Editor's note: This story has been updated.
CHICAGO — Imagine walking into a party full of people shouting lyrics to different songs, but you can’t hear the music. Sounds strange, right?
The “silent party” is concept has been done in other cities and came to Chicago in January.
Promoter Shannon Waldron, 31, has hosted more than 10 parties so far and said the idea has done well here.
Here's how it works: Partygoers get headphones at the door that they return at the end of the night. There are three DJs playing music at the same time, but the only way to hear it is by turning on the electronic headphones. Listeners can flip through three different color-coded channels and see what others are listening to.
Andrea Watson tells us what it's like to be at a 'silent party.'
“It brings back dancing and DJs actually playing quality music because it turns into a DJ battle, essentially, because the DJ wants the listeners on their channel,” Waldron, a South Loop resident, said.
His company, Urban Fetes, hosts the parties, which already have expanded beyond Chicago. He’s hosted parties in Los Angeles and will be in Atlanta later this month. The plan is host parties in cities across the country.
Waldron's most recent party was in Hyde Park this month; the month before he threw one Downtown.
Silent Chicago, which is run by a company that has held parties in Philadelphia, New Jersey and elsewhere, is also hosting parties in Chicago and the suburbs. Its website says its events offer "a party experience like nothing you've had before."
The silent parties are unique, Waldron said, because they remove barriers people might find when trying to meet someone new.
“It allows you to connect with people who like the same music as you,” he said. “I’m giving you a conversation piece.”
And it’s a great opportunity to network because it’s quiet in the room, he said.
“You’re able to have more clear, more concise conversations because there’s no music drowning out your conversation,” Waldron said.
Getting people back to dancing is another goal.
“Everyone wants to be cool and pop bottles and not really mingle and interact,” he said. “This thing is crazy enough that it kind of removes all of that. It knocks down all those barriers. It brings back dancing.”
Shannon Waldron [Courtesy Shannon Waldron]
Waldron has been a part of the event and party industry for a little over five years, since launching his company. Before Urban Fetes, a lifestyle brand geared to millennials, he worked in advertising after graduating from Southern Illinois University.
He said he felt the need to create something new because Chicago’s nightlife was becoming routine for him.
“I was getting over it a little bit and wanted to create something of my own,” he said.
To give people in his circle more options, he started hosting meetups and networking events for entrepreneurs. Eventually, he founded his company in March of 2011.
He has put on other events, including a Beyonce and Jay Z-themed karaoke competition. He’s working on a beach yoga with headphones concept, he said, that allows people to listen to music while working out. They would be able to hear the instructor through the headphones the same way they hear the DJ at the silent parties.
Waldron said he’s always thinking of new ideas and ways for young adults to have fun. And he isn’t concerned about growing out of touch with that group as he gets older.
“In addition to just maintaining the relationship with the millennials now, I’ll develop new relationships with the youth because I do feel they move this thing, and they push the culture,” he said.
His silent party is Saturday at Velvet Lounge, 67 E. Cermak Road. It's themed "Island Vybz” and is hosted by LKZ Productions. Music will range from Reggae/Dancehall, Afro Beat and Soca to hip-hop and R&B. Get tickets through Eventbrite.
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