By Harlee Ludwig
Dan Cook: So basically, we founded the organization based on doing something that’s larger scale and something that brings people together on that scale in a unique way and that’s often involved using sort of unique spaces. There aren’t many large-scale spaces where we can do what we do. You know, we started off with the science center and that was a unique space, it was kind of novel to have that sort of event in the science center. Similarly moving forward, the Heisman Field House, a lot of people don’t even know what that building is but it’s a massive building and a really great space so that’s where we’re at and that’s—in a very rudimentary way—the cornerstone of how the events function just because it opens up a lot of interesting production capabilities and challenges, but also a lot of really amazing artistic opportunities as well.
Eli Clark-Davis: I was gonna’ touch up on the art side of things. Going into the more unique things, the space is the first thing—that’s what made it so novel to begin with—that and the large-scale aspect too. I think we came in at a really good time and really organized around something that everybody can relate to and that seemed to be electronic music, supporting their friends and celebrating their talents, and celebrating the art as well. So originally we started by having very small art pieces with little spaces, a very do-it-yourself kind of thing. The next event, at the Voyage, we ended up having an art walk as well as a production team working on space design and then at this event the way we have it is the art is really seen in the performances and in the space design.
DC: We see this event—with the scale that it’s on—as somewhat of an installation, bringing together all these pieces, having RTC—whose the production team we’re collaborating with—this semester it’s sort of a 50-50 collaboration and they’re producing a lot of unique elements that are going to go into that space. And once again, it’s all student talents. From the budgeting to the building to the breakdown to everything, it’s all student driven. That’s sort of what the premise is behind all of this.
F+L: What is your goal in hosting these events?
ECD: Our goal is to bring together the students from different circles to celebrate something they all like.
DC: We just want to bring people together truthfully. With the event itself we’re able to do that in a more explicit, larger way. We may be able to [have] 600-700 people in one room, or maybe 1000-1200 in the case of this larger space this semester. We really just want to bring students together and say there’s an element of community involved for just that one night where people can get in the same room and just be Oberlin students and appreciate Oberlin things, whatever that might be. Whatever art it takes the form of most students will agree that they appreciate art and we’re just trying to find the line between doing something that’s large scale and has that type of appeal but also has an artistic element involved.
F+L: Do you go to all of your events?
DC: Yeah. I actually play at all the events so that’s always fun. I mean I wasn’t here last semester because I was abroad but we work all our events. All of our Solarity staff is at the events, we try to have as good a time as possible but sometimes there are responsibilities that require work.
ECD: About being at our events and working them, people have asked us what drives us to put so much time into these events and setting them up since we have to work them as well, but the enjoyment just comes from seeing everyone together. That’s enough right there.
F+L: So how do you decide the venue, DJs, and the artwork for each event?
DC: Basically, as far as venue goes, we kind of take what we can get but there’s a lot of handshaking involved behind even having an event to begin with. In that regard, the first event was almost in some ways the most difficult because going in there when we pitched the idea the administration said it was never going to happen, they said you could never do that in the Science Center—and then we did the Science Center twice. It’s interesting because, like I said, we’ll take what we can get, we’ll take a large space that’s producible and something that is functional but that also does pose a challenge, I mean they all pose a challenge. This is a small campus and there aren’t that many buildings that can hold a capacity of over 700 people. Truthfully, there are only a handful of buildings—no more than six that can even hold that capacity—and some of them aren’t even producible. So we sort of were defaulted into certain spaces depending on what type of scale we’re going for and for this semester we knew we wanted the larger scale, we knew we didn’t want to do the Science Center again. Not that it’s a bad a venue—we outgrew the Science Center. We want something bigger, something more involved, and more open too, something more of a blank slate that we can work off of.
As far as artists go—the whole idea of throwing the events started based around music and that expression and talent. There’s a lot of musical talent on this campus and so many different people who listen to so many different things. I mean there are very few people in Oberlin that don’t like music. We all have our own sounds and so that was a lot of motivation around creating this platform for that expression. For me personally, I DJ the events. I’m really into that scene of electronic music and things like that and that’s sort of been the best way to craft a night. And then bringing in all these other elements, people like De’Sean Jones (Knomadic), Haley Shaw, Conservatory talent, classical talent. That sort of made it interesting in a way that’s musically unique to these types of events. The way we work with the DJs is—once you get the ball rolling a lot of people come up to you, they ask questions, they’re interested, they send you a mix, things like that. All the DJs for these events, we’re all good friends, myself, Peter Morrow, Scotty Roberts, Will DiMaggio, those are the guys we have for this event and we all kind of know each other in that scene, and then sort of branching out, we pull Conservatory talent based on the people that come to us and are doing unique things and people that want to get on this platform. At least with De’Sean Jones and his crew (Knomadic), their new sound is incorporating a lot of those electronic elements and doing something that’s really unique—they’re incredible jazz musicians, but at the same time they’re doing things with those sort of fusion styles and genres so we knew we wanted them to get on board because it’s a nice crossover and they’re very talented.
