Lief Bamberg knew leaving the house during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic would be a risk.
“It was a fucking nightmare,” Bamberg tells SFR. “I couldn’t even go to the grocery store.”
Bamberg has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that causes damage to the lungs and other organs, so Bamberg’s entire life phased to virtual as the condition means high vulnerability to COVID-19. Thus far, much of Bamberg’s life has been devoted to long-term living in an atmosphere where Bamberg’s lungs can find peace. Originally out of Tucson, subsequent time in the Pacific Northwest meant heavy humidity and worsening forest fires with a changing climate. This posed an greater threat to Bamberg’s lungs; afterward, Santa Fe’s cool, dry air helped—even if seasonal wildfires are something for which Bamberg must always be prepared.
“I’ve lived with public health protocols my whole life, and with American public health policy. I knew this was going to last a while,” Bamberg says, “so I needed to come up with a project to keep me sane.”
The results of that project were on display at Patrick Smith Park (1001 Canyon Road) for a time and have now relocated to Alto Park (1121 Alto St.). If you happen by, perhaps you’ll see a curious collection of all-agers—some as young as 3 and some well into their 80s—silently moving and dancing. You might hear participants’ heavy breathing or muffled dance steps on grass or even joyous giggling. The revelers adorn large wireless headphones; they’re often barefoot and they possess knowledge unbeknownst to those on the outside. Occasionally, someone brings out a bubble-blowing machine or hula hoops.
No, it’s not some pagan religious ceremony—it’s Eros Silent Disco in action.
“I didn’t even start DJing until the pandemic started,” Bamberg explains. “Since I’m immunocompromised myself, I wanted to create a safe alternative for people who need to get out and miss dancing and miss live music.”
Headphones at Eros events run a mere $10 and, as the namesake suggests, the party is silent to everyone but the participants, who channel music (often provided by Bamberg, whose DJ name is Blissfool) wirelessly. Whether in Santa Fe, Albuquerque or up in Taos, Bamberg says the events have been growing and have started attracting regulars.
“It’s a blessing to be able to be a part of this wonderful community,” explains Maru Silver, a frequent DJ collaborator and regular Eros attendee. “There is nothing in the world like playing with this group and moving outside in the sun, barefoot and free.”
For many, and especially Bamberg, it’s been a key socialization strategy during a time when many with similar respiratory conditions faced difficulties being in public. EDM (that’s electronic dance music, for any luddites) is the mainstay at Eros parties, but mainly the daytime shows are about curating and cultivating an upbeat mood, and that goes for parties on park grass or the occasional Skate n’ Dance event wherein participants are encouraged to bring skates and use nearby concrete courts as a rink/dancefloor.
Bamberg has even met up with other regional DJs in neighboring towns to share the silent system, circumventing noise complaints from NIMBYs and keeping the party agile and adaptable.
“In Taos, [city officials] thought we were having a dance club—loud music and dancing violating COVID-19 protocols, so the city manager and events coordinator came to break it up,” Bamberg recalls. “When they saw that what we were doing was safe and within pandemic protocols, they ended up staying and dancing with us for a bit. I mean, we need to get a permit next time, but they offered to support us in the future.”
With a background in grassroots organization ranging from voter registration to advocating better climate change policy, Bamberg hopes Eros can go beyond dancing, into events that might feature a trash cleanup component or that even get people registered to vote. As Bamberg’s condition constantly reminds, public policy can be a life-or-death scenario. Bamberg sees an element of politics in silent disco, and wants the music to be a force for political change. Even if it only starts with picking up trash.
“I want to unite the music and dance communities here—channels for swing, salsa, EDM and others. I want to perform brass and bring in more live performers....I’d eventually like to tour with the system, and have more charity gigs and creatively focus. Honestly, it feels limitless right now,” Bamberg says, noting that cystic fibrosis sometimes works as a motivator. “You have these difficult things that seem like obstacles, but the motivation to live life fully is more of an opportunity. I’ve got to do the things I love.”
Editor’s Note: The article has been updated to reflect Bamberg’s recent DJ name change from Crescent Sun to Blissfool.
Eros Silent Disco
5-7pm Saturday, June 12. $10. Alto Park, 1121 Alto St.
8:30 Friday, June 11. $5-$10. Chile Line Brewery, 204 N Guadalupe St., 982-8474