned at Shindig.

1. Invite People Who Can Rock a Conversation
Wordsmiths, people with endless anecdotes, and folks with contagious laughs (or snorts) are just more fun to talk to. They keep things interesting for everyone. Our pal John T. Edge (shown here), director of the Southern Foodways Alliance and author of the new Food Truck Cookbook, is one such gentleman. Also on hand at Shindig, fashion maven Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin, the ever-quotable chef Sean Brock, Will Harris (the John Wayne of the South) of White Oak Pastures, and John Paul White of the Civil Wars.

Billy Reid and Chris Hastings

Photo by Robert Rausch for Southern Living

2. Make Sure You’ve Got Someone Who Knows Their Way Around a Kitchen
Chris Hastings, chef at Hot and Hot Fish Club and this year’s James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: South, whipped up a helluva feast for Billy’s guests with seafood from the Alabama Gulf. Of course, we don’t all have rock star chefs on speed dial. But having an extra set of capable hands can make all the difference between bash and bust.

Corn, Shrimp, Fish

3. Lay Out One Heck of a Spread
It’s the South. It’s the end of summer. And, by gawd, we like to eat. Need a little inspiration? Man the grill or try a fish fry.

Billy Reid Shindig

Photo by Robert Rausch for Southern Living

4. Set a Casual, But Gracious Table
It doesn’t have to be precious to be special. Billy’s tablescape echoed his overall casual chic aesthetic: mismatched chairs, patterned cushions, wild grass centerpieces, and low candles for ambient light.

Alabama Shakes at Shoals Theatre

Photo by Bradley Dean, courtesy of Billy Reid

5. Have a Killer Soundtrack
With performances over the weekend by the Alabama Shakes (hometown standouts extraordinaire), Jonny Corndawg, Wild Cub, the Pine Hill Haints, and Roman Candle, the mood was pretty much set by full-throttle, toe-tapping awesomeness. As Brittany Howard of the Shakes said onstage at the Shoals Theatre, “I just had a spiritual moment!” Me too, girl. Me too.

Drinks

Photo by Bradley Dean, courtesy of Billy Reid

6. Raise a Glass with Friends
Make sure the bar is stocked and you’ve got plenty of cups on hand. To keep the mixologist fuss to a minimum, Billy had the fine folks from Birmingham’s Little Donkey whip up some large-batch punches from their cocktail menu, like the Donkey’s Daddy, a bourbon and tequila hibiscus elixir (it’s Kentucky in a sombrero). For make-at-home recipes, these 12 punches will get you started. Party bonus: invite a friend with a Pappy Van Winkle stash who’s willing to share. We’re looking at you, John Currence.

Billy Reid Shindig

Photo by Bradley Dean, courtesy of Billy Reid

7. Be the Life of the Party
There’s no need to let those witty conversationalists (see #1) hog the spotlight. As host of your own shindig, it’s quite alright to take center stage. Rock on, Billy Reid, with your guitar-playing self.

Billy Reid Shindig

Photo by Bradley Dean, courtesy of Billy Reid

8. Make it a Pool Party
If you’ve got access to water (pool, lake, pond, “crick”), go for it. Jamie Barrier, front man of the Pine Hill Haints, took the plunge, banjo and all. As my mama has since pointed out, “That’s pretty much the opposite of skinny dipping.”

Shindigs Catering

Photo by Bradley Dean, courtesy of Billy Reid

9. Provide a Late Night Snack
If it’s a really good party, chances are guests will stick around for a while. And they’re going to get hungry. Avoid the midnight pantry raid and have some vittles ready. Billy had food trucks on hand, slinging burgers in the wee hours. But even your basic pimiento cheese and boiled peanuts will keep ‘em happy.

COMMENTS

  1. Rich Amons

    When is Shindig #5?

    September 5, 2012 at 10:40 am
  2. Rosemary Hayes

    Looks like a blast. I grew up in Florence, my parents still live there. It is a beautiful place with lots of eclectic and artistic style drenched in a lot of soul. (I love your style of writing too, Jennifer)

    September 5, 2012 at 9:41 am

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s