Photo: PH German Alvarez/Shutterstock

Silent Discos Take Over the World

by Emily Hanssen Arent Aug 21, 2012

I can think of a few parties during my college years that should have been silent discos.

ONE SUMMER IN BOULDER, in a house on Moorhead. It was supposed to be a few people drinking beer until it wasn’t. It was 30 people drinking everything and dancing to the loudest music possible. Because that’s what feels right when you’re drinking everything.

The night ended with flashing lights and a knock at the front door and college kids flushing out the back like cats spooked by their own reflections in the mirror. Running through the crabgrass, hopping a chain link fence in the dark, not realizing the other side of the fence wasn’t flat ground but the beginning of a steep ditch. Tumbling, losing flip-flops. Climbing the other side of the ditch and coming up on the shoulder of Highway 36. Scraped knees, missing shoes, feeling unreasonably victorious.

On the other side of the Atlantic, where densely populated urban centers foster communities with an even lower tolerance for late-night noise, a new trend is proving a clever remedy for cranky neighbors and prematurely abandoned parties. The first “silent disco” was put on by a Dutch party company called 433fm, which began touring the European continent with a lineup of popular DJs and high-quality headphones in 2002. DJs broadcast their beats to a local radio channel, the wireless headphones are tuned to the station, and the party is instantly transformed from a circus of blaring speakers to the innocuous sound of shuffling feet and partiers singing under their breath. The company hosted a few high-profile events at festivals like Glastonbury and De Parade, and the concept started blowing up across Europe.

Parisians in particular have taken to the idea because police officers in the French capital strictly enforce a 10pm noise curfew that makes putting on all-night music events somewhat complicated. A French party organizer called Silence Events is putting together a packed summer lineup at some of the trendiest outdoor venues in Paris, like Wanderlust and La Rotonde Stalingrad.

For silent events taking place across Europe, stay tuned to 433fm. For upcoming events in the US, or to book your own silent disco, Silent Events is one of the more popular organizers in the States, and the official provider of headphones and silent event planning for Bonnaroo.

As the trend gains momentum and silent discos start popping up from Houston to Seoul, it’s increasingly likely that one of these events is happening down the street and around the corner this weekend. So don’t tumble into a ditch running from the noise police. Embrace the silent shuffle.

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