Following predecessors HIPS and Orange Soda, the new party series gains ground with young professionals
“We can hook up, hang out, just chill.”
That pick-up line, offered by singer Musiq Soulchild, may or may not have scored him a date, but it definitely earned him a top 10 R&B hit with “Just Friends (Sunny)” in 2001.
And 17(!) years later, it has inspired the name of JUST F.R.I.E.N.D.S, a monthly event for professionals old enough to remember the song but young enough to still want to party — without drama. Founded in July, the series alternates between day parties, “Kickback & Karaoke” and holiday-themed gatherings like the forthcoming “Friendsgiving” at the Village Idiot on Saturday, Nov. 17.
“We have a lot of friends that like to share experiences with us,” said Ashley McCormick, who organizes the event with her fiance, Destin Grayson. “But our [home] is not always the best space because we have so many friends combined.”
Incorporating karaoke was a no-brainer for the couple, who share a love of the pastime. In fact, they had their first date at a karaoke bar four years ago.
“You really can get comfortable with somebody,” McCormick said. “You let go of any fear that you have with somebody that you are going on the very first date with [and] show them parts of yourself that people typically keep in.”
By contrast, the JUST F.R.I.E.N.D.S karaoke parties at Park Street Tavern are truly a group effort. In October, the room swelled with people singing '90s and early-2000s hits in unison so loud that you could barely hear the soloist. And that has become a recurring theme.
“It just kind of happened organically,” Grayson said.
The event also stands out due to its focus on R&B and hip-hop, catering to a diverse crowd that might not always feel comfortable in the average karaoke joint. It is the latest in a wave of similarly curated, music-based events both old (Get Right, Ogee Columbus) and new (HIPS, Orange Soda).
Both McCormick and Grayson have an entrepreneurial spirit; they manage an event-planning company and personal shopping brand, respectively, in addition to working full-time. The extra income from those ventures and JUST F.R.I.E.N.D.S will help with costs for the couple's 2019 wedding — “Our families are not rich,” McCormick said — and working together strengthens their bond.
“It's a lot of strategy that happens on our couches before we roll things out,” McCormick said. “And that's where the love comes in, knowing your partner and knowing that you're keeping the best interest of both [people] and your relationship in the forefront of your mind.”
The next goal for the couple will be extending the party series outside of the city, if possible.
“We've got JUST F.R.I.E.N.D.S 614, McCormick said. “So it could be JUST F.R.I.E.N.D.S 513, 216 or 504.”