BLINK illuminates a community

By Mo Juenger | Staff Writer

Newswire photo by Will Rippey
The BLINK light show transformed Cincinnati’s urban landscape into a dazzlingly kaleidoscopic wonderland. The show featured abstract installations and patterns of color, turning ordinary buildings into works of art.

I stepped out of my $50 Uber to the riverbanks last Saturday night at BLINK, expecting something akin to indie fireworks. BLINK had been explained to me as a city-wide light show that fills downtown, but all I could see ahead of me were sidewalks overflowing with a nearly-impenetrable mass of people. My ragtag group of Xavier friends and I looked out of place amidst the throng of empty-nest moms and festively clothed hipsters.

As we walked further, bright projections danced and swirled against every edifice in the vicinity. Shapes of colored light dotted every surface, constantly altering themselves. The projections were diverse, with some representing detailed scenes of people and some abstract swaths of color that draped office buildings and turned them into works of art.

We wandered down the block, staring at the oscillating projections of purples and blues which engulfed the surrounding buildings. The bridge beside us was coated in lights of shifting hues, changing colors to the beats of an ominous soundtrack as if it were warning passers-by of the hour-long line one needed to stand in to cross it.

Our aimless trek ended as we neared a growing crowd. The sickly-sweet scent of $8 beer washed over us, and my shoes began to glue themselves to the sticky asphalt beneath me. Faint EDM beats grew closer with every step we took toward the mass of people, who enveloped a stage draped in Kroger Wellness banners. Unbeknownst to our group, a shocking artist was opening for the well-publicized Grouplove concert: 2011’s hottest artist, Red Fu of LMFAO.

His appearance was unmistakeable; he donned an all-leather suit and retained the famous afro. We stood awe-struck, but soon couldn’t help but sing along to every word of the hits that had graced our childhoods.

In the theme of BLINK’s Kroger Wellness sponsor, Red Fu brought dozens of spectators on stage to do kombucha shots as he DJed along to “Shots.” Backup dancers rode inflatable zebras as a fully-suited Kroger rep danced to the inescapable beat on stage, in the spirit of the 2010s randomness we all once endeared. The aura was one of pre-teen fun, reminiscent of middle school slumber parties.

As LMFAO finished their party-rockin’ set, the mood drastically shifted as indie wonderband Grouplove took their place. The crowd slowed their dances and our friends huddled close as the dark stage was illuminated only by the occasional yellow light burst of a flashing installation yards away.

Their first note was entrancing. It was as if a wave of angsty glory had washed over the city of Cincinnati, and we were all hypnotized by the smooth ooze of the band’s grooves. Nearby murals were enhanced by shifting colored lights, art installations rainbow glows, and grandparents in Reds hats swayed to the slow drawl of the band’s guitar solos. It was a moment of total beauty.

Hannah Hooper, a frontperson for the band, then took a moment to very directly hint that she may have been asked by the Kroger Wellness representatives to speak about wellness. After demonstrating her definition of wellness, in which she poured a beer into her guitarist’s shoe and then cheered as he drank it, she paused.

“Wellness, to us, is about friendship,” she said, then adding some explicit details I probably cannot print in the Newswire. The iconic guitar riff began, and they sang their biggest hit, “Tongue Tied.”

As the words flowed out, I realized that she had truly captured the spirit of BLINK. It was about wellness, community and above all, friendship. It was unsuccessfully trying to get on your friends’ back to see Grouplove over that tall person, taking group photos for Instagram next to an art piece you don’t fully understand and truly enjoying the presence of the people with whom you chose to spend your Saturday night. This is what I thought about as the music died down and we walked across the bridge, gazing at the hazy lilac lights and peering down at their shadows against the salt barges crossing the river. I thought about friendship, how every person at Xavier can find a home in Cincinnati through nights like these.