For many people, putting on a pair of headphones is a way to disengage from the rest of the world.
A party trend aims for the opposite.
Silent discos aren’t new. In 2005, England’s Glastonbury Festival hosted a silent disco to allow attendees to party in spite of noise restrictions, according to The New York Times. Back then, attendees would all vibe out to the same music, just like they would at a regular club event. Only, in this scenario, they’re using headphones.
Now, silent parties allow for a more customized experience. Three DJs vie for the crowd’s attention as partygoers use a button attached to a pair of wireless headphones to switch between stations.
One DJ might choose to entertain his audience with hip-hop. Another with Top 40 hits. A third could focus on reggae.
The crowd reacts as they would in any party environment. They dance.
A silent party looks a lot different than a traditional party, however.
Aside from the crowd being illuminated by the neon glow of the headphone lights, which reflect the channel that each person is listening to, many of the attendees are dancing to different rhythms. To an observer, it looks as though everyone is offbeat.
At a recent silent party at The Basement during A3C’s Festival and Conference, some attendees have lowered the volume on their headphones, or removed them to have a conversation.
Because that’s possible.
Whereas in a normal club environment talking without screaming is nearly impossible, the only thing you hear when you remove your headphones is the terrible singing of your peers.
If you can talk over the crowd’s karaoke version of Beyonce’s “Sorry,” you can have a pretty lengthy conversation.
Shannon Waldron believes the quirky aspects of the party experience are what make silent parties successful.
The founder of Urban Fêtes has been throwing silent parties since last year, recently expanding to five markets, including Atlanta, outside of his native Chicago.
Connecting with a manufacturer overseas, Waldron purchased 2,000 of the wireless headphones, leaving them in cities such as Atlanta, L.A. and Miami where Urban Fetes regularly throws parties.
Waldron admits his company isn’t the first to throw a silent party. Silent parties are popping up around the country. Popular Tennessee music festival Bonnaroo held a silent disco over the summer.
Rapper 2 Chainz threw a silent listening party at Atlanta’s The Gathering Spot following the release of his mix tape “Daniel Son; Necklace Don” in September. As fans listened to the album through their headphones, they watched a martial arts fight unfold in front of them.
Waldron recognizes that like most trendy things, the market for silent parties could soon become oversaturated. Eventually, the trendy parties could become so normal that they’re no longer interesting.
He says he’s looking into ways to diversify his business outside of nightlife before that happens.
For now, Urban Fêtes throws one party a month in Atlanta. This month, they’re throwing a second party in honor of Spelman and Morehouse Colleges’ homecoming.
Tickets can be purchased at Eventbrite.com.
9 p.m.-2 a.m. Oct. 29. $10 (before Oct. 23); $15. Tago Center, 1735 Defoor Place, Atlanta. Facebook.com/urbanfetes.