A woman walks into a sober silent disco
Why two sisters want to help "get your Sundays back."
“Hit me baby one more time” swells across the back patio of Alana’s Coffee Roasters on Venice Boulevard amid what’s considered a cold night in Los Angeles.
I’ve just received a sparkling shot of TÖST to cheers my entry into a silent disco where a few participants are already wearing blue- and red-lit headphones as they shimmy to Britney Spears on the concrete dance floor. I’m in line at the adjacent bar filled with pre-rimmed margarita glasses, lime wheels and decorative garnishes. There are cans of beer, bottles of wine and nearly a dozen specialty cocktails on the menu, ranging from a blood orange paloma to an apple cider hot toddy.
And absolutely none of them contain booze.
This evening is the work of Priyanka and Chirasmita Kompella, two sisters who host nonalcoholic events under the brand Zero Proofed to help folks to get their “Sundays back” while still enjoying a good time. Silent disco isn’t their only jam; they’ve also hosted yoga and cocktails, sober karaoke and more.
The evening officially started at 7 p.m., and I’m here with my roommate who refuses to be late for anything. So, we 30-somethings fit right in with the majority older crowd who also showed up on time. For the record, Gen Z has arrived by 8:24 p.m.
Over the course of the evening, I can’t help but watch a pair of younger revelers — one in black platform combat boots, a black mini skirt and a black leather jacket, the other in red Converse and a mini dress — and think about how helpful this type of event would have been when I was growing up and trying to navigate a social life without drinking. Hell, it’s helpful now. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.
America’s budding booze-free nightlife scene often rolls out silent discos as a welcome mat for those curious about drinking less or not at all. In Colorado, the DJ-founded Secret Dance Addiction has been hosting sober raves for years. The assistant editor of Clemson University’s student paper recently called for more sober nightlife like a Taylor Swift-themed silent disco held last fall. And the list goes on.
In a digital age propelling a pop culture obsession with TikTok choreography, there’s something about feeling the pulse of a dance floor during those first few notes of “Shake It Off” or “Teenage Dream.” Amid a pandemic that’s left many facing loneliness, grief and tumultuous change, there’s a sense of safety in listening to your own music while still joining in collective revelry. And as more people decide to reevaluate their relationship with alcohol, there’s something about the way an unassuming pair of headphones can transform into a set of armor to help you step out of your comfort zone, taking off the edge so you can just. dance. freely.
“That was more fun than I thought,” my not-sober-but-drinking-less roommate says after we sip our last cocktail, remove our headphones and head off into the night.
I totally agree.
We had such a great time that I reached out to the Kompella sisters to learn more about what motivates them to host these types of events. I was delighted to hear a bit of their story, which involves taking a “scientific” approach to mixology (they both studied engineering). In fact, their passion started as kids: They grew up in a non-drinking family and recall reunions marked by nonalcoholic “cocktails” crafted by their grandmother near Mumbai.
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