Unsilent Night

I was looking for something to do on a Saturday night – and through the power of this interweb-thingy here I discovered that there were going to be Food Trucks in the Arts District… and then there was going to be something called Unsilent Night.

The idea was to get a group of people all carrying boomboxes – each with one of four MP3 files boomboxing away. These were selections of electronic music – bell sounds and such. This group of people making music would march through downtown Dallas at night with the sounds bouncing off skyscrapers and such.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

But first, I had to get a boombox. I dug around and found a small white soundthrower that used to belong to Candy’s mother. It was portable enough and put out a bit of sound, but I needed batteries – plus, it didn’t play MP3 files.

So off I drove to the local everything store and bought a small pack of blank CDs (no blanks at home, only DVDs). My idea was to burn the 44 minutes MP3 I had downloaded from the Unsilent Night web page onto a CD that would play in the boombox. The thing takes six C batteries. At the store I discovered that they don’t sell six C batteries – only packages of 4, eight, or ten. The pack of ten costs less than the pack of eight – so I have four C cells left over.

At any rate I sat in my car at the DART station and burned the CD, loaded it into the boombox along with six of my ten C batteries… and I was ready to rock and roll. Well, maybe not rock and roll, but at least ring the bells a little.

When I climbed out of the train at the Pearl station I walked into a huge crowd of Santas milling around, working their way to the Arts District. I found out later that this was something called the “Santa Rampage” – a combination flash mob and pub crawl. There were about five hundred people in various versions of Santa Costumes – and I kept running into them all night. It looked like fun.

I manged to get a brisket and grilled cheese sandwich from Ruthies while the Santas were all having a pillow fight up by the Opera House. I’m glad I bought mine early because five hundred hungry Santas make for long lines at a handful of food trucks. I walked around the Arts District looking at Santas until it was time to hoof it over to the Akard DART station to meet up with the other folks for Unsilent Night.

At first I was disappointed because there were only a handful of people standing there with a half handful of boomboxes. The Cowboys were on TV, maybe people stayed home for holiday football. But as seven o’clock neared, a good number of latecomers appeared and we became a healthy little group of close to a hundred people.

We all synchronized our boom boxes, waited for the music to build a little, and then off we went. I have to admit, it was cooler than I had expected. The music was mesmerizing. It’s is interesting how it changes – both as the four different pieces of music cycle through their various peaks, valleys, and changes in instrumentation (the one I had – #1 – was mostly bells, but others sounded like voices, or drums, or other stuff) and the way the music bounced off the buildings and blended with the background noise of the city.

You could vary the sound a lot by moving back and forth in the line of people walking along the sidewalk. Not only were we playing different pieces of music, started at slightly different times (I jostled mine too much and had to start over – it didn’t matter) but everybody had different players. Most used iPhones with hand-held speakers – but some folks were prepared with more hefty weapons. On guy pulled a cart with a computer UPS – this gave him power for not only some serious speakers but flashing lights that he wired himself up with.

We walked down Main Street which was really hopping. I need to visit this area again – it wasn’t as dead as when I worked down there. The restaurants were open late, the bars were filling up, the street was full of cars slowly working their way through. We looped around Neiman Marcus – the Christmas Displays were awesome, past the Joule Hotel then back through some narrow alleys. These were especially cool – the music would bounce around in the enclosed spaces until it was almost deafening.

I really liked it.

We made it back to the Akard DART station after about an hour of walking and then took a break. While we were there, the five hundred Santas – most of which had been drinking quite a bit – showed up and crammed aboard a Green Line Train – off to their next stop. They seemed happy and full of… well, they were full of Christmas Spirit – along with other stuff. The Santa thing looked like fun. I’ll have to check it out next year.

Then we did a second Unsilent Night walk – this time back through the Arts District. This walk was more out in the open and the sound wasn’t as impressive – except when we paused for a while under the canopy next to the Trammel Crow Museum of Asian Art. It was shaped like a giant reflector facing down and we all stood along the stairs with the fountain bubbling in the center – that was magical.

By the way, we did walk past the Wyly Theater and the Transcendence art installation. The ice is now, of course, completely melted, and the remaining stones sit there in the gravel. There are still some white squares of gravel left where the original blocks were. Nobody payed attention – or even noticed that the raked gravel was there – it was very dark.

We walked back to the station and I was getting tired – a lot of walking. The organizer talked of next year and trying to increase the participation (the New York Unsilent Night walk has been going on for decades and has thousands of participants).

I’ll definitely do this again. It was fun to walk through downtown on a holiday evening, looking at the lights, the buildings, and the five hundred drunken Santa Clauses. The music was almost an added bonus – though it is the reason for being there.

Lots of fun. See you next year.

A few Santas check out Three Men and a Taco gourmet food truck.

Ruthie's before the Santas show up.

The organizer of Unsilent Night gave us some instructions before we set out with our boomboxes.

The usual crowd at the Akard Street train station on a Saturday Night

A train full of Santas