If you live in Lancaster, there’s a very good chance that you’ve seen the bespectacled, mustachioed DJ Salinger before. Whether it’s around town, at shows or in his DJ booth, Salinger (the novelistic nom de plume of Nick Reiner) has been a Lancaster mainstay since his move from Reading over a decade ago. In the time since then, Salinger’s array of regular showcases - Service Industry Night, Wax On Wednesdays, First Fridays, Final Fridays, etc. - have built up a steady enough reputation that on any given night, he’s not only spinning somewhere, but there’s a legion of fans who always show up.
We picked a particularly busy week to follow the DJ from gig to gig to see how moods, grooves and tunes vary each night. What we found out probably won’t surprise you – namely that DJ Salinger is a master chameleon, from following a big-name indie band to spinning for working folks trying to take a load off for the evening. His immense record collection results in a noticeable lack of musical homogenization, leading to the creation of what a lot of the very songs he spins talk about – finding the perfect moments and dancing the night away.
“Put some spotlight on the slide...” - Calvin Harris, Migos and Frank Ocean, “Slide”
For most people, Sunday night is a chance to recover from the bruises of the weekend while mentally preparing for the coming work week. However, service industry folks and people with erratic hours need a night to cool off, too, and that’s where DJ Salinger comes in. For the last seven years, Salinger has kept a weekly engagement at the Penn Square Grille, spinning a regular rotation of danceable tunes that keep people moving.
For over 100 years, this building was the Watt & Shand department store. Now it’s a place for birthday tiaras and mixed drinks, thumping bass lines and affable DJs. Salinger holds court near the entrance, so it’s impossible to miss him, usually swaying to and fro with the crowd. As a seasoned pro, Salinger knows exactly when to drop current jams like “Slide,” the completely un-mess-with-able banger from the mad trio of Calvin Harris, Migos and Frank Ocean. The song was seemingly engineered in a lab to force the straw-twirlers to put down their drinks and commit themselves to the dance floor. As it followed a few more obscure R&B grooves, the reception was immediate.
Whether the crowd assembled on this particular Sunday was made up of mostly service industry people or not, it would be clear as the week unfolded that this was very much the best-dressed group of people that Salinger would spin for. It stands to reason – no one would go on record arguing that the Lizard Lounge attracts people in shined shoes and sport coats. On this night, the DJ spins for well-dressed Lancastrians trying to find dates, catching up with friends and those just trying to soak up the last few hours of the weekend before retreating back to the work week grind. Luckily for Salinger, his week spins on in a very similar way.
“When you got a job to do, you got to do it well..” – Wings, “Live and Let Die”
Crate digging for records is a well-established pastime for hobbyists and professionals alike. Lancaster is blessed with half a dozen record stores filled to the brim with dusty gold just waiting to be happened upon. We took Salinger to Mr. Suit Records, gave him a crisp $10 bill and had him go wild in the cheap bins (in a video that can be found on FlyAfter5.com).
Salinger’s main spots in town are Mr. Suit and BohoZone around the corner, and those finds usually end up popping up in his sets later in the week. As with most hunters, there’s no real rhyme or reason to Salinger’s search strategy other than starting at the beginning of a row and hoping for the best.
“I’ll usually come in here and find one or two [records] and find inspiration for the set that night,” says Salinger.
During his search, he discovered a classic DJ artifact – inside a busted up Teddy Pendergrass sleeve was the The O’Jays’ “Travelin’ at the Speed of Thought,” labelled as “Work on Me,” the major groove from the 1977 album. Salinger explained that it’s important for DJs in the moment to know where the jams are. As he would show the next night, Salinger seems to always know exactly where the jams are.
-Salt N Pepa, “Tramp/Push It” single
-Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, “Spanish Fly”
-Boz Scaggs, “Silk Degrees”
-Mister Rogers, “Come On and Wake Up!”
-Steely Dan, “Can’t Buy a Thrill”
-Teddy Pendergrass “S/T” The O’Jays, “Travelin’ at the Speed of Thought”
-Wings, “Wings’ Greatest Hits”
-10cc, “10cc Greatest Hits”
“I went down to the record shop without a worry on my mind…” – Sun Ra, “Daddy’s Gonna Tell You No Lie”
On a rainy Tuesday morning in a small studio on the third floor of the Chameleon Club, Salinger drops the needle on Sun Ra’s “Daddy’s Gonna Tell You No Lie,” kicking off the fifth episode of the “Listen Hard” podcast. Salinger lets the doo-wop reggae track spin for a while before introducing himself and his co-host, and fellow vinyl “obsession-oid,” Max Kornhauser.
“Listen Hard” is a weekly podcast featuring a roughly hour-long spinning session around a given theme. Salinger and Kornhauser record it in the studio decorated with a wooden rack of vinyl, a neon Pabst sign, a Dracula statue and stacks of old Rolling Stone and Mad magazines. The two initially linked up by bonding over records during early Wax on Wednesday nights at Tellus360 and started “Listen Hard” a couple months ago. Kornhauser, with his current project curating an expansive public record library in Tellus’ downstairs speakeasy lounge An Sibin, and Salinger with his own massive personal collection, pull out records from their seemingly bottomless bags.
This episode’s theme is “oddballs.” Hence the Sun Ra.
