I live in Los Angeles. Many nights when I’m driving home from doing something sensible (like eating dinner or mailing my estimated quarterly taxes) I pass nightclubs with long lines at the entrances. These clubs typically have names like Lure, or XXIVIIXXI, or Thigh.
Thigh will have a gimmick—like the bar is shaped like a thigh, and also there is a signature drink called The Thigh Ball and also the walls are lined with photos of celebrity thighs. Hey, you’ll notice, there’s Ernest Borgnine’s thigh. Neat. (Pasty.)
Sitting above the dance floor is a DJ who might also, but coincidentally, be named Thigh. He’s not like a wedding DJ. He doesn’t spin a bunch of songs you already know. Club DJs play original mixes, sometimes accompanied by a light show and lasers and stuff falling from the ceiling. It’s all about the experience, and the experience is driven by the DJ. This is why, for example, you will rarely hear “Friends in Low Places” at a really hot Hollywood nightclub or electronic music festival.
If you’re the type of person who’s ever been to one of these hot dance clubs and thought, “Gee, this is all great and stuff, but I wish there were two DJs, and I wish I could choose from between them by flicking a switch on a set of blinking yellow headphones,” then you’re in luck, because that’s now a thing that exists. It’s called Silent Frisco.
My wife and I went to Silent Frisco at Wilshire in Santa Monica. (Full disclosure: I do a little freelance work for Silent Frisco’s PR rep, who invited us.)
Here’s how it works. At the door, guests receive a set of wireless headphones. The headphones have volume control plus a switch that allows the listener to select between two channels. There’s a green channel and a blue channel, and the top of the headphones light up blue or green. I know you were wondering, and yes I did look kind of like that dude from Cloud City when I had the headphones on.
Wut up, Lobot?
The two channels at each Silent Frisco vary. Past events have featured Daft Punk Vs. Radiohead, and the night we attended was 1980s Vs. 1990s. One upcoming event promises to pit Michael against Prince. Organizers, if you’re reading this, I suggest you take a hard look at: Biggie Vs. Tupac, Madonna Vs. Lady Gaga, David Lee Roth Van Halen Vs. Sammy Hagar Van Halen and Eddie Murphy Vs. Patrick Swayze in the ultimate showdown of popular actors who recorded a song for some reason.
With headphones on, the dance floor feels normal. People are dancing, drinking, kissing and so on. With headphones off, it’s Bizarro Club World, because the room is relatively quiet while a large group of people move silently to two different rhythms. It’s like standing in the middle of a piece of performance art called, “Rhythm Failure: An Examination of Poor White Dancing—Badness Accentuated by Silence.”
My advice: If you want to dance, keep the headphones on all night. All the way to the car, if possible.
After dancing for a bit, we went to the bar, and I did something I’d never done in a dance club before. I had a conversation. The bar was still noisy, but I could speak with my wife without shouting, which I recall our Pre-Cana instructor saying was important.
I saw one man and woman silently communicating from across the bar. She pointed to the green lights on top of her headphones, as if to indicate, “This jam be the shiznit.” Then he pointed to the blue lights on his headset, as if to say, “No, dawg, my jam is the dopest.” They moved closer and danced together to completely different songs, which is something most men do anyway.
Silent Frisco was fun and novel and, most importantly, a personal wakeup call. I realized that we, as a nation, have chafed under the tyranny of the single-DJ system for far too long. It is a beautiful thing to be able to choose between silence and the shiznit.