The cool-kid crowd was moving and grooving to silence. Or so it seemed.
Actually, the revelers were taking part in a phenomenon known as “silent disco,” a dance party where the booming music is both private and shared. Instead of getting their audio fix from the massive speakers found at most dance clubs, partygoers donned custom wireless headphones to tune in to a live DJ broadcast.
The term silent disco was coined in 2005 at the U.K.’s Glastonbury Festival, where headphones were used to share music en masse without violating local noise restrictions. Robbie “Motion Potion” Kowal, a San Francisco-based DJ, was the first to try the concept in the U.S. at Tennessee’s Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in 2006. Since then, he’s invested in his own set of 1,000-plus headphones and has taken silent disco on the road to clubs, festivals and public spaces where noise ordinances would otherwise make a dance party impossible.
Friday night will be his third time bringing silent disco to Central since the club opened to the public last September.
“It’s becoming one of our signature parties,” said Rory Lovett, one of Central’s co-owners. Due to its growing popularity, he said, Central has decided to make it a monthly event second Saturdays starting in December.
According to Kowal, one of the things that makes silent disco such a crowd-pleaser is the “voyeuristic passerby factor.” In previous months, the party at Central has spilled out onto 14th Street. People who stumble upon it “can’t even conceptualize what the heck is going on because they see people dancing around and they don’t hear anything,” he said.
Kowal thinks the “unintentional comedy factor,” as he put it, is equally compelling. “You see people trying to sing along and not knowing the words … or pretending to know the words so their friends think that they [do],” he said. “So much of club culture now is so over-serious…. This has a way of bringing the smiles and laughter back.”
Stephanie Tucker of Hollywood, who in June was attending her second silent disco night at Central, said that “on a normal dance floor, everyone stays in their little circles.” But at silent disco, she’s experienced more interaction among strangers. “It’s almost like because everybody has got the headphones on that we all have something in common.”
The headphone concept encourages more conversation too. Dancers can take their headsets off (or turn down the volume) at will to chat with someone, and the lack of a sound system means they can actually hear one another — an option, well, unheard of in conventional clubs. “It’s not this inescapable pounding DJ set,” said Lovett.
Those tuning in to Kowal’s broadcast will hear his signature blend of rare groove and album rock reimagined as dance mixes — in June, his “Good Vibrations” mix included the Beach Boys and Marky Mark. Friday night he’ll be joined on the decks by Los Angeles-based DJ Quickie Mart.
Imagine entering a concert venue flooded with neon lights, illuminating thousands of people energetically dancing and swaying… in silence. You have entered into the world of the Silent Disco, a music and event phenomenon that is enticing Millennials to tune in, by tuning out everything but the music.
The Silent Disco hinges on wireless headphone technology. On arrival, attendees are given headphones that utilize radio frequency transmission to broadcast sound through and around any physical objects, and allow partygoers to choose from two or three music channels that they can switch between whenever they like. As opposed to traditional speaker systems, headphones allow listeners maximum sound quality and intensify music events for a more personal experience.
These events bypass the restrictions of traditional concerts because of their silence. Silent Discos allow young adults to party all night long without the troubles of noise violations. The idea for silent concerts was originally conceived in the ‘90s by eco-activists to reduce noise disruption in outdoor spaces. What appeals to Millennials today ranges from rapid exposure to different music genres to vastly improved sound to the feel of a group experience that is poignantly customized. Everyone is dancing, but not necessarily to the same song, and the element of music choice makes each person’s experience unique. Silent Discos allow Millennials to literally dance to the beat of their own drum, engaging in a collective atmosphere while also tuning in for an experience that is all their own.
The popularity of Silent Discos has spread rapidly across the globe from Europe and Australia to the U.S., appearing at raves and in festival culture in tents at Bonnaroo, SXSW, Coachella, Camp Bisco, and Warped Tour. This month, BangOn!NYC incorporated a Silent Disco into their festival along with 3D video mapping, food trucks, clothing vendors, aerial performances, art installations, and a giant inflatable slide. These sorts of wild, all-encompassing events resonate strongly with Millennials who are constantly searching for the “next best thing,” and Silent Discos themselves provide an uncommon experience for Millennials to share with their social circles and on social networks, from Facebook to Vine.
Silent Events, one Silent Disco stager, allows attendees to switch between three channels on their headphones to hear competing DJs. The atmosphere is elevated with an air of competition between DJ sets, as the dancers’ headphones light up with the color of the DJ they are currently listening to, and mixmasters vie to have their color dominate the sea of partiers. Attendees also vote for their favorite and post on social media following the event to compare the “red light” versus “green light” sets.
The idea of Silent Discos is appealing to musicians as well. For the release of J. Cole’s new album, Born Sinner, he hosted a Silent Disco listening party to bring his fans closer to the music, explaining in a Fuse TV article that, “while the song’s playing, I don’t want you talking about the song. I want you to listen to every word.” Silent Discos offer Millennials a feeling of intimacy and a focus on the music sometimes missed at large concerts. The experience is like none other, allowing young attendees to dance ‘til the break of dawn like no one is watching, and sing favorite songs at the top of their lungs, because thankfully, no one is listening.
Whatever music you are in to this unique concept allows you to listen to it in an entirely new way. A Silent Disco is the latest music craze that involves everyone at the event wearing wireless headphones. The individual has two choices when it comes to DJ’s and can tune in and out as they please. So there will be one event with two separate music channels to choose from. However only you will be able to tell what song you are listnening to.
The Purpose of a Silent Party
Although the thought of hundreds of people all dancing to what appears to be silence may conjure up unusual images it is actually quite a sensible idea. A Silent Disco allows the individual to have fun and listen to loud music without disturbing anyone who doesn’t want to be exposed to it. This allows people to throw all night parties without disturbing a soul. The experience is for those who want to try something different and share this experience with others.
Throw a Party
The beautiful truth is that this method of partying can be applied to anything. If you are looking for a unique idea for an awards ceremony, comedic appearance or any kind a party this particular theme is perfect. This style of event is a unique way to celebrate any occasion. You will need a qualified sound engineer and some wireless headphones and various pieces of technical equipment. There are companies that can organise your Silent Disco for you and provide all of the necessary equipment.