Adelaide-born DJ and music producer Oscar Reed, aka Ben Watson, is calmly setting up the blue and red flashing wireless headsets in the glow of the Rymill Park fountain as the night’s crew begins to arrive.
He hasn’t had to set off without anyone yet, he says, and this night is no exception. Everyone turns up on time, there’s a brief and friendly spiel, headsets are handed out and props allocated: a pair of wraparound shades, an analogue camera and a strobing flashlight to enhance the mobile club-night mood. Ice broken, Reed promptly has us circling the fountain to the first track of the night to warm us up before leading the way down Grenfell Street and into Union.
The concept of silent disco has been around for more than a decade, and has been combined with walking/dancing tours for a few years now, but Oliver Reed’s snazzy custom-made Denon DJ rig-up on a tray with neck strap looks to be a first.
Mixing tracks as we go, he keeps up a chilled, drily witty patter as we throw shapes and shake our booties in a silent pavement rave. We weave our way past bemused festival punters and pub-goers around the East End and into Rundle Mall, where benches provide the perfect opportunity for some enthusiastic podium dancing.
The irresistible selection of current and old-school tracks and crystal-clear audio evaporate any self-consciousness about public dancing in apparent silence. It’s instant feel-good vibes. Everyone we pass – or almost everyone; it was a school night, after all – is infected with our happy vibes.
One random stranger enters our circle to bust some moves of his own; Reed chooses another to receive a line up of fist bumps from each of us. A great moment came with the perfect synchronisation of a pedestrian light change with the drop to Duke Dumont’s “Red Light, Green Light”.
The vibe will differ each night, depending on the group you end up with. We hit the jackpot with a couple of likely lads who made up with enthusiasm for whatever skill they might have lacked in their B-boy throw downs in front of Hungry Jacks. There were plenty of laughs, and the hour was gone much too soon.
Street Beats should be available on prescription. Go for a much-needed uplift and a bit of a workout – it’s hella fun.
Street Beats starts at the Rymill Park Fountain and meanders the streets of the East End until March 18.
Read more 2022 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews here.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.