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A Beginner’s Guide to the Rise of Silent Discos in the Pacific Northwest

Silent Discos use wireless headphones
Silent discos are a great way to hear dance music in the outdoors!

With warm weather comes outdoor events, and now, more often than ever we’re seeing silent discos as the selected format. In this article, we will explain the pros and cons of these events and tell you where to find them this Summer.

In 2011, the term “silent disco” was added to the dictionary with the meaning: “an event at which people dance to music that is transmitted through wireless headphones rather than played over a speaker system.” The first ever event of this type stateside was back in May 2002 in Chicago, IL with only one channel of music to listen to. Nowadays, technology has progressed massively and the typical silent disco event has up to three different DJ’s spinning simultaneously on their own channels. These events don’t use speakers, not even for the DJ’s, so hosting them in public parks and spaces is possible without special permits or permissions in most cases. In the midst of intense festival atmospheres, silent disco headphones offer a pleasant getaway for those not wanting to vibe at the main stage, and they are easy to use, too!

The headphones typically used have three controls, operated by dials or flip-switches: on/off, channel selection, and volume control. These headphones support up to three channels of music, each with their own color. Participants select between red, green and blue and then find other party-goers to dance with on the same color/channel. Finding others is easy since the headphones illuminate the color of the channel you are listening to. Not all three channels are always used, but often times promoters book different crews/genres so a good variety can be heard at any moment.

Another advantage of this individualized approach is the ability for users to fine-tune the volume to their needs. Friends can be found dancing together, or apart, while still enjoying each other’s company and personal tastes. It is also common to find folks hanging out with their headphones around their neck or on the ground, just having fun talking and catching up in the absence of loud music. If attending a silent disco event, make sure to bring a state ID to use as collateral for the headphone rental. Don’t worry though, the promoter only holds your ID safe to ensure that they get their headphones back at the end of the event. Though the headphones are expensive new, expect to pay only $10-15 to rent yours the day of.

Overall, silent discos are a great way to spend time with friends and enjoy dance music in a personalized way; they add a new dimension to Pacific Northwest dance music events with very few drawbacks. FW Events recently had a very successful Silent Disco Festival over Memorial Day Weekend with Turn It Down Music Festival 2018, Bumbershoot is offering a silent disco stage again this year, and local crews Heartbeat Silent Sound Systems and SoundDown Seattle host parties weekly. Look for the special headphones at Gas Works Park in Seattle and Laurelhurst Park in Portland this summer, among many other places!

To sum it up, see below:

Pros:

  • Different types of music offered simultaneously
  • All ages
  • Ability to play the music loud or soft, whatever each user prefers
  • Easier to talk to friends and make new ones
  • Less electricity used
  • Less noise pollution
  • Held at unique venues, and a chance to get out of the nightclub atmosphere

Cons

  • No bass/subwoofers to feel
  • Less mainstream artist support
  • More accountability, must keep the headphones you rent safe
  • Outdoor discos susceptible to bad weather
  • No alcohol allowed in most cases

Do you attend silent discos? If so, tell us about your experience in the comments!

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Written By

Owner / Founder of AC AUDIO.

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