ECD: Another nice crossover is we have Mike Braugher, which brings in a hip hop element that’s also mixed with the electronic base that we have. I think the best thing about having all these different musicians with their own appeal and following, is we get a lot of different people on campus to come to these events based on the mix in artists that we’re bringing.
F+L: How much money do you make for each event and where does it go?
DC: Zero. We don’t make any money for any event… ever.
F+L: Do you use a lot of money?
DC: We use a lot of money. We actually used a little too much money last semester but anyone who thinks that we’re making any money at all is completely delusional because by the end of this semester—not only the money we’ve been allotted, but also stuff out of pocket—we definitely do not make money off the events. That’s one of the interesting things, that I guess now is appropriate to be publicized, is that our first event, Neon Garden, was a $7,000 event and SFC gave us, I think $1,500, but we still ended up going with it.
DC: $1,100, they gave us $1,100. They didn’t give us a lot of money, which is fine—I didn’t really expect them to. Our second event, the Voyage, was I think an $11,000 event and SFC gave us I think $4,000. With Fracture this semester, the scale is so much larger we’re working in the kind of $30,000 range and SFC’s given us a little less than ten. So financially this event is no different than the other ones. Technically we’re in better shape financially than we have been—at least with Neon Garden percentage wise. That’s one thing people don’t realize, we have a fundraising team that is dedicated to making these events even possible. We don’t get a lot of money, even from ticket sales; we try to keep the tickets at the absolute minimal. If I could have a free event I would. I would absolutely love every single person to just show up and not have to pay, but the truth is that’s just not how it works sometimes and it’s our hope that that price is the minimum buy to experience something that is a production, something you don’t always see every semester on this campus. Seeing a space that has been produced with that kind of money is something unique, something you don’t see and it gives people a unique platform for what they do in the town we live in.
F+L: What should people look forward to about Fracture?
DC: So many things.
ECD: We have RTC, who is leading a team to build a multi-level 40ft stage, completely student built—we’re really excited about that—we can’t even reveal the best parts about it. We have lighting and speakers flying from the ceiling.
DC: We have the Heisman Field House first off, which [people] told me a) ‘[You’ve] gotten permission to use the Heisman Field House from the administration,’ and b) ‘We’re putting in $30,000, you don’t have to tell me what else you’re doing. Anything else you’re doing I will come because that’s going to be interesting.’ So, in that regard we have the stage with RTC, it’s going to be really a massive undertaking, it’s already underway. We’re completely building the stage with student help and RTC is really great, a great production team that’s helped us take this event to the next level. Heisman gives us the ability to really go all out with those two elements, like Eli alluded to, we’re going to be flying speakers from the ceiling, flying lights from the ceiling, lighting trusses. The lighting set up is—I don’t have an exact number right now but— we’re talking thousands of dollars in lighting and sounds. We’re approved to use smoke and fog this semester, which is awesome! We also have some other goodies we don’t want to give away. Lasers. I think we can leave it at that.
ECD: Much, much more.
DC: Artistic collaborations, things like that.
ECD: We have And What?! The hip-hop dance crew who’s going to be performing in ways you’ve never seen them before.
DC: We have De’Sean Jones and Mike Braugher doing some things. De’Sean Jones has a set and Braugher will be doing some things during other people’s sets, maybe MC-ing who knows. And What?! is going to be doing a lot of collaborations, you know, dance and performance collaborations as well.
F+L: What is going to be different about Fracture compared to your past events?
ECD: The capacity. We had a 600-person capacity limit in the Science Center and more than double that in the Heisman Field House.
DC: I mean just the scale, throughout every part of the process from the financials to the set-up and take-down and production and attendance as well, the scale is just on a completely different level than it has been in the past.
F+L: Anything else you guys want to add?
DC: It’s going to be a great time. April 28, 9pm to 2am. It’s going to be fun.
F+L: Alright, well thank you and good luck.