Saturday, July 30th, 2011...1:52 pm
Flash Mob Dance Party in OtR
It’s Friday night in Cincinnati. I jump off the 19 out of Northside and run to Fountain Square to catch a bit of the Ted Leo and the Pharmacists show. I have to break out early so that I can catch my friends’ artwork at MGGM. Once again, I’m dipping before I’d like, so that I can meet up others at the Drinkery. Halfway through our beers, we get put off by a few assholes who came into the bar, so we’re slamming up and moving to MOTR Pub.
That’s when my rapid fire, running all over the place came to a screeching halt.
When it’s Final Friday in Over-the-Rhine, you expect to see and hear a lot of great things. I didn’t find it entirely unusual to hear some good old school rap being played on the street. I wasn’t entirely surprised to see a DJ perched up outside Park+Vine playing music, with a small crowd of people around him. What did surprise me was that it wasn’t one of your well-known usuals who DJ around the neighborhood. It wasn’t what you expected to see. This guy was one of your pre-gentrification OtR residents. He had some CD players, some speakers, and a microphone.
That’s what gave me pause. As I walked up the street, in that sweet spot beyond buzzed but not yet drunk, I’m thinking, Wait. This is cool. This dude just rolled up, unpacked, plugged in, and is going. I want to stop and check this out.
I hadn’t stopped for very long when a stream of people I know began to trickle in. One by one, more people from my social circle showed up, unplanned. They were drawn by what was happening, just like me. The crowd grew and grew. More people started dancing. It was turning into a flash mob dance party, and I was loving every minute of it.
In a word, the single best thing about this random event was the unity. No offense to the people who have been making OtR a hotbed of social, artistic, and musical activity, but this wasn’t put on and promoted by one of those people. This was just some dude from OtR. He probably grew up here, his parents grew up here, he lived through the riots here. He and his buddies were probably sitting around and thought, “Hey. Isn’t this Final Friday? There will be a bunch of people out. Let’s pack up the rig, go out there, and throw down.”
That’s what they did, and the best part about it was that everyone was down. There are awkward things that we don’t like to talk about, yet can’t help admitting are there. Those things were gone. Racial lines, social lines, class lines, gone. As I’m dancing, shouting, hugging my friends and probably a little drunker than I would admit, one thing was really sinking in: I have been craving to see this in Cincinnati for a long time.
To quote the late great Rick James: Unity!
Here are some pictures I was able to capture. I wish I had grabbed more.
The story doesn’t end here. What you’re seeing in those pictures is only a part of what went down. The crowd kept growing, as more passersby were drawn into the inescapable black hole of awesome that this was. The vibe was so good, even the cops didn’t shut it down (at first… all good stories end with the cops shutting something down). No, when the CPD drove by, the cop riding shotgun actually gave us a thumbs up! I’m sure this had something to do with the fact that we were waving, flashing them peace signs, etc. Regardless, they obviously saw that this was cool and nobody was causing problems, so they let it go on.
Eventually, Latria said to me, “Are any of the stores open? I want a beer!”
My response, without really knowing if it was true: “Yeah dude, Circle A is open!”
She took off running. I chased after her. I think a few other people overheard us and thought it was a great idea, so they came too. We slipped into the Circle A as the poor guys were trying to close. After buying our beers, the owner held the door shut as we left, trying to let us out without letting anyone else in. It was epic.
We were hardly the only people brown bagging it, like it was no big deal. I’m pretty sure a bowl was being passed around. Basically, the law didn’t matter, but nobody was doing anything to hurt or steal from anybody, so it was cool. The crowd has also easily doubled, and people are starting to spill out into the streets. When the 17 rolled by, two dudes on the bus stood up and started dancing. A guy popped out of his sunroof at a red light and got down on the roof of his car. People on the other side of Main Street were even getting into it.
Unfortunately, the cops had to shut it down when the Reds game let out, and Main Street was clogged as far south as you could see. The DJ, a dude by the name of “Alcatone”, was incredibly cool about it. He got on the mic, thanked everyone, spouted some truth about how great this neighborhood is, and wished everyone a safe night.
Here’s a video I captured, complete with me making an ass of myself, as usual:
To me, this was a moment where I realized that Cincinnati is moving. We are actually living out this idea of unity, openness, and acceptance that we all like to talk about, but sometimes fail at doing. Last night, I fell a little bit deeper for Over-the-Rhine and the people of Cincinnati.
Written by Matthew Risher and posted by Latria Roberts. Matthew is a Cincinnati socialite, DJ, and publishes his own serial web sci-fi called Animus.