ACL Fest 2017: Why a silent disco is anything but silent

A silent disco is anything but silent.

Savanna Erickson helps her friend Mikayla Jovanovich adjust her wireless headphones to a certain DJ at the Silent Disco event, a new event where people can use wireless headphones to cycle between three DJs, during the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Texas, on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

At a traditional club, you’ll see hundreds of people dancing to whatever music is pumping through a speaker system. If a song comes on that you don’t like, tough luck.

At a silent disco — a recent trend at music festivals across the country, including Austin City Limits — guests each wear a pair of headphones connected to the DJ, but if you take off your headphones, you’ll hear the sounds of hundreds of people singing, shouting and laughing to the party happening in their ears.

NEW ON “I Love You So Much”: DJs do battle for audience ears at the Silent Disco

People dance at the Silent Disco event, a new event where people can use wireless headphones to cycle between three DJs, during the Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Texas, on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

It’s a unique experience that a New York-based company called Quiet Events has tweaked to have three DJs spinning different genres that are connected to colors on the headphones in the crowd. All three nights at ACL this weekend, DJs played EDM, 80/90s hits and hip hop, and the audience could flip between the stations at will and see what everyone else was listening to. The DJs can also see what people are listening to, which inspired a friendly competition between them on Saturday night in the Tito’s tent.

One of the easiest ways to see who was winning was by taking off your headphones to hear which crowd was the most vocal, sometimes singing every lyric to a song.

Will Petz, who founded the company six years ago, says it’s popular with kids and others who don’t love extremely loud situations but still want to dance and have fun with other people.

Quiet Events hosts several events like this a month in Austin, including an upcoming Quiet Clubbing night at the North Door on Oct. 20, the same date as a Mobile Bar Crawl Dance Party downtown, where headphone-wearing party-goers will travel from bar to bar, taking the disco with them.

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