Silent Frisco

Upon returning to the Bay Area I set a long-term goal for myself of getting to know some the nooks and crannies of San Francisco, the hidden hotspots that aren’t advertised to tourists but that are loved and adored by San Francisco locals. Because I have a particular love for music, I am especially hoping to find a few quirky cafes and/or up-and-coming lounges that have frequent live music performances. I’ve been reading SFWeekly and a few local blogs consistently, not only because I love the stories, but also because I hope that they will give me some ideas about places I should check out. Well, this week I had my first success in finding a cool event that definitely had a unique San Francisco vibe to it.

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This past Sunday, Silent Frisco put on their first concert of the season at Ocean Beach. Silent Frisco is a San Francisco based company dedicated to creating a unique musical experience through the creation of silent raves. (Well, maybe “rave” isn’t necessarily the right word. I’ve heard the term “silent rave” before and think it has a cool exciting ring to it, but if you asked the people working for Silent Frisco about what they do, they might use the term “concert” rather than “rave” since the artists they host perform music that falls outside of the range of what at least I consider to be typical rave music. For the sake of writing this post though, I’m going to use the term “rave” just because I think it’s more fun). Upon collecting a ticket from Will Call, each person received a set of headphones. These headphones were then used throughout the concert to listen to the music being played by the DJs on stage. This effectively made the rave completely “silent” to anyone walking by. Everyone in the audience however, had his/her head filled with music. What’s interesting is that even though each person was listening individualistically, it was just as easy to get sucked up into the beats and to feel the pulse of the music within the crowd, just like at any other concert. There are two major benefits to hosting a concert in this format. One, it allows music to be performed in public spaces that usually can’t be used as concert venues because of noise restrictions, and two it allows the DJs to play around more with the sounds. For example, they don’t need to rely on bass-heavy music that will reach the ears of listeners at the back of a crowd. This gives them the freedom to explore a wider range of rhythms and to experiment with higher pitches.

Now, about the concert. The official start was 1pm. Since I had no idea what to expect from this event, or even how it was going to work, I decided that we should get there a bit early to check out the scene. Even though there was essentially no one there when we arrived I’m glad we got there as early as we did. It made parking super easy and we had the opportunity to see what went into setting up for the event. We also were able to watch as the DJs and their groupies arrived. This was particularly cool because I think we got a glimpse into the underground clubbing scene in SF. You could easily tell who was a part of this community because they were all dressed in weird costumes, or else in clothes that made the ones worn by your stereotypical hipster seem ordinary. There was also a lot of face paint and glitter going on. Not going to lie, this kind of made me wish I had thought to whip out my sparkly eyeliner from middle school, just because this is probably one of the few opportunities I’ll have to wear something like that and who doesn’t want to add a bit of extra shine to their face. Especially when you’re on the beach and are going to be getting more than enough sunshine to reflect off the metallic sparkles.

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The quiet beginnings

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At 1:00 we walked over to Will Call to collect our tickets and receive our headphones. We then perched ourselves on the wall of the boardwalk to do some quality people watching as the crowds began to arrive. It was really an event for everyone. Because it took place on the beach there was enough space for each person to find his or her niche within the concert. While part of the beach was populated by festival-junkies wearing extravagant garb and dancing as if they were from another world, there were other also sections of the beach were people were throwing around Frisbees and having picnics.  It was simultaneously a low-key family event and a music festival.

About an hour/ hour and a half into the event, the concert began to pick up as more and more people started to arrive. More people means more energy, and as a greater number of people started to get up and dance I too found myself on my feet swaying and dancing to the music playing in my ears. The weirdest thing about the concert was that when you took off your headphones everything really was relatively quiet, minus the slight chatter of the crowd. The first few times I took off my headphones I actually laughed out loud because everyone just looked so funny grooving to the same rhythm without any audible signs of music. It was also fun to look around and see yourself bopping to the same beat or singing to the same song as a person 100 yards away. Initially, because you were wearing headphones, there was this sensation that it was just you and the music; the way it usually is when you have headphones on.  This time though, you and 100s of other people were all on the same page and were all connected in a very special way.

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There were several different DJs featured throughout the day: Random Rab, Worthy, El Papachango, Little John, Motion Potion, u9life, DJ Manclub, Matt Haze, and Phleck. For a full description of each DJ’s unique style click here. I would also definitely check out Sunset Promotions website (click here). They are the company that supports Silent Frisco. They do some really great work to help create innovative artistic experiences and to help sustain the artist community of SF.  Anyway, the variety of music provided by the DJs was perfect. There was a mix of jazz, trance, reggae, Latin, 80s funk, recent hits and even a Jackson 5 throwback. Even though some of the music wasn’t stuff I would typically listen to, particularly the trance and house music that popped up, something about the vibe of the concert sucked me in and made me really get into everything being played. We didn’t stay until the end because we got pretty tired, but the 5 hours (I know, 5 hours!! I can’t believe how quickly the time flew by) that we spent there were awesome! I learned I can really enjoy music that had never really interested me before, made a few friends new friends, and experienced something completely and totally different.

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Even the littlest of tikes joined in

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Dancing by the water 🙂