On a Saturday afternoon in June, the dance floor at the Santa Monica Central Social Assistance and Pleasure Club was packed with guests who diligently danced, sang, and called the DJ. It is a scene that may be undeveloped on countless dance floors throughout the city, but in this case something completely different was going on.
The crowd of cool kids grooved and moved to silence. At least it seemed so.
In fact, the night owls took part in a phenomenon known as the “silent disco“, a dance party where the booming music is private and shared. Instead of getting their sound correction through the huge speakers found in most dance clubs, partners add custom wireless headphones to listen to a live DJ show.
Friday night is his third time bringing the quiet disco to Central since the club opened to the public last September.
“It’s going to be one of our signature parties,” said Rory Lovett, co-owner of Central. Due to its boom, he said, Central has decided to hold a monthly event on the second Saturday starting in December.
The quiet disco term was coined at the 2005 Glastonbury Festival of Britain, where headphones were used to share music in bulk without violating local noise regulations. Robbie “Motion Potion” Kowal, a San Francisco-based DJ, was the first to test the concept at the 2006 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Tennessee, USA.
Since then it has invested in its own over 1,000 headphones and has a quiet disco on the way to clubs, festivals and public spaces where noise regulation would otherwise make a dance party impossible.
According to Kowal, one of the things that makes the disco quiet is a crowd-pleaser is the “voyeuristic pass-factor”. Over the past few months, the party in Central has spread to 14th Street. People who cross it “can’t even imagine what is going on because they see people dancing around and hear nothing,” he said.
Kowal finds the “involuntary comic factor”, as he puts it, just as convincing. “You see people trying to sing with them without knowing the words … or pretending to know the words so their friends believe they are,” he said. “Much of the club culture is so expensive right now … it can make you smile and laugh.”
I am not a club girl. Now let’s put that aside. I don’t like clubs and I don’t like when clubbing is a socially accepted English word. You may think I’m lame, but I’m fine: clubs are often too crowded, too loud, and too hierarchical for my taste. When my friend sent me a link from Eventbrite for a quiet night last weekend, I was a) suspicious and b) immediately renamed it “Silent Rave” to calm me down.
Stephanie Tucker from Hollywood, who attended her second silent disco party in Central in June, said: “Everyone stays in small circles on a normal dance floor.” But in the silent disco, he suffered from more interaction between strangers. “It’s almost like everyone has headphones that we all have something in common.”
An illusion is colder than an association. I heard about these events a few years ago, especially one in Union Square – everyone brought their own music, listened with their own headphones, and held a big dance party that was quiet outside.
During this Club Quiet Night (hosted by Quiet Events) we received wireless earbuds when we entered the site. Choose from three different stations, each with different music genres, performed by one of the three (active) DJs: Page? ˅).
I know what you think when you are like me and yes, the first thing that came out of my mouth when I entered was the door:
Quiet Events employees with a pack of towels on their faces: Yes! What do you think we are, animals? Of course, we clean them; That’s why there is a “dirty” container …
I just had to make sure. I warned you that it would be an anal problem. These things come to my ear. I don’t live under a rock; I’ve heard of cauliflower (not googling).
The headphones concept also encourages more discussion. Dancers can take off the headphones (or lower the volume) to talk to someone if they want. The lack of a sound system means that they really hear each other – an option not known in traditional clubs. “It’s not that inevitable steep DJ sets,” Lovett said.
After putting on the headphones and making a pit stop because my bladder was the size of a peanut, we were able to dance to the music we wanted as long as it was played at one of the three stations. Green was in the top 40 of dance hits; Red played Latin, Hindi and house music and blue / pop / dance was in the 80s and 90s.
The cat ear headphones have two lights on top of each headband that lets the rest of the club world know what time of year it is playing.
Then there were moments when one of us stumbled upon the station – so the other of us switched to that station to see what it was about. And we would all really participate in it together. We even did some coordinated dances (no shame).
The idea of being able to connect to another party service through a shared drive is strange because the logic behind Quiet Clubbing seems to isolate you by differentiating yourself from other club members by choosing your own music and your own world dance all night long. My friends and I stay in separate stations, with some intersections every few songs.
I could join in, I thought. It’s like on the subway if you want to dance, but you can’t because it would sound weird. I always want to dance to my music on the subway. So I had to try a game. Hey, that’s something new.
We had to remove the headphones to talk about why we loved the song, or tell a funny story about a strange guy lying in a corner, or even say we were going to the bathroom. So, it was either music or communication; it was hard to get both – even though we were creative with imitation.
Me: I have a dumb question. Do you disinfect the headphones if they are returned before you hand them out to someone new?
Kowal’s performance is heard by his distinctive mix of rare careers and album rock, which has been reinterpreted as a dance mix – in June, his “Good Vibrations” mixes included Beach Boys and Marky Mark. On Friday night, he will be followed by a cover of Los Angeles DJ Quickie Mart.
Kowal will also bring a quiet disco to the large Sunset Strip music festival on Saturday.
Silent Disco “prefers adventurous music,” said Kowal. The attendees “really listen … because you turn on the headphones and they go straight from DJ to brain.”