“I think I’m a pretty normal guy,” said Salinger. “The oddest thing about me is my taste.”
Salinger and his co-host toss around obscure facts, stories and, of course, wax as they shuffle through a range of musical genres and eras. The episode includes Michael Yonker’s noisy psych jam “Lovely Gold,” “Two-Headed Dog” by Roky Erickson -a personal favorite of Salinger’s - “Time Was” by Canned Heat, some Baris Mancho (Kornhauser recently returned from living in Turkey for nearly eight years) and a Bernie Lyon song. “There are always animals on the cover of Bernie Lyon's records, but never a lion,” says Kornhauser. “He’s the lion,” laughs Salinger.
In between songs Kornhauser tells a story about leaving a bag full of vinyl stranded on a rainy Copenhagen runway, while officials decided if he could bring it on board. The records got wet, but were still playable. “They were still VG to Good ++,” Kornhauser says.
“Is it really such a crime for a guy to spend his time at the local dance?” - 10cc, “Rubber Bullets”
DJ Salinger was back behind the table spinning on Wednesday night for his weekly Wax On Wednesday event that he’s hosted for the past three years at Tellus360. Tonight was the first night in the speakeasy lounge An Sibin. The vibe is relaxed. Grab a beer and a table with some friends and DJ Salinger takes care of the rest.
"As far as a great set goes, it's figuring out what records will sound good together,” says Salinger. “I've had weeks where I just pick a bunch of random stuff, too. My favorite sets have been the more cohesive sets, though. It flows nicer."
On the screen to the left of Salinger, B-movies play as he creates new soundtracks. Tonight’s films include “Black Ninja” and “Soul Brothers of Kung-Fu” from the Bad Azz Muthaz 4 compilation. Salinger dropped in a few deep ‘70s funk cuts which went well with the convoluted plots of the muted kung-fu flicks. During longer songs, Salinger mingles with the crowd on his way to and from the bar. In a nod to our digging session earlier in the week, he spun a Fly twofer of 10cc’s “Rubber Bullets” followed by Wings’ “Jet.” Salinger came across “Rubber Bullets” from the pilot episode of the Adult Swim cartoon “Superjail!” He constantly has his ears open to find new material, whether he’s watching TV, drinking a latte at a coffee shop, or in the produce section of the grocery store. Later in the evening, as is customary, Salinger takes a break and features another DJ.
Tonight’s guest was Dumas Thompson (aka Mas P) - who has a monthly gig at Fruition Collective. Other guests who regularly pop up in the rotation include local DJs such as Budget Wax, Joe Martin and occasionally Listen Hard co-host Max Kornhauser. Thompson kept the laid-back, feel-good flow going with Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up.” Wax on Wednesday is definitely a hang for the local music scene. Spill’s Brandon Gepfer came through, the Mellowell’s Jesse Barki made an appearance, Aaron Shiflet - drummer for the Ultramarines and owner of the new Lancaster Art Studio - posted up at a table and worked on a new drawing while he listened. It’s a mellow vibe, but that didn’t stop a few people from finding an open space in the relatively small room to dance.
“Can’t control my fingers, can’t control my brain…” - The Ramones, “I Wanna Be Sedated”
Beach House is not a band that you can really get down to. Upstairs in the Chameleon Club proper, a packed (some might say over-packed) crowd swayed and moved in slow motion to the rhythmic and dreamy set. Down the stairs, the arcade was filling up with two diametrically opposing groups – gamers for the weekly Arcade Lancaster Super Smash Bros. night, and party people ready to get down for DJ Salinger’s post-Beach House set. As a holdover from the previous night, “Bad Ass Muthaz 4” still held prominent placement on the projector behind Salinger, accompanied this time by flashing lights and a fog machine.
While the music itself is an obvious way to pull gamers from their screens to the dance floor, we watched multiple people get drawn into the party by following the fog. Maybe they thought it was a kind vaper willing to share some juice? Either way, barely an hour after Beach House had concluded, the party was jumping. As he had done all week, Salinger spun all kinds of things – modern hip-hop, rare soul, the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” – in a way that didn’t seem forced or improper.
Much like watching a band, it was fascinating to watch the crowd’s energy slowly feed back into Salinger. Whereas Wax On Wednesday the previous night was relatively subdued, by the time midnight came around, Salinger was full-on dancing behind the turntable. It was the sort of symbiotic relationship that’s supposed to exist between DJ and crowd, and it was a joy to behold. In a way, Beach House was an ideal act for Salinger to follow – the band’s moody, ethereal music combined with not much moving room created an energy that people were excited to let out. By midnight, all the Smash Bros. players had either bounced or joined the dance floor.
“Relax your mind and float downstream…..” - The Beatles, “Tomorrow Never Knows”
Friday found Salinger curating the night’s music in a different sort of way. Instead of operating behind the turntables, Salinger was stationed at the entrance of Fruition Collective for the first-ever Final Friday event - an event that he put together as a member of Teenage Crimewave - complete with last-minute rescheduling.
“He’s the easiest person to work with (because) he takes ownership of everything he’s working on,” says Rose Luciano of the Fruition Collective.
Around 9 p.m. Salinger was taking admission, making change, giving directions to the nearest six-pack shop to people who forgot the show was BYOB, drumming counter-rhythms on the table to DJ Joe Martