Every year, there are Grammy parties with jaw-dropping collections of stars that most mortals don’t get to attend. Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy gala is the gold standard, and artists from Frank Sinatra to Prince to Adele have probably thrown stellar private bashes over the years.
But Daft Punk’s epic 2014 post-Grammy fete at the ornate, 1924-vintage Park Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, after the duo had won all five of the awards for which their “Random Access Memories” was nominated — including album and record of the year, and even best-engineered album — was truly one for the ages.
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The duo owned the night, not only because of their big wins, but because of their show-stopping performance of the album’s smash single “Get Lucky” during the ceremony, which saw them accompanied by singer Pharrell Williams, guitarist Nile Rodgers — and Stevie Wonder. It all added an even greater sense of drama and excitement to the party, which was being hosted by the duo: Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, two deliberately anonymous musicians who, despite being world-famous, would be recognized by just a handful of people.
Although a rumor that Madonna would perform at the party with Daft Punk did not come to pass, there were top-shelf DJs like Questlove, DJ Premier, Todd Edwards, Q-Tip, DJ Falcon, Chris Holmes and Disclosure (who many people mistakenly thought were Daft Punk) playing from a balcony 50 feet above the revelers, who caroused on a giant lit-up “Saturday Night Fever” style dancefloor — and a guest list to rival any.
Madonna and daughter Lourdes were indeed there, along with Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Trent Reznor, Beck, Lorde, members of Metallica, Duran Duran and Vampire Weekend, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, Avicii, Skrillex, Yoko and Sean Ono Lennon, Paramore’s Hayley Williams, Adam Lambert, Elliott Page (then still Ellen), Johnny Depp, Jared Leto, Zoe Kravitz — and most of all, people who had worked with the duo on the album and its visuals: Pharrell Williams, Paul Williams, Nile Rodgers, Giorgio Moroder (all of whom accepted the award onstage with the duo at the Grammys) and multiple session musicians, engineers and many others.
The party had a center-of-the-universe vibe not only because of the guests and the setting, but also because Daft Punk had made an album that wasn’t just commercially and critically successful, but risky as well: The duo had virtually pioneered EDM with their previous albums and tours, yet made “RAM” with live musicians, in homage to 1970s works by Michael Jackson, Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac and others that had influenced them. Despite the global success of “Get Lucky,” few people expected it to win album of the year — and then it did. (Head here for Variety‘s 2023 review of the 10th anniversary edition of “Random Access Memories.”)
Photo of Daft Punk post Grammys party back in 2014 pic.twitter.com/cRZcpdFTjG
— Jonathan Perez (@John_Perez13) February 12, 2017
But the party lives on in people’s memories and virtually nowhere else, because no professional photographers were allowed: partially to preserve Daft Punk’s treasured anonymity — for more than a decade, the duo famously only appeared in public wearing their famous helmets — and also to allow the celebrities to cut loose. And through it all, the duo moved through the crowd virtually unnoticed.
Perhaps for that reason, there was very little press coverage of the event (apart from this writer’s account for Spin), and just a handful of cellphone photos from it can be found online. So for the party’s tenth anniversary, we spoke with several people close to the group who recounted their own random access memories as best they could (and the passing of time isn’t the only reason some of those memories are more random than others). The robots, who announced their breakup in 2021, not surprisingly declined requests for comment, as did multiple other attendees listed above.
With thanks for their time and recollections:
KATHRYN FRAZIER Biz 3 CEO/founder, Daft Punk’s longtime U.S. publicist
PAUL HAHN Daft Punk manager; partner, Creatopia
CHRIS HOLMES Paul McCartney’s tour DJ, musician, producer
DANA MEYERSON Partner, Biz 3
NILE RODGERS Legendary Chic co-founder and guitarist, Daft Punk collaborator
PAUL WILLIAMS Legendary singer-songwriter, ASCAP president, Daft Punk collaborator
PAUL HAHN The party was very out of character for us — I don’t think we ever had thrown one for ourselves before, and we didn’t often go to the afterparties that were thrown on our behalf on tour. But we had just come off of this eight-year odyssey of recording the album and producing visuals with a tight group of people, so we wanted to celebrate. It wasn’t about awards; it was more, let’s have a party that we would want to go to.
My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, was running all of the bars and clubs at the Roosevelt Hotel, and the chain that owns the Roosevelt also owns the Park Plaza [Hotel, which includes a two-floor events venue]. I used to go to punk rock shows there — a club called Scream was held in that same upstairs room. She mentioned it and I went, Oh my God, that would be amazing.
Guy-Man and Thomas were a little skeptical, but I convinced them. And believe me, there were moments when I really regretted it, because I was also producing their performance at the Grammys that night, which was a very elaborate build with Stevie Wonder and a live band. So between that and the guest list and the venue and calls to secure sponsors, I was like, “What the fuck did I do?”
PAUL WILLIAMS Before the Grammy ceremony, Paul [Hahn] told me, “If we win, the guys would like you to speak for us. You’re good on your feet.” Right before album of the year was going to be announced, they came and got us out of the 16th row and moved us down to the first row, so I thought that was a good sign.
HAHN [Daft Punk] didn’t really want to sit in the audience. Those helmets are not that comfortable: The visors are really dark and it’s hard to hear and see around you. But when we were taking our seats and they were walking, as robots, out among all these artists — Taylor Swift and Jay-Z and Steven Tyler — everyone stopped talking. It was like being in the presence of Superman.
And when album of the year was announced and they won, I turned to Guy-Man and said, “Now I’m glad we’re having a party.”
PAUL WILLIAMS’ GRAMMY ACCEPTANCE SPEECH (excerpt) “Back when I was drinking, I used to imagine things that weren’t there that were frightening. Then I got sober, and two robots called and asked me to make an album with them.”
KATHRYN FRAZIER We were all shocked — we had expected to have some wins that night, but not a sweep. They were so elated, like little boys. They’d made this weird record that they’d funded themselves, and it beat out all these mainstream artists. They were beaming on the whole ride to the party.
WILLIAMS That party was such an amazing exclamation mark on one of the most spectacular, sparkly gifts I’ve ever been given [collaborating on the album]. I was walking around just going “Wow!”
HAHN The amount of thought that went into it all — the Park Plaza was this amazing, overlooked spot with that balcony 50 feet above the floor. At first, everyone was like, “You can’t put the DJs up there,” and even the DJs said, “That’s really far away.” But once it happened, it was magic.
CHRIS HOLMES My DJ set was early, and when I started there were maybe 50 people at the party. But from the DJ booth I could see Madonna’s entourage come in and then others and then more, and by the time I finished the dancefloor was on fire.
HAHN The [“Saturday Night Fever”-style] dancefloor came from sources all over the world. VR Video Equipment Rentals, who had been our one of our tour suppliers, helped secure all of those tiles. They were state of the art — high, high resolution. And John McGuire, one of our lighting engineers on the pyramid tour, came in and put it together and reprogrammed it really quickly. The dancefloor was such an incredible counterpoint to that baroque ballroom with its carved wood and painted timber ceilings and wrought-iron chandeliers.
NILE RODGERS It was one of those wonderful kind of parties that I used to have every night of my life.
FRAZIER I remember standing in the VIP section and the guys in Metallica were kind of smushed up where I was, and maybe six feet over was Madonna, and three or four feet away were Jay-Z and Beyonce, talking to Stevie Wonder. Pharrell came up to me like, ‘Can you believe this?’”
DANA MEYERSON We were in the VIP section because we were part of Daft Punk’s camp, and there was a table right by the dancefloor — it didn’t have a “reserved” sign on it, I think maybe Paul [Hahn] told us it was okay to sit there. We were sitting there drinking, having a good time, when Lars Ulrich’s team came up and pulled the super-rock-star move, “You have to leave, this is Lars’ table!” We ended up getting kicked out but it was like, “Fine, you can have the table, we just want to be in this room!”
HOLMES It was like being in a wax museum of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or something — Lorde really wanted to meet [McCartney] so I went to get him, but she got so nervous that she ran away.
MEYERSON At first, we were playing this “Let’s do a shot every time we see a famous person” game. But when we could see Paul McCartney, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder and Madonna within ten feet of each other, we had to stop. It just became surreal.
HAHN Of that thousand-person guestlist, around 600 of them were friends and collaborators and people who really worked with us. I think that’s what gave that party its character, because there was an energy of warmth and familiarity and friendship and celebration.
RODGERS That party was really special because the crowd was so mixed and so cool.
MEYERSON Everyone was dressed 10 out of 10. It was like the Met Gala for music.
HAHN [The party’s no-photos policy] was partially because Daft Punk was kind of a partly true/ partly fictional sort of endeavor, and to keep that theatrical third wall and maintain the fiction. Even on tour, when we would do sound checks, we didn’t want to do anything to undermine the mysticism and magic of the robots, so a bunch of us would walk into a tent, and then two people would emerge as robots and go directly to the stage. Even the stagehands at the venues didn’t know who among our crew was actually Daft Punk.
