Some wiggle side to side in their seats to the beat.
Another square of the computer screen shows a peek of a group of three people who’ve pushed back the seats in their living room, freeing space for a makeshift dance floor.
People tune in from Vancouver, from Australia, from Galway.
While here in Dublin, David Diamond streams live from his bedroom, mixing Italo disco songs from his decks.
“We are not making any money off this. Nobody is getting paid. This is a full-on passion project,” said Diamond, a co-curator of the popular Dublin club night Discotekken, earlier on that Friday.
Diamond and his colleagues have begun streaming the club experience – or something akin to it at least – each Friday night into the homes of whoever looks in.
“We can never replicate the club fully, but I think that this is close enough,” says Discotekken founder Louis Scully.
This coming Friday, the plan is for seven DJs from across Ireland to play to an audience from the comfort of their own homes, says Diamond.
Among them will be Diamond himself, Moving Still, and Pablo. “How it’s going to work tonight is everybody is going to have a 40-minute slot. There is seven of us so it is going to be four-and-a-half hours,” says Diamond.
Everyone else on the stream is muted so that the DJ can play uninterrupted.
“There is never a theme for the night, whatever the DJ brings in his record bag. We have a pretty open mind, it just has to be danceable,” Diamond says.
Discotekken tries not to follow trends, Scully says.
“The music policy there is pretty eclectic: disco, soul, funk, house music, reggae, electro, techno. A bit of everything really, good groove-based music,” he says.
“A live stream is actually a massive pain in the ass to do properly,” says Scully. It took Diamond a fair whack of research to get it right.
After all, they wanted it to sound good, so not on phones. “You need to do it with sound cards, and there is all different types of streaming platforms you can use,” says Scully.
Diamond decided to use Zoom, the video-conferencing app, as a host for the online party: “It works really well because people turn their webcams on and they have a dance.”
On Zoom, the audience can see and hear the DJ and look at other people listening to the music too.
Some talk through the message board. Others ask the DJ what they’re playing. Then, there’s the background game.
On Friday night, one person danced to a backdrop of Marty Morrissey. Another dancer moved in front of an Australian flag, flipping his image upside down.
“People will be busting a move and dancing away, you can actually see people’s reaction in real-time so it makes up for that gap,” says Diamond.
Streaming has also introduced a new job to the pair: host duty.
“It is my job to look out for people who are doing some good dance moves and put them on the main stream,” Diamond says.
That’s the stream showing a feed of videos, of those who are watching and dancing from home.
Every now and then on Friday, Scully selects his own camera and becomes the one in main focus. He turns around and dances – before the screen flicks onwards to the next dancer.
“There was a few times last week where I left somebody up for too long and they got a little bit uncomfortable,” Diamond says. He’s learnt from that now.
What’s the Difference?
Live streaming to a computer is different to playing to a crowd.
On Zoom, you have to catch people’s attention from the start, says Diamond. “It’s not like a club where it is empty at the start and full towards the end.”
The dance floor is almost always full so you can keep a higher momentum than you normally would in a nightclub, he says. “There is pretty high energy throughout.”
People act differently too, says Diamond. “I think people are a little more uninhibited on the Zoom stream, which is bizarre.”
While there are surprising upsides to playing on a virtual platform, it will never come close to playing to a live crowd, both of them say.
Scully was hesitant about live streaming in the first place: “Live streaming is a bit of craic but we are not bringing people together, really.”
That community aspect of curating nights is important to him, he says. “Where people are actually talking to each other face to face. Getting to know each other and establishing friendships and relationships.”
The Discotekken online streams will continue until it stops being fun, says Diamond.
“We just want to push the envelope on this for as long as we can.”