F*in Socialites: Fresh kids fizzle 

Caleb and crew start the party, split the clique

Last fall, Sloppy Seconds was the hotness du jour. Held at the Royal every month, it was a wildly kinetic party where girls danced on tables and guys posed fresh in their allover-print hoodies. East Coast influencers such as Atlanta's DJ Klever and New York's Roxy Cottontail spun electro, B-more and crunk jams, and photographer Zach Wolfe snapped party pics of stylishly trendy club kids.

Today, Sloppy Seconds happens every second Saturday at the Royal. (The next one is Saturday, April 14.) But Ian Ford and Megan "Ree De La Vega" Rebain are no longer associated with it. They were two of the most prominent members of the F*in Socialites, a team of promoters led by Caleb "Gauge" Hinson.

It's a familiar clubland story: A group of friends launch a party. The party blows up. Egos swell. Tempers flare. The group splinters acrimoniously. And one side keeps the party while the others step off.

"I think a lot of times, when people have personality differences, they try to blame that on artistic expression. But that's not always the situation," says Gauge, who owns the marketing and design firm Stepchild Industries. Besides, he points out, many people contributed to its success, including his wife, Kelly Hinson, who helps administrate Stepchild Industries; DJ Klever; and Gregory "Greg Mike" Mensching, co-founder of jeans manufacturer Carpe International and the Trafik Trade Show.

Although Ford and Ree De La Vega left in December, Sloppy Seconds is still going strong, Gauge says. "I appreciate what [De La Vega and Ford] have done for it," he says. "But the company is still there, and it's just as successful as it will be."

More than just a party, Sloppy Seconds represents Atlanta's influencers and early adopters playing catch-up to New York, Chicago and Miami. In these cities, the party vibe reflects an Internet era where various senses and sensibilities collide: high fashion and street wear, graffiti art and graphic design, and Parisian electro-house and crunk rap. Its multidisciplinary scope bears similarities to the early hip-hop scene of the late '80s and the rave movement of the '90s.

DJ Klever, a widely acknowledged veteran of Atlanta club life, notes that many are contributing to the local renaissance. (Gauge manages DJ Klever.) "I think Preston Craig, another promoter who does the whole indie-rock/electro scene, has helped out. I think the dudes at MJQ like Brian Parris and Scooter play a lot of Baltimore stuff ... and DJ Dylan, too."

The difference with Sloppy Seconds and other Atlanta parties on the bleeding edge is its mixed crowd. Caleb brought the B-boy/dance heads who frequent Halo Lounge, Ree De La Vega brought the MJQ/indie scenesters, Greg Mike brought the fashionistas and Ford brought the Club 112/Sol Fusion players. "All our people came together, and it was this dope energy," Ree De La Vega says. In a city notoriously divided by race, class and culture, Sloppy Seconds became a rare place where all types of kids frolicked together.

"It's a good gumbo of people having fun," Klever says. "I've never really experienced that in any other [local] party at all."

Everyone credits Caleb Gauge with devising F*in Socialites, the guiding concept behind Sloppy Seconds. "F*in Socialites was an acronym for 'fashion industry.' It was a subliminal concept to bring music and fashion together," says Gauge, whose part-time bartender gig at the Royal helped secure the location. He sought out Ford, a longtime friend whose Rebelutions company mounts youth-marketing campaigns for major corporate brands. "Ian and I worked together to build the party. I was the creative director, and he was the operations guy who handled numbers and stuff," Gauge says.

According to Ford, F*in Socialites was the perfect way to say "fuck you" to the mainstream party scene. "Being a kid who's been partying since 15 years old, and hitting clubs and strip clubs like it was nothing, I'm like, 'Yo, what's next?'" says Ford, who chose to take action. "I'm not one of those types to just sit around and complain and hate on the scene. I was like, 'Yo, let me take that next step and make it fresher.'"

When Sloppy Seconds began at the Royal in July, F*in Socialites distinguished it with funky-ass flier advertisements and MySpace pages with next-level wallpaper graphics. And then there was Ree De La Vega's Bang Bang Girls, an ad hoc crew of party girls she formed. "It started on some girls just having fun," she says. It became another aspect of the Sloppy Seconds freshness, and a minor cult sensation. "Our MySpace page blew us up," she says. "People used to come up to me, like, 'You're that girl on the flier!'"

"All of it happened so fast," Ford says of the F*in Socialites movement. "It just reinforced to me that Atlanta is hungry for some fresh shit."

After falling out with Gauge, De La Vega and Ford moved on. De La Vega co-founded a promotions company with Aldrin Bangulin (aka Papa Bang) called Bang Bang, and is throwing an April 5 benefit for grassroots activists FTP Movement called Crew Love. Meanwhile, Ford continues to do his thing with Rebelutions.

"The energies have split," De La Vega says. "I look [at] it as good because now Caleb has F*in Socialites and Sloppy Seconds. He has a vision of what he wants to do, and he can do that. I have a vision for what I want to do. ... And Ian knows what he wants to do. ... We don't have to answer to anyone else."

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