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Silent discos, Boston's Silent Storm Sound System take the party 'a little bit softer now'

Posted by Alex Pearlman  May 2, 2012 09:00 AM

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421464_10150600153088123_97848938122_9482080_1402439976_n.jpgBy Rachel Pennellatore

I first encountered a “silent disco” back in June 2010 at Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tenn.; the quiet dance parties have been a staple attraction of the annual festival since DJ Robbie “Motion Potion” Kowal played in 2005. At first, in the dark, the silent disco just looked like a tent full of people dancing to nothing in the middle of the night (hey, you’re on vacation, go for it). But when they suddenly broke out into a perfectly synchronized chorus -- not unlike a flash mob -- I knew I had to take a closer look.

When you enter a silent disco area, you’re handed a pair of wireless headphones. Once you put them on, what was before a strange scene becomes a concept that makes total sense: The DJ’s songs are broadcast to each set headset, rather than through a traditional speaker system. By containing the noise, silent discos open up a whole new realm of dance party locations.

“We have partnered with some great Boston DJs who create high-energy dance parties in virtually any location,” said Sarah Thomas, director of business development and PR for Boston-based silent disco company Silent Storm Sound System. “We’ve ventured into museums, galleries, outdoor parks, rooftop venues, sailing vessels, colleges, and universities,” including a recent event at Providence’s Brown University that attracted more than 500 guests.

Silent Storm Sound System, which has been in business since Fall 2009, offers silent disco equipment rentals and full production services. Customers have the option of renting two- or three-channel headsets to please guests with varied musical tastes. The company prides itself on “bringing the [silent disco] concept beyond its prior trends into unique and classy spaces as well,” Thomas said. “We encourage people to have the autonomy to host events the way they envision them.”

The technology and the concept to silence an entire event in this way got its start in the 1960s in an obscure Finnish sci-fi movie that translates to A Time of Roses. After gaining popularity in Europe in the 1980s -- where silent discos are still big today -- the technology made its way to the U.S. in the 1990s, as concerned environmental activists wanted to get people into the forests they were trying to save but limit noise pollution and wildlife disturbance. Silent discos have since become popular at large events and music festivals like Glastonbury as a way of allowing the party to continue on without violating late-night noise restrictions.

“We feel that we can take the mobile concept of ‘silencing’ a musical experience to the most unexpected locations,” Thomas said, “and the options for human engagement are limitless.”

Silent Storm held its first public event at Jamaica Plain’s Milky Way Lounge during the 2010 Together Festival. In the two years since, they’ve held silent disco nights at Harvard Square’s Om Lounge, Banshee Bar in Dorchester, Kendall Square’s ThinkTank, and even the MIT Boathouse. In 2010, the company also organized the world’s first silent disco pub crawl, which “put Boston on the silent disco map,” Thomas said.

Video by TrueDIY (YouTube)

According to Silent Storm’s website, it’s also possible for a band to play a silent live show. Grab your friends and have a “quiet night” soon!

Photo courtesy of Silent Storm Sound System

About Rachel -- I'm a tiny gal with big ideas who's always on the move. One day I'm going to use my vast amount of otherwise useless trivia knowledge to beat Ken Jennings' Jeopardy score. Likes: hula hooping, all things involving the 80's, delicious martinis, sunshine, proper grammar, baby animals. Dislikes: math, being cold, spiders, most vegetables, things in places I can't reach.

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