Thirty minutes into a Friday night party at an Uptown club, the room was mostly quiet.
The only sounds came from bartenders shaking cocktail mixers and guests chatting with one another or softly singing, as if they were warming up for what was billed on Eventbrite as the “ultimate go-to event for millennials.”
But out on the dance floor, Edna Tennessee, an effervescent 20-something, belted the lyrics of a song by R&B singer Monica. Wearing an all-black ensemble and headphones illuminated by green light, Tennessee swayed from side to side, grooving to smooth rhythms that only she could hear. Her girlfriends, who also wore the glowing headphones, danced alongside her.
The friends were at a silent party in the Eiffel Society, a bumping bash that, to the outside observer, seems to be missing one important ingredient — audible music.
That’s because when guests walk in, they receive a set of wireless headphones with three glowing colors — blue, red, and green — each representing one of three DJs spinning tunes from the stage. Partygoers can scan the trio of stations throughout the night, settling for their song of choice at that moment.
Tennessee discovered the silent parties through Facebook and has attended five times.
“I like the option of being able to listen to different songs instead of staying on one station,” she said, noting that she was listening to TLC’s “Red Light Special.”
“A lot of people who don’t dance at a club, dance here,” she added.
Guests did, in fact, dance as if nobody was watching, in tune with whatever they were listening to. Some moved slowly and snapped their fingers, while others bounced and pumped their fists in the air.
The silent parties are hosted by Urban Fêtes, a lifestyle marketing company that connects its clients to rising artists and influencers through live events and social media. The company began hosting silent parties across the country nearly three years ago.
“We've been able to take this and run with it,” said Shannon Waldron, founder of Urban Fêtes.
But Waldron’s company isn’t the only one that’s found success with the concept. Groups like Silent Events have also hosted silent discos in New Orleans, and theirs are especially popular with the college crowd.
The silent party trend began taking shape in England more than 10 years ago and slowly caught on in the United States, thanks to exposure at major festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella.
The silent parties at the Eiffel Society take place once a month, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tickets usually range from $10 to $20. The next is March 30.
“There's absolutely no house music being played in the venue, so it’s really creepy, because if you don't have headphones on, you have no idea what's going on,” said Waldron. “Everyone jumps into their own world, once they put these headphones on.”
Silent parties may seem like an isolating experience, but guests argued that they’re actually inclusive, because everyone is part of the same, bizarre scene. Revelers would occasionally remove their headphones, look around, and laugh.
Waldron notes that it’s easier to strike up a conversation at silent parties, because there is no shouting over loud music. He’s even hosted the quiet get-togethers at rooftop clubs that enforce noise ordinances.
“We get around that, because there's no loud music being played,” he explained.
A manager at the Eiffel Society said that during a silent party, the vast room is sometimes filled with nearly 400 people. Attendees find out about the events through Groupon, social media outlets or word-of-mouth.
Asha McDowell, who was there for the second time, discovered the silent parties through a friend.
“It was a really cool experience so I decided to come back to this one,” she said.
McDowell enjoys the “early 2000 R&B” songs that a particular DJ is known for playing, but she often checks out the other stations.
“It’s like you’re not married to one DJ the entire night,” she said.
At one point, nearly every headphone on the dance floor switched to blue. Partiers formed lines, boogied to the same steps and warbled the words to “Before I Let Go,” by Frankie Beverly & Maze.
They were in their own worlds, together.