Sep. 28—There is some disagreement on the origins of Silent Disco, a DJ dance event where patrons move to music pumping through wireless headphones rather than from large speakers. Bonnaroo Music Festival, which has included such programming every year since 2005, is credited with fostering the nationwide growth of the concept.
However, there is no confusion over the history of the current local version of Silent Disco, which returns to Yellow Cab Tavern in Dayton for a special two-night celebration on Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1. It began in 2017 by three hometown DJs at the now defunct Therapy nightclub on Third Street. After a forced break during the 2020 coronavirus lockdown, the event moved to its current home at Yellow Cab Tavern in April 2021.
"They were doing 150 to 200 people at Therapy, but it has really grown since we brought it to Yellow Cab," said local promoter Brian Johnson. "We just had our biggest one back in August with almost 575 people. It has become this huge community of people who come out every month. They go under the tent and dance for five or six hours. It's wild."
Doors open at 8 p.m. and the DJs begin spinning at 8:30 p.m. While there is a decent early crowd each month, the party really gets cooking around 10:30 or 11 p.m. with more than 500 dancers packed on the dance floor.
"We start early just for the people that can't stay out late," DJ John Chapel said. "I'm at a point where all of my friends have kids and if they want to come out and support me, they have to do it early. It's really nice to be able to provide this stuff for literally everybody and it's very safe. This is not alcohol-centric. Of course, there are people drinking but I can confidently say people come to the disco for the music. They don't come to get hammered or meet someone. They come and they just want to vibe all night."
Weekend of silence
Silent Disco is usually the final Friday of each month. For this installment, it is expanded to a two-day dance party with separate themes. Friday will feature Chapel spinning hip-hop on the red station along with event co-founders KimL with EDM on the green station and Sexbox playing '70, '80s and '90s tunes on the blue station. Saturday is industrial goth night with special guests. DJ Soroya Detroit presenting old school club music on red, DJ Kenny "Ditdot" offering up industrial dance music on blue and Ramah playing rock on green.
"The silent part is really intriguing," Johnson said. "It gives you the opportunity to play multiple genres of music at the same time, which you can't do over speakers. The headphones allow you to isolate the sound while giving people multiple options to choose from but silent isn't exactly the term. There's nothing auditory being played over speakers but it is not silent. People are singing along to their favorite songs. It almost becomes this kind of tribal thing. The headphones light up with the color of the channel you're listening to, so it becomes this fear of missing out. Like, you're on this station but then you see all of these people are on a different station, so you flip to another channel to hear what they're playing."
The Silent Disco in late October will mark a milestone for the event's time at Yellow Cab Tavern.
"Last Halloween was our biggest one up until recently," Johnson said. "We had like 475 people for that. Once winter comes, we have to come inside so it becomes a little harder, but as soon as March and April came this year, it kept building and building again. We're kind of wondering what's going to happen this Halloween. You know, are we going to have 1,000? Are we going to have enough headphones?"
Accountability and order
The music is important but Johnson also credits the event's growth to the attendees.
"It's a safe space," he said. "It's almost a self-policing community of people who aren't going to be here for anything except for having a good time in a fun, friendly way. Moving Silent Disco built on that idea and we've been pushing it really hard. It's been a really fun and successful event every time. It's fully inclusive and includes older people. It skews a little younger, maybe 22 or 23, but it goes upwards of (people in their) 40s and 50s. We would never turn anyone away."
Chapel, who also DJs weekly at Ned Peppers on Fifth Street, agrees.
"We always say the disco is for the people and if we can have a better reach and cater to more people, that's great," he said. "One of the coolest things about this event is there is no target demographic. My mom is 75 and she came to one. There are people from all walks of life and all backgrounds. We get people from Springfield, Yellow Springs, Centerville and other surrounding areas. Now, UD is getting wind of this too."
Single night tickets for Silent Disco are $10 in advance, $15 day of show. Two-day tickets are $15 and only available in advance.
"It's kind of hard to explain the appeal of Silent Disco, it's a whole thing you have to experience," Johnson said. "Some people don't get it but once you do Silent Disco one time, you want to come back."
Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW TO GO
What: Silent Disco
Where: Yellow Cab Tavern, 700 E. Fourth St., Dayton
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1
Cost: Single night tickets are $10 in advance, $15 day of show; two-day tickets are $15 and only available in advance
More info: yellowcabtavern.com