But also, the intention was for it to be celebratory and have people relax and totally be themselves and not have the internet flooded with images of them.
FRAZIER [The no-photographs policy] was something we were always strict about, but especially this night because they wanted everyone to have fun. It’s not because they’re being pretentious: Jay-Z and Madonna and Beyonce and all those people aren’t going to dance and have fun if they feel like paparazzi are there.
— Jem Aswad (@jemaswad) January 27, 2014
HAHN My mom had wanted to go to the Grammys, so right after the show, the band and I went to the Sony party to say a quick hello to the label people, while my mom went straight to our party. I got to the Park Plaza and the first thing I saw was my mom speaking with Stevie Wonder. I walked up and said hello and Stevie said to her, “You must be very proud,” and my mother said, “You know, he could have been a great architect [instead].” (laughter) I think it was the moment where I just let it all go.
PAUL WILLIAMS I just remember a collage of color, there were so many people it was like being in a slow-motion moshpit. Everybody was moving to the music and looking for Daft Punk.
HOLMES That whole week I got confused with being a member of Daft Punk — there was a photo of me with Thomas, so people thought I was Guy-Man, because nobody at the party knew what they looked like. Any guy with a French accent became Daft Punk.
PAUL WILLIAMS There was this kind of “Where’s Waldo?” element of it — every now and then somebody would come up to me and say, “Is that one of them?”
FRAZIER I remember seeing Thomas dancing and thinking, “Does anyone even know that’s him?”
HOLMES All night long I kept having to vouch for [Daft Punk] because the security guys kept stopping them. Guy-Man’s always the one who gets stopped — “No! You can’t go in there!” — and he’s shy and kind of quiet so he won’t be like “But I’m in the band!”
HAHN It happened all the time. Once I was at some big Hollywood party with Thomas and Guy-Man and when we were introduced to Bono, he was like, “I’d really love to meet Daft Punk” and they were literally standing right next to me. At the party, I brought them over to say hi to Paul McCartney and I was initially having trouble getting past his security guard, but we got through.
RODGERS My fondest memory is that I brought my friend Avicii, rest in peace. Duran Duran was there too. I loved the fact that nobody knew what Thomas and Guy-Man looked like and they could have a good time and be themselves.
HOLMES I had just started dating my wife at the time and I was like, “I’m sorry I’m so busy, are you okay?” She said, “I was on the fucking dance floor with Beyonce with a free bottle of champagne in my hand — if I couldn’t enjoy this, I’m just the worst person.”
FRAZIER I don’t know why or how, but many, many of us on the dancefloor had our own bottles of champagne. We were drinking out of them like they were glasses.
Haven't put this dress on since Daft Punk Grammy party. The stench of spilled champagne apparently has a long shelf life. Plan B needed
— Kathryn Frazier (@KLFBIZ3) April 6, 2014
HAHN I can remember seeing Beyonce and Jay-Z dancing with Rob Stringer, the chairman of Columbia Records, with real, authentic abandon — really, really dancing.
PAUL WILLIAMS I don’t remember there being anything to eat there — I think that may have been one of the elements of us leaving relatively early!
HAHN It’s hard to say how much it cost, because we had a lot of sponsorship and a company called Optimist came in and did a lot of the actual event production. It was probably a half-million dollar party but it didn’t cost us even a fraction of that. All these brands that had approached us over the years that we’d turned down ended up asking to help sponsor it — we got like sixty grand’s worth of champagne. And I think the venue [management] gave it to us for just the cost of opening it, turning the lights on, basic staff and insurance. It’s really a credit to all of them: With everything they … I would say donated, it makes it hard to put a number on it.
HOLMES It’s the most legendary party in the 20 years I’ve lived in L.A. Everything went perfectly, the location was amazing, the sound was amazing, the DJs were amazing, the reason was amazing, and it didn’t run out of alcohol until 4:30 in the morning! It was a perfect storm of awesomeness.
MEYERSON I would easily say that that was the best party I’ve ever been to in my life. They hadn’t just won the Grammy for Best Album of the Year, this was Daft Punk and they had hit every goal they’d set out to do, maybe ever.
HAHN I left at maybe five in the morning, the sun was coming up. It was like we had been at 20,000 leagues below the sea and then were coming out into the world. It was like we had been outside of time somehow.
FRAZIER The next day, Thomas wanted us all to come to his house and have a barbecue by the pool and just [the core team] celebrate, but everyone was so wrecked that he just didn’t do it.
HOLMES They had won all these Grammys and were one of the biggest acts in the world, it was their party with all these super-famous people — and hardly anyone knew who they were.
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