Spring 2003 Contents OAM Home Oberlin Online Home
Feature Stories
Money Matters
Family Tree, Oberlin roots
Operation Internship
[cover story] Fury and the Sound
David Rees Gets His (Bleep) On
Around Tappan Square
Alumni Profiles
The Last Word
One More Thing
Inside Oberlin
Staff Box

For some perspective, I turned to Dan Selzer '97. For nearly two years, Selzer has administered "New York Happenings," an e-mail list that chronicles and promotes the best upcoming culture, be it an underhyped DJ gig by one of Europe's most famous mixmasters or a loft party in Brooklyn, where adventure seekers can watch five obscure bands self-destruct in somebody's living room.

"On the list, bands that are really big and successful and that are going to make it get mentioned in the same breath with bands that nobody's going to care about," Selzer says. "They get an equal amount of attention because they all know each other and they're all friends."

Friends from the days of Wilder and the 'Sco? "Sure. It's very Oberlin-centric. That's still a big thread on the list." Selzer calls Oberlin a "spawning ground" for great music, attributing its mystical rock-breeding qualities to WOBC and the now-defunct Co-op Bookstore's legendary CD department.

The "New York Happenings" list, which now claims 1,200 members, started small. In May 2001, Selzer had begun DJing at a sleek Lower East Side bar called Plant, and he sent out regular e-mails to encourage friends to stop by.

"Right around that time, the music scene started to pick up," recalls Selzer, who spent his junior and senior years at Oberlin as WOBC's music director. "My e-mails went from 'Here's what I'm playing at Plant' to 'Here's what I'm playing at Plant, and by the way, Andy is having this party and the Plantains are playing.' I wanted to let other people contribute, so I opened it up into a democratic utopian community."

The list remained small until a Village Voice writer cited it in the paper's "Best of New York" issue. The New York Post and New York magazine soon followed suit, labeling Selzer a scene maker and crediting the list as the best way to find out about cultural events.

The list's size quickly mushroomed. "It's a runaway train," Selzer sighs. He keeps the conversation on topic by screening new members' e-mails and deleting irrelevant posts. He's proud of how his list has knit the scene together.

"If I've accomplished anything as a 'scenemaker,' it's been introducing people to each other," he says. "I'll see a posting about a party with a particular combination of bands and DJs and bookers, and I'll just sit back and smirk, thinking, 'I know how these people connected.'"

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs didn't need an e-mail list to make connections. It just kind of happened. One week they were purveying their gritty garage rock to small clubs in Manhattan and Brooklyn; the next week they were touring Europe with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and being touted as one of Rolling Stone's Ten Artists to Watch in 2002. Frontwoman Karen O (her last name long gone) is one of the city's most charismatic performers, revered for her gleefully uninhibited onstage antics. She's also an Oberlin alum, having logged two years on campus before finishing her degree at NYU in 2000.

"I probably performed three times during my whole time at Oberlin," Karen says. "Once I played in somebody's bedroom. One of my friends broke down in tears; it was really intense."

Brian Chase, the YYYs' drummer, remembers that show well; he even has a tape of it. As a jazz studies major and active member of the campus band scene, he spent his college years switching easily between Warner Concert Hall and off-campus basements. "I had my feet in both worlds," he acknowledges happily. "Everybody was eager to put on as many concerts as possible, to play with each other regardless of whatever instrument or background."


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