With MySpace, party organizers can reach a huge audience

By Doug Hoagland

McClatchy Newspapers

FRESNO, Calif. — First they click. Then they party.

Hundreds of teens in the Fresno area log on to MySpace every weekend to read party invitations posted for all to see. They then flock to houses, warehouses and fields for music, dancing — and other things parents might not be happy about.

"We don’t look for it. It’s just there coming at us," said Miguel, 19, who started looking for parties on MySpace when he was 16. He declined to give his last name. "What else is there to do but party hardy and shake my fanny all night?"


Some party organizers present themselves as ambitious entrepreneurs supplying a service and making an honest buck. Authorities, however, worry about the potential for violence and fire hazards at overcrowded parties. And residents near party sites fret about their neighborhoods being overrun by loud, out-of-control teens.

Internet party notices are the 21st century equivalent of fliers stapled to telephone poles and bulletin boards. However, there’s one huge difference.

MySpace, a wildly popular social networking Web site, is reported to have more than 100 million monthly active users. Throw in text messages — available to anyone with a cell phone — and digital devices can with dizzying speed summon people to party.

Up to 1,000 young people recently showed up for a party in a warehouse near downtown Fresno that could hold 179 safely. Someone was charging an $8 admission at the door. Two rival gang members argued, and gunfire erupted, police said. No one was injured. However, 20 to 30 Fresno cops had to flock to the site to handle a boisterous crowd that spilled onto streets.

That party was advertised on MySpace, said Brice Marsh, manager of two Bay Area rap artists, Turfeazy and Young D, who performed at the party.

"With MySpace, you can put a flier right into someone’s living room where their other friends are into the same music, and it’s going to spread the word from there," Marsh said.

Organizers use computers to generate flashy — and some would say offensive — notices about parties. For example, "Slutty Saturday!" was the headline on a MySpace invitation to a Feb. 21 party in Fresno. The party advertised having beer ("3Kegz") and other alcohol described as "Likker." The notice also used crude terms for male and female anatomy to refer to men and women. Admission for men was $3; women got in free.

The MySpace notices don’t give the locations for parties, but provide a telephone number to call for directions.


Organizers post the notices in MySpace’s bulletin section and on their MySpace pages, effectively sending notices to a network of MySpace "friends" — people they may or may not have met, who in turn send it to their friends, and so on.

"The power of word of mouth is multiplied by thousands when it comes to MySpace and text messaging," said Fresno musician Eric Rose."

Rose has not forsaken face-to-face communication, and he regularly passes out fliers at clubs about his upcoming gigs, including an April 17 appearance at the Fulton Mall restaurant Milano. However, he said, "None of that compares to the mecca that is MySpace."

Partygoers aren’t the only ones making the digital journey to the Web site, though. Police go there, too.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said after the warehouse party that his department monitors MySpace and other Internet sites to shut down some parties before violence occurs. But police miss some. Deputy Chief Robert Nevarez said: "It’s just a vast network, and it’s impossible to be able to monitor it completely."

Party organizers know what police are doing, and at least one organizer said it’s caused him to rely more on text messaging.

"MySpace is burnt," said an organizer who identified himself as Paul Gonzales, 26, of Fresno. "A lot of cops are hitting our parties. We’re going to be one step ahead of them. They can’t find your text messages."

That point underscores how many of the parties advertised on MySpace have an underground status, with organizers trying to operate out of the view of authorities. They generally don’t get the permits that the city requires of anyone holding a party open to the public, Nevarez said.


Both police and fire officials say the unregulated parties can be dangerous.

"We know that gang members often surf the Internet, and when rival gang members show up at the same location, it’s a recipe for disaster," Nevarez said. "Things get heated and the next thing you know, you have a fight that turns ugly fast."

People do shoot guns at parties, but it’s not always because one person wants to harm another, said Anthony Huerta, 19, of Fresno, who works parties as a DJ known as "DJ Bashed."

"Shooting is our way of saying, ’Everybody leave,’ " Huerta said.

Fire officials worry about party organizers allowing too many people into too-small spaces.

"Yeah, that sometimes happens," said a party organizer named Ike, who wouldn’t give his last name because he fears the authorities will try to find him. He said he has crammed partygoers into buildings, but he worries about doing it.

Buildings without adequate fire exits, emergency signs showing those exits and clearly marked exit pathways pose "extreme hazards" should a fire break out, said Fresno Fire Department spokesman Ken Shockley.

Homeowners also can feel their safety is threatened when hundreds of young adults — alerted by a MySpace notice — show up in their neighborhood for a party. That happened about 11:30 p.m. on a recent Friday in west-central Fresno. A party was held at a vacant house looked after by a young caretaker, neighbors said.


As teens parked cars along the street, a vehicle recklessly was spinning circles in a nearby church parking lot. Two teens from Kerman standing under a tree in front of the house said they learned about the party through a text message.

A resident in her 60s, who didn’t want her name published because she fears retaliation by teens at the party, said she felt "very vulnerable" as the crowd showed up in her neighborhood.

Police broke up the party.

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