Just when you thought Pride season was over, San Diego Pride is swooping in the 2nd weekend of July. Besides the official San Diego Pride events, there are a number of parties going on in the city to cater to all of your Pride going needs. From drag shows to pool parties, the city will be caught up in a rainbow frenzy. I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Michael Swenson, co-founder of LE Parties (along with John Joseph). LE Parties has been a part of the community for years, starting with simple pool parties and growing from themed nights at Rich’s to huge hotel take overs with some of your favorite DJs, RuPaul queens, and entertainment personalities.
Their success at feeling the crowd has brought them to many different cities, and you can see their handiwork at Piranha Nightclub in Vegas. This San Diego Pride season they are pulling out all the stops. LE Parties has moved their mega events to the DoubleTree by Hilton Mission Valley to accommodate the growing number of LGBT and LGBT ally attendees. The secret to their success? It all starts with the music and a keen attention to customer service. The final product that the crowds see is fueled by hours of hard work, a strong business sense, and a mission to provide the best experience to all. Check out my candid chat with Michael as I got a behind the scenes look to what producing an event is like, changes in the party going industry, what makes an event successful, and tips on how to have a good time. All are welcome this Pride season. Get those speedos out!
Alexander J Rodriguez: What was the first event that you produced on your own?
Michael Swenson: We started with pool parties. It has always been a simple process that has now evolved into a big production. People love pools, parties, music, and drinks so combining them into one event makes for a great experience for all who attend.
What is your creative process when producing an experience?
We start with the music. The DJs we bring in set the mood. It’s crazy to some, but to us it makes sense. Most nightclubs take DJs for granted and yet DJs are the ones that completely create the guest experience. Having the best music played by the best DJs sets the tone for an amazing event. Obviously, there are several other factors that go into play like decorations, amazing sound systems, and lighting design even at an outdoor event creates an energy that is felt by everyone. In short, we’re creating a party that you want to attend and that you wouldn’t want to miss.
What is the industry getting right? What is the industry doing wrong?
I think the industry is changing in terms of music. There will always be niche style events, but people want to go where everyone is, though sometimes it’s hard because other events may not focus on what’s important where. For us, the most important thing is the music. If the music is good people will flow and come. I don’t think the industry gets things wrong. I think different promoters have different styles and if someone is more interested in that style, they’re going to go to those events
What are the biggest misconceptions about LGBT events?
That you have to fit some sort of gay mold. One thing we have learned doing this over the years is that diversity is important – we want you to come as you are. Let your true colors shine and shine on.
How has the LGBT party industry changed the most over the years?
I still think people like events tailored, or at least feel like they’re tailored to the ones that will attend. For example, our events are tailored toward the LGBT community and obviously pool parties are always a hit. It’s a place to people watch or be seen, meet new friends, socialize and, when liquid courage is flowing along with music from superstar DJs, what’s not to like?
With the growing number of LGBT friendly venues, performers and promoters, how do you stay relevant and set yourself apart in the world of events?
We started to get away from the traditional “circuit party” events and go more towards mainstream EDM music, giving us that edge on the upcoming trend of a new genre of people ready to party.
What were your biggest obstacles when starting LE Parties?
Our obstacles have changed over the years. Obviously, finding a venue that we can basically take over modify and change for the event we want to produce is a major obstacle. But now our parties have become so popular we have had to modify spaces AND take over additional areas. For our pool parties for San Diego, we’ve had to move to a larger venue that can hold everyone. We even had to bring in an additional pool that we built, complete with staging and more sound, for our mega pool party on Sunday, July 14th for San Diego Pride, because of the number of people that attend this event. We have become the pool party masters over the past few years!
What are your biggest tips to give an attendee in order to have a good time?
I think everyone should come with an open mind and a smile on their face! Anyone coming with that good attitude will have fun no matter what. Make new friends, do something you have never done before, live your life, and you’ll have fun.
How do you gauge the success of one of your events?
I think most would say the numbers, how many people came, but building events from the ground up you see the interaction, people posting pictures, new friends being made, that builds on our events and makes them more of a success than just numbers do. We are making an impact and creating an event the community wants to come to year after year. People come back to our events again and again. It’s a fun environment you want to be at.
How have you changed the most, personally, while working in this industry?
Well, the industry is one big party, and sometimes you have to step back and not party in order to run the event. So, going from attendee to owner really opens your eyes and makes you see things you never have seen before.
What is most important thing to keep in mind when dealing with talent that you’ve booked for an event?
Keep in mind who’s easy to work with! Complications always come up and we have learned professional talent and artists are easier to work with. It seems like newer talent or up and coming artists are harder to deal with.
What do you do the day after an event to unwind?
What are the most important things you look for when attending someone else’s event?
Attention to detail with the guest experience. From check-in to getting drinks at the bar to the quality of production, including sound, lighting, lasers, and special effects.
Spill the tea, sometimes there can be drama in the LGBT event world, how do you stay out of the shade?
Keep our mouth shut. Lol
You can book a celebrity performer who has passed, who is it?
You have to create an event for 65 plus-year-old LGBT senior citizens – what is the name of your event?
The Male Ox
Craziest thing that has happened at an event?
Throwing a comic con party and hiring a drag performer who, at the end of her song, jumped in the pool – heels, wig, and everything. It was crazy and fun and everyone was living for it! ‘Til she couldn’t swim and had to be pulled out looking like a drowned rat.
You can find out more about LE Parties and their events, including their mega events for San Diego Pride weekend at www.LEParties.com , Instagram & Facebook: @LEParties
But if you are looking NOT to get wet, there are other events that the pool parties in San Diego. Don’t forget about Pride On The Pier.
Photos from LE Parties webpage and “On The Rocks”
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