Your typical dance club has characteristics both good and bad.
Plenty of people are fans of the throbbing dance beat that explodes from the speakers and thumps you in the chest. Then again, the volume of that same dance beat can cause its fair share of problems. Try talking to your friends, ordering a drink or flirting with that hot girl/guy you saw across the bar without yelling at the top of your lungs.
As technology continues to advance alongside the growing popularity of electronic dance music, a new kind of phenomenon is transforming the typical dance club experience. It's called a "silent disco," and the silence is spreading.
The first silent disco took place in 2005 at England's Glastonbury Festival. Wireless headphones that played the live DJ's broadcast were given to members of the crowd so they could dance all night without violating any local noise restrictions. The technology made its debut stateside later that year at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Tennessee. Ryan Dowd, owner and creator of Silent Events, was at that first U.S. silent disco event and said because of the poor signal quality of the headphones, most people participated in the silent dance party for a few minutes only.
"I thought if I made a headphone people forgot they were wearing, they would get into it for a longer period of time," Dowd said.
As technology improved, so did the headphones' signal strength and overall sound quality. With that, Dowd has been taking Silent Events on tour and stopping in nearly every state introducing people to the silent disco concept.
One of the first things people will notice about a silent disco is it's a unique experience where you, the audience, have more control. You may change the volume of the headphones and, in some cases, Silent Events will feature multiple DJs spinning simultaneously with multichannel headphones, giving you the choose of DJ to listen to. Plus, Dowd said, people are more inclined to actually interact with one another. Talking to someone is as easy as removing your headphones — not to mention you can people watch, groove in silence and sing along (or at least try) to one of their favorite tracks.
"People think everyone's in their own little world ... but it's completely the opposite," Dowd said. "It ends up being really, really a lot more social than a club."
Silent Events will be bringing one of its productions to Cosmic Charlie's this weekend. While it won't feature simultaneous DJ play, local Lexington DJs and producers John The Baptist, Booty Sweat, Carl Calm and Ellie Herring will be performing sets.
Mark Evans, promoter for Cosmic Charlie's, said this would be the second Silent Event at the venue in less than a year. In addition to providing a switch-up to the venue's usual live music or traditional DJ sets, the silent disco allows listeners to fully take in every sonic nuance of what's being performed, he said.
"I love listening to an album with some good headphones and hearing some good deep sound that you can dance to," Evans said. "If anything, it makes it more music-focused."
Dowd said that no matter the nature of Silent Events, the success of silent discos is at a crossroads where technology, the popularity of dance music and a generation of listeners are converging.
"I don't think it's even 30 percent of what it will be one day," Dowd said. "I think the possibilities are endless."