Aspen Times Weekly: Get down at the silent disco
February 2, 2014
The setting is somewhat reminiscent of a junior high dance, at first. People enter a quiet room and look rather skeptical, then a bit self-conscious. The disco ball in the center of the dance floor catches their eye and they wonder what they should be doing. Then, they put on a pair of headphones and it all becomes a bit clearer. A dance party erupts. But not just any dance party, take off the headphones and this fiesta is silent.
The Silent Disco tent at the base of Buttermilk was a new attraction this year for X Games attendees to enjoy. I was hired as part of the event development team for four days. I had no idea what was in store for me when I arrived last Thursday morning for my job. I had never heard of a Silent Disco (pun intended), and I soon found out that I was not alone.
Here's how the Silent Disco works: Each person that enters is given a pair of wireless headphones. Once they put them on, they can choose from three channels of music transmitted from a DJ booth at the head of the dance floor. Each channel plays a different genre of music. Those of us who don't have a pair of headphones on feel like we're missing out on an inside joke as we watch groups of headphone wearers quietly cavort, only making noise when they suddenly decide to bellow out a chorus in unison or communicate to the rest of their group at an extremely high decibel level.
The Silent Disco tent at X Games was put on by Silent Events, the original production company for silent parties in the U.S. The silent party trend originated in Europe, but debuted in 2008 at Bonnaroo Music Festival. The man that made it all happen was Silent Event's founder and owner, Ryan Dowd. He looked at how it was executed in Europe and found ways to pioneer the silent party in his country. He manufactured his own headphones that introduced the three-channel options so people could customize their own experience.
"It helps expand the demo-graphic of music," Dowd said. "There isn't just one type of music being blared at you from a speaker. You get to choose the volume and style of the music you want."
Silent Events typically hosts parties for 18-30 year olds. However, the family focused environment at X Games allowed for all ages to enjoy rocking out inside their own world…that others happened to share.
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Dowd believes that a Silent Disco fits well with the young generation due to our need for technological choices. We all have so many options on our phones, tablets and computers so we should be able to have the same when it comes to our live musical experiences.
"This is a generation of choices," Dowd said. "People expect to have a choice, and we are giving them that with music. We want to bring the music back to the people."
As technology evolves, it will be fascinating to see how we gain even more control over our musical experiences. After working the Silent Disco, I'm excited to watch this evolution take place as entrepreneurs like Dowd change the way we party. I also look forward to seeing how the music changes with it, because after four days in the Silent Disco tent I have zero interest in listening to Daft Punk's Get Lucky or Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines ever again.
Barbara Platts, a local marketing professional, writes about the "mountain millennial culture" that she participates in every day. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her @barbaraplatts.
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