Silence is coming to a party near you

Ever had the problem of neighbours calling the police, fees for a permit to make noise or that ringing in your ears the day after a party? If yes, then I have some good news for you. Silent disco is making a big push onto the Dutch urban party scene and I predict that it will become a mainstay for pop­up parties.

Yep, it’s that thing where you and everybody else on the dance floor listens to the music via headphones. Pop­up parties come in all shapes and sizes in venues that are mainly dedicated to other activities. It includes going dancing in a bar or restaurant, in the school gymnasium, in a museum or other venue that is not a club or moneyed open air festival. I’ll come back to the city in a bit but for contrast, let’s first visit the Dutch countryside.

Some weeks ago, I went visiting my parents who live about twenty minutes East of Den Bosch, ‘below the rivers’ as many Dutch would say. That night, I noticed something my parents’ ears didn’t seem to register anymore: the persistent distant techno thumps of a party. I was surprised myself how the noise was strange to my ears. Growing up in the city, I was never confronted with heavy bass floating around in the open air. From the continued and regular existence of this thumping sound traveling between these villages like a jungle drum line of communication, I can only assume that it is simply seen as a part of life that young people enjoy and which is not systematically challenged by older locals. Not that I particularly want to encourage my neighbours or the readers of to start enjoying techno until the speakers blow up, but people making parties should be part of the package of living together.

A place like Amsterdam has its fair share of parties, including big commercial events all throughout the season where DJs fill the air with beats. The organisers buy their permits from the city, which at least in part motivates its decisions by the money it can make of visitors. This is where silent disco would seem to draw its first appeal to the little guys planning a party: silent means less to no need to engage with the bureaucracy of the city. Zero stacks of speakers can mean zero city involvement with your event.

Organizers of silent discos have the double advantage of entering the market with a new concept that is already widely accepted by people. People can be seen entering into conversations or meetings using one ear for private music, so wearing headphones in your party pics on Facebook or Instagram shouldn’t be much of a concern for many party­goers. The Lowlands festival had much success with it’s first silent disco Thursday and Rotterdam just had its first silent festival and world record attempt involving headphones and an energy­ generating dance floor.

The question is what will happen to silent disco fever over the next few years. The answer to that I think depends on the reasons for which people in Holland right now organise and go to silent parties. Do they love silent disco just for that brand new party feeling which like any fashion might wear off quite soon, or because it is such a natural fit for current Dutch city living? The latter relates to it being easy on our own ears – we want to be sensible about our health ­ and those of condemnatory neighbours. Equally allowing to somewhat circumvent large bureaucracies and matching our acceptance of wearing headphones in company – both trends which will not disappear anytime soon – I bet silent disco being here to stay.

About the Author
Mathijs van Dijk lives as a Dutchman in Brussels where he currently writes and teaches Dutch. From this Belgian home with his Italian girlfriend and two cats, he keeps tabs on Dutch goings-on and continues to learn every day about Italy.



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