Watch CBS News

In SF, Silent Disco Devotees Dance, Dance, Dance To A Beat Only They Can Hear

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Dozens of young people gather on a dark, San Francisco street. It's well past midnight and they've come to party. The deejay cues up pulsing dance music that fills their ears and gets their bodies swaying.

Surprisingly, people asleep in nearby homes don't realize anyone is outside, unless they happen to peer out their windows.

Welcome to the new age of "silent disco."

In an increasingly crowded urban world, this is one way to pump up the jam without getting into a jam with the police.

The key to silent disco is special wireless headphones that let both deejay and dancer stay in sync while keeping the ambient decibel level unaffected.

Ravers rave about it.

"You are in your own world and your friends are their in own world, even though you're listening to the same music," said silent disco fan Sahar Sultani.

This concept is music to the ears of deejays like Robbie Kowal who has seen the demise of musical events like San Francisco's North Beach Jazz Festival, laid low by neighbors' noise complaints.

"With urbanization, gentrification, music has become noise, noise has become nuisance and people start complaining about outdoor music. So we started looking for a better way," says Kowal, founder of "Silent Frisco."

Jocelyn Kane, executive director of the San Francisco Entertainment Commission admits managing sound in a city like San Francisco is difficult.

"If ... you are really, really upset about a certain source of noise, then it's going to become my problem, really fast," she explained.

As for the effect of silent disco on neighborhood noise complaints, Kane sounded cautiously optimistic.

"I think the answer is 'we don't know what we don't know,'" she said.

For its devotees, silent disco is less about the politics of noise than the joy of music.

"Everybody loves music but people need to sleep. So this is a win-win for everybody," Kowal said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.