Solarity’s Neon Garden Presents Eye-Popping, Seizure-Inducing Blacklight Spectacle

Sarp Yavuz, Staff Writer

For many, Neon Garden began at 8 p.m. Saturday night in a very long line in front of the Science Center. Scheduled to begin at 10 p.m., the event’s pre-sale tickets had been sold out a week before, and countless Obies wanted to get the remaining 150 tickets at the door. The exact nature of the ticket numbering system remains unclear due to the amount of confusion in the long, disorganized queue, which ended with many students leaving frustrated and disappointed.

This review is for those left behind. It is also for the chosen few who got in, covered in paint and wearing everything from tutus and bikinis to short shorts and Speedos.

Neon Garden was Solarity’s big debut. Co-founded by College sophomores Eli Clark-Davis, Tom Hake, Dan Cook, Evan Baker, Timothy Patch and Jesse Goldberg, the group aimed to revamp the face of Oberlin nightlife. Judging by the high attendance and student enthusiasm for the event, they were not alone in feeling so.

Around 9:55, almost every Obie in line spontaneously began to sing The Foundations’ “Buttercup,” which gave way to cheering as the doors opened. Security was tight: Clearly, Solarity was not taking any risks with this event, which is understandable since its members want it to be the foundation for a long-term project. The welcome committee, a group of latex-body-painted and scantily-clad Obies dancing in a circle, put fluorescent necklaces over everyone’s heads. In a spinning flash of neon light, OCircus’ Poi spinners surrounded partygoers, working their glow-in-the-dark magic. Paper flowers draped the ceiling, and black lights and lasers jumped out from every corner.

Breaking the cardinal rule of a good rave and foregoing the buildup, the music started off with an up-tempo, dubsteppy set by College junior Peter Morrow. This could have been fantastic had there been more people inside, but because of the strict checking of ticket numbers people moved in very slowly, and as a result, for the first half hour the event felt like diving into cold water at 7 a.m. The awkwardness was thankfully short-lived as more people and glowsticks filled the atrium.

Solarity co-founder Dan Cook was baffled by the turnout. Staring at the line of students who would have to be turned away due to the fire limit, he said, “I feel like I should apologize to them. Wow.”

As College junior Scotty Roberts, aka DJ Ansible, took over the music, tragedy occured: The curse of the Oberlin house parties reared its ugly head, as technical issues spontaneously halted the music about 10 times throughout the night. Later, Roberts surmised that the problem may have been caused by the generator short-circuiting because the DJs played the music too loudly.

The art collaboration by College juniors Chase Stone and Michael Olsen only half-worked with the event. The middle portion with a psychedelic, Facebook profile-browsing video sequence was entertaining; however, a display of videos on mute and College junior Tony Weiss sitting on a couch were simply confusing. Although the ending — with the alcoholic beverage display, blacklight-sensitive fish in an aquarium and a plastic statue of Jesus — made up for the initial confusion, the installation could have benefited from developing each section more.

Based on feedback during the event, the installation was mostly lost on the attendees and the “labyrinth” created was not large and elaborate enough to convince people that it was anything other than the Science Library ramp. Double-degree sophomore Charlie Spears’s video installation, projected onto a screen behind the DJs, was thoroughly enjoyable. College sophomore Lake Buckley’s and College first-year Aaron Garfinkel’s body paint art on the dancers was impressive and worked perfectly with the overall Neon Garden vibe.

Near the end of the night, a variety of people began to fill the stage, making the event feel like a Splitchers night at the ’Sco — though not in a good way. Despite the overwhelming crowds, however, College sophomores Evan Baker and Dan Cook closed the event with a fantastic set.

In future events, it is my personal hope that they bring an end to the sound equipment curse. Additionally, given the large number of students turned away, Solarity should also devise a strategy for avoiding frustrations at the door. Perhaps in their next big venture, they could coordinate alternative outdoor mini-events to occur simultaneously.

No one can accuse Solarity of not working hard enough. Although they didn’t completely fulfill their stated mission to “enlighten and expand the social scene of Oberlin College by uniting all students through events combining dance, interactive arts and music,” their effort was clearly felt. Their fledgling event served to establish the group as the potential creators of a regular Oberlin party staple, in the same vein as Safer Sex Night or Drag Ball.