How To Throw An Epic Rager: This Montauk Duo Schools Us

Remember that party in high school? Acres of red cups, screaming soundtrack, and potential hookups on every couch? Picture that for adults, thanks to "Shark Attack," the legendary, annual Montauk party thrown by a duo that knows a thing or two about ragers — power publicist Jeanann Williams and big-time photographer Ben Watts. This year's bash, held at Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Cafe, was no exception. An affair for 800 guests (though according to some reports, more than 2,500 showed up) hosted by Watts, Ben Pundole (of Ruschmeyer's fame), and Milk Studios' Mazdack Rassi, it featured DJ sets by Zen Freeman, Chelsea Leyland, Carl Kennedy, and Victor Calderone.
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With a BBQ, tons of neon lights, massive speakers, blow-up sharks, and copious cocktails, you can bet the throwdown got rowdy — and, of course, R29 was on hand to snap all of the action ... and maybe take a shot or three. And, just like those memorable (or hard to remember) teenage gatherings, there was that bummer police raid. Click through to check out the setup of this massive attack, and get inspired to host your own good times on a big scale — minus the cops, please.
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"Keep it real, keep it local."
What was the first thing you envisioned when you started planning the party? Was there one thing that you instantly knew the party needed?
"Ben always thinks first about the music, wanting it to be bigger and better than the year before. He really just wants everyone to have an incredible time. I focus on the logistics — not quite as fun."
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"Shhhhh, Shark Attack is upon you."
Were you stressed on the day of the party? If so, how did you manage to calm yourself down?
"Yes, definitely. Due to the size of the event, there were so many variables and things out of my control, and I found that hard to take. My nervous energy kept me busy all day, but I took a mid-afternoon break and ran out to Ric Pipino's pop-up salon for a little pampering ... instant relaxation. And, I must credit the rosé my girlfriends and I drank before heading to the party — took the edge right off."
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"They don't blow up themselves."
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"Sharky Tale."
Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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"Make it more pink, mate."
What were some of the songs that you made sure were played? What vibe were you going for when choosing the music?
"This year we had a lot of DJs in the lineup, all with very different styles. Ben kicked off the party with reggae — very true to Montauk's beach vibe. Then, it went a bit old-school hip-hop. Throughout the night, the beats kept everyone on their feet. Song of the night: Zen's 'Sweet Child of Mine' remix."
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"Bro-love."
How did the food & drinks come into play with the theme?
"Food was exactly what you would expect from a Fourth of July bash. It all came off the BBQ. For drinking, there was a little bit of everything, but our group stuck to Pabst Blue Ribbon. We had a stash of cases under the stage. Nothing screams 'Happy Birthday, America' more than that."
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"Moby Dicks anyone..."
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"Signage."
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"It's all about the branding."
Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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"Shark Attack takeover – Crabby's, under seige."
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"It takes an army."
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"Beat-Blockers."
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"Vegetarians: Enter at your own risk."
Who is on your ideal guest list?
"For Shark Attack, it's just about getting a crowd with great energy — people wanting to have a good time. When hosting at home, I prefer it to be much more intimate, with close friends and family."
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"Hipsters welcomed."
Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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"Show 'em how it's done, boys."
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Were there any things that didn't go according to plan on the day of the event? How did you work around them?
"The sound guys misjudged their timing and arrived just an hour before the event. We had begun setup at 9 a.m. and the DJs all wanted to do a practice run. We rolled with it, and it all went smoothly, but at the time it definitely had us in a panic."
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"High wattage on the decks."
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"Shhhhh if you like it."
What creative elements of the party were you most proud of?
"I loved the blow-ups. The crowd got really pumped when they were thrown from the stage and roof of the venue. It's important to keep any party interactive with the guests. It was a laugh watching everyone leave the party with sharks and colorful beach balls — a nice takeaway, I think."
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"If you build it, they will come!"
Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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"The mascot."
For R29 readers who can't hire a party planner, what are some easy DIY projects or simple things to make their party special?
"I think the most important thing to remember is to make it personal. You don't need a party planner for that. Just put some thought into it and have fun. The intricate details are always the ones your guests will appreciate the most. Shark Attack screams Ben Watts — very colorful, with great energy. I remember a few years ago when we were in the approval process of the invite. His response was, 'Make it more pink, mate.' — and that has stuck ever since. This year he wanted it to be bigger than ever, as it was the party's 10th anniversary — massive stage, LED screen, neon-taped speakers, blow-ups, nerf glow sticks, and an epic DJ lineup. As a photographer, he's very visual, so he works hard to achieve a certain something for his guests — the full experience."
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"The Calderones...a force to be reckoned with."
Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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"Everybody put your hands up."
It's easy to make this kind of party tacky and kitschy, but this remained stylish and playful. How did you do that?
"We don't take ourselves very seriously, so our parties will never be stuffy."
It's always risky to plan an outdoor party. Were you nervous about the weather at all? Did you have a backup plan?
"There was so much to worry about that I decided not to stress about things out of my control. It really wasn't discussed — probably because we'd been so lucky in the past. Ben saw it as taboo to even mention the possibility of rain."
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"Legendary."
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"It's all in the details."
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