A block of speakers onstage is wobbling. The kid who’s climbed atop them crouches like a kitten that’s scaled a tree and doesn’t know what to do next. For a second, it appears he might hop off. Instead, he reaches up, grabs a pipe and, dangling, begins to head bang with abandon.
It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen, but none of the pogoing, mostly 18- to 25-year-olds in the crowd even seem to notice. The air is so muggy the walls are sweating, and Lee Spielman of the punk band Trash Talk has just leapt offstage into their arms.
Welcome to HAM on Everything, the most fun and least pretentious party in Los Angeles.
Orchestrating this barely contained chaos are David Romo, a 30-year-old video editor by day, and Adam Weiss, a 35-year-old whose only other job is acting as Colt 45’s brand ambassador. Since 2011, they’ve had everybody from Soulja Boy to Wiz Khalifa perform. Kreayshawn and Syd tha Kyd pull up just to party. They’ve set up shop (and gotten shut down) everywhere from DIY art galleries to warehouses deep in the industrial stretches of downtown.
Their email list includes pretty much every It Kid in SoCal. They’re built their following, which they dub the “Hamily,” in a simple yet savvy way: The location is always secret, so you have to RSVP to get the address. And while they promote all the time, they do so in a very art-school, grass-roots manner.
“People try to throw similar parties and their attitudes are like, ‘We’re gonna be the kings of the L.A. scene.’ That’s corny,” Weiss says on a recent evening over an artful cheese board in his downtown apartment. He’s been sober since 2009 and is endearingly dorky; both he and Romo buck the douchey-promoter stereotype. “People feel connected to HAM. If you don’t come from a genuine place, it’s not gonna work out for you.”
Both guys grew up in L.A., Romo in Van Nuys and Weiss in Westwood and Thousand Oaks (as well as Arizona). They met in 2010 when Weiss booked Romo’s band for his first event series, Hipsters Heart Hip-Hop. A year later, Weiss decided to change the name to Go HAM Productions. Another friend, DJ Stereotype, commented, “Fuck yeah, dude, we’re about to go HAM on everything,” and HAM (hip-hop slang for “hard as a motherfucker”) was born.
When they threw their first warehouse party, “We didn’t know what we were doing,” Weiss admits. “I think we charged $30 to get in, but it was an open bar and we went to 6 a.m. It was pretty empty, but who did come? Trash Talk, Riff Raff, Alexander Spit, Kid Sister. Cool people came, just not a lot of people.”
In 2011, the city was abuzz with the promise of rappers like Kendrick Lamar and Odd Future, and there was a desire for a younger, hipper, more accessible alternative to the bottle service and bling of Hollywood’s club culture. HAM filled that void and the cool kids flocked. Five years later, they show no signs of slowing down.
“We’ll throw rap shows for two months, then be like, ‘I kinda wanna do a weird rave thing.’ We’ve trained the kids to just be down. They trust us,” Romo says.
There have been speed bumps — a couple years ago, they had a bad run and Weiss was so broke he had to borrow rent money from his mom. But HAM’s fans are loyal, even as the guys recently relocated from warehouses to a legal club, Union.
“It organically grew and we didn’t have expectations of, ‘We’re gonna be the biggest fucking party,’” Weiss says.
Maybe not, but it definitely is. If you don’t mind being corny, you could even call Romo and Weiss the kings of the L.A. scene.