"At the time I was laid off, bankrupt and so I just said 'fuck it, I'm throwing parties for a living." To really boil it down, that's how Jared McKinley started his annual celebration of a very specific style of music—the Yacht Rock Party. Though his party throwing efforts resulted in planning many events like the Glitter Ball, Underwear Party and several other one-time one-offs, the Yacht Rock Party is still going strong after five years and McKinley largely attributes it to the music.
"When it started, there was a lot of wanky club music in Tucson's nightlife scene," he says, "and there still is."
As an alternative, the Yacht Rock Party celebrates music that sprung from the "cocaine drenched '70s" to a time when folks were looking to "smooth out the edges."
"That's why it makes sense in summer here. We're all looking to smooth out some edges," McKinley says.
You can expect tunes from acts like Steely Dan, Christopher Cross, Ambrosia, Kenny Loggins, Toto, Starbuck and more from DJs Ben Beshaw and E__Rupt. Dirty P and the Thunderchiefs will also be performing some smooth rock jams. Admittedly, though, this isn't a genre most people own up to liking. Even McKinley says it took him, and his party co-founder Kenny Stewart, some time to warm up to it.
"Kenny and I were having a conversation about music while watching yacht rock videos on YouTube and laughing," he says. "I grew up hating that music. The Ramones and KISS were all I cared about."
However, while working at Hotel Congress, McKinley says local music legend Al Perry changed his mind to the "white men of soul" through Hall & Oates. It didn't take long after for McKinley and Stewart to throw the first celebration of yacht rock, which turned out to be a packed room at Stewart's house.
"I think about 500 people showed up that first time," he says. "It was way too many fucking people."
Six years and four events (they took the second year off) later, Kitty Katt McKinley and Magic Kenny Bang Bang, as they're also known, say their nautical party is going strong because the event offers a special treat to true Tucsonans who stick it out through the summer heat every year.
"Some of the most fun parties are in the summer here when all the douchebags are gone," McKinley says.
This year, as in previous years, you can expect a photo booth outfitted with a real boat and a beachy backdrop so McKinley encourages attendees to put on their most jaunty and nautical gear, though he says the dress code isn't enforced. Unique to this year's event is the release of McKinley and Stewart's special white wine made expressly for white wine spritzers. The Yacht Rock White is available now for about $10 per bottle at liquor stores around town, including Tap & Bottle (403 N. 6th Ave. #135). Official tasting notes peg the wine as such:
The Yacht Rock White, like its namesake, has a smooth flavor. When combined with soda water. the carbonation gives the wine that little bit of edge— like in a yacht rock song, that one slightly dissonant note bathed in a gauzy matrix of consonant chords and rhythms. That dissonant note that reminds you the smooth moment is being insulated by the slightly tipsy feeling you get from the wine. Soft, but cerebral. The blend is 50% sauvignon blanc, 30% semillion, 10% Chenin Blanc (and 10% shattered dreams, as per McKinley)."You get to have a bottle of wine forever with me and Kenny's face on it," McKinley adds.
You can slap on some seafaring gear, grab a white wine spritzer and chill out to the smooth party vibes at this year's Yacht Rock Party on Friday, June 19 at La Cocina (201 N. Court Ave.). The party starts at 9 p.m., but McKinley advises to come early because it might sell out. Cover is $5.