Under the helm of Defy Grav partying has become an art form. Dedicated to throwing mind-dizzying soirees, the group was founded about three years ago by University of Nebraska at Omaha alumni James Fonda and Bobby Barajas.
“Ever since starting college, the typical weekend text I would receive was ‘What’s going on tonight’ because people were always searching for a party,” Fonda said. “Our purpose was to become the ‘what’ of that phrase. With the growth we’ve seen over the past couple of years, we are now dedicated to doing what we can to fulfill the demand for nightlife entertainment for people in Omaha.”
From throwing parties with nearly 2,000 attendees to booking bands and DJs from around the nation to come perform, Defy Grav has set a new standard when it comes to partying since their beginnings just two years ago.
The concept of Defy Grav grew from house parties that Fonda used to throw while in college, cramming his house with upwards of 400 people on any given Friday or Saturday night. Eventually, cleaning beer-soaked carpet and scrubbing vomit-filled toilets became tiresome for Fonda.
He then decided to team up with his roommate at the time, Barajas, to move their weekend fun to the bars and begin throwing parties there instead.
Held in the winter of 2011 at the Shark Club bar off 72nd and Center streets, Defy Grav’s first party sold out within 20 minutes. Fonda said at one point in the night they had more people outside waiting to get in than the bar could fit on the inside.
“Once we saw that we had something people were enjoying, we realized we needed to create a brand and a meaning to what we were doing,” Fonda said. “So, we ended up naming our organization ‘Defying Gravity’ and shortened it to ‘Defy Grav.’”
Shortly after their first party, Defy Grav threw their first black light “Glow Me” party in April of 2011 at Castle Barrets bar off Leavenworth Street. The venue became so out of control that the owner shut the party down two hours early at midnight.
“It was our first show that made us realize that we had to turn down the fun and turn up the professionalism,” Fonda said. “From there, it’s been a continuous learning curve that we have greatly appreciated.”
This learning curve continued when they began to throw parties at a bar called Rednecks off 84th and Center streets. From an Arabian Nights party to a Mario themed shindig, Defy Grav was able to get creative with their themes at the venue and sold out the bar for all four parties they threw there.
Due to their success and growth, Defy Grav began to look for a bigger venue to host their events. Eventually, they found Sokol Auditorium and hosted “Glow Me 2,” which was attended by 1,200 people.
After a year and half of sold-out shows, Fonda and his partying crew decided to bring in a national act, a techno hip-hop band called The Dean’s List.
“Overall, the show’s production was great but financially we lost a lot of what we put it,” Fonda said. “It was the only show of ours that didn’t sell out. It took a hard toll on me. We thought we were invincible and would always sell out. It was a rude awakening.”
Following this pitfall, Defy Gravity regrouped and dropped the admission price back down to $10, with all the money of their shows going towards production of their next event and portions of the funds going towards proceeds for Breast Cancer research. Since then, they have put on several more sold-out parties.
“It all starts with an idea,” Fonda said. “From there, once reaching out to the talent, sound and lighting technicians and close friends who give their blood, sweat, and tears it ends up being well over 30 people working on one event.”
Defy Gravity has managed to plan their parties as far as three months in advance. They also advertise heavily through social networks.
“As for how we get over 1000 people to show up, well, I’d say it’s a mixture of innovation and trade secrets.” Fonda said.