Aarian Marshall is a transportation reporter at WIRED and former CityLab contributor. She lives in San Francisco.
Lausanne, the party capital of Switzerland, turns it down.
Is there anything better, more relaxing, than dancing your face off as a bearded human spins music into, not gigantic speakers, but a pair of light-up, wireless headphones right up against your ears? That’s the definition of a “silent disco,” a phenomenon born sometime in the early 2000s as a novel way to enjoy a music in a party-like atmosphere without the painful decibel levels. In theory, silent discos are silent. In practice, not so much:
So perhaps it makes sense that the Swiss city of Lausanne—the country’s fourth- largest and its supposed party capital—has drawn the line at these dance parties. The Swiss paper 20 Minutes reports that the city’s authorities have denied an application from a local music festival to host two silent discos on a rooftop in the city’s industrial, party-hardy Flon district. The events would have run until 5 a.m.
“During silent discos, the noise caused by the clientele is not negligible,” Florence Nicollier, who heads up the department that issues business licenses, told the paper. “Since 2014, neighbors have lodged numerous complaints.”
Olivier Meylan, the festival’s organizer, indicated that the city’s refusal was part of a larger failure to serve the needs of young people. “Given our experience in the neighboring municipality of Pully, we should have been able to at least try a test in the center of Lausanne and take stock afterward, but no,” he said. “There is now a lack of original events in this city that are popular with young adults.”
These are, to be sure, the words of a frustrated dude who just lost out on a business deal. But Meylan also has a point: Lausanne often seems a lone bright spot in a country that does not have a great reputation for having a good time. In 2011, the New York Times noted that young people from nearby Geneva flocked to Lausanne for nights out:
Geneva youths regularly make the round trip on weekends to the town’s Flon district; years earlier, Lausanne youths were coming in the opposite direction. Lausanne local authorities, business interests and cultural players came together five or so years ago to revive the district, which now accommodates bars, clubs and restaurants of varying prices, albeit with a commercial slant.
May the gods of fun and a robust nightlife economy protect Lausanne, should its refusal to host more silent discos be a sign that it’s becoming more like Geneva. Whined an expat financier to The Economist in 2011:
Geneva suits people who are over 35, have families, are established in their careers and like skiing, hiking or sailing, says Dylan, who has settled there. Such pleasures are within easy reach of Geneva, which is one reason it is empty at weekends. Younger migrants who prefer indoor pursuits, such as the arts or clubbing, seem to struggle.