Silent Disco: Dance or get out!

Silent Disco: Dance or get out!

Eco Warriors, Hedgers, Tree-Huggers, Hippies; stick whatever Post-it on them you like but environmental activists are who we have to thank for Silent Disco. It was their considerate minds that thought up the idea of clubbing in headphones, namely to attract supporters onto the land they were guarding with the promise of a party, without disrupting surrounding wildlife with loud music. Then, in 2005, Michael Eavis (King of the Hedgers, Tree-Huggers etc) commissioned Silent Disco to trial at Glastonbury Festival as a response to noise restrictions. And so the novelty of dancing like an arse, while your ears cook off under comically bulbous wireless headphones, has cleaned up every festival season since (hell, if Glastonbury picked up wolf-bumming as a kooky new craze Reading Festival would want in). Massive Attack even brought the experience to their Meltdown on London’s Southbank last month. So we went. And it was glorious‚” in parts.
On my shuffling entry to Queen Elizabeth Hall I appeared to be on a conveyor belt of some kind, or in a Chinook helicopter, waiting to be slapped on the side of my helmet by a drill sergeant to inform me that it’s my turn to jump out. In reality, as I reach the front of the Silent Disco queue a sober bloke reaches into a basket of banana yellow headphones, informs me that there are two channels on my right can and a volume control on my left, before he slaps them on my head and signals for me to get out of his face. Madonna’s ‘Holiday’ is playing and I merrily skip to the cloakroom like a happy cam-?er. The true joy of Silent Disco is then instantly noted.

Slip off your headphones and you’re faced with a room that’s losing its cool. Giddy new arrivals squawk with excitement at members of their party that look sooo much funnier than they did yesterday in their standard, boring black headphones. Others, for whom the initial hilarity has worn off, look ever more idiotic. Sure, they’re jerking it out in time, a right load of John Travolta’s, but my phones are still off and so to me they look like a bunch of pathetic, experimental drama students, exploring space and movement without shame. Rather wonderfully, I knew that that was soon to be me. And it was.

I was well aware that these headphones were just that and not an invisibility cloak, and yet once they were on and the volume was maxed, I was overcome with a sense of privacy. Maybe it was because I couldn’t hear the laughter but Queen Elizabeth Hall was my bedroom. And so I danced like no one was watching. Yes, like a total twat. Luckily, everyone else was in his or her respective bedrooms, except for the new arrivals now labelling me an experimental drama student. But they’d learn‚” most of them.

It shouldn’t be odd that bystanders are the noticeable minority in a disco and yet that’s the state of things in modern society. No one goes to clubs to dance anymore, but rather to shark, chat, drink, shark and drink. Inhibitions are rarely lost by many these days. And if that sounds familiar, Silent Disco is not for you. The name might suggest a quiet place to carry on boozing but the ‘Disco’ part also suggests that this is a place for dancing, which presents this novel way of clubbing with its one real problem.

Two channels on your headset (controlled from the right side, remember?) act as two different clubrooms, only the walk is a simple flick of your finger. And having your pick of which DJ you listen to is a welcome bonus, unless, as was the case at Meltdown, both DJs insist on playing the same nondescript Euro-house and techno for a majority of the evening. It’s the luck of the draw I guess, and I, like most, made do, noting that while I wouldn’t listen to this monotonous electro dross in any other club, the headphones do act like some sort of placebo, making everything bearable, if not great.

When tracks like Air’s ‘Sexy Boy’ pop up, or a touch of Daft Punk, the real power of Silent Disco is realised. It’s euphoric, as great songs sound greater when wired directly into your bonce, and maybe the pony dance that envelopes such highlights serve to make the highs even higher. All I really knew that night was that there were 500 people in my bedroom and I didn’t have to worry about cleaning up in the morning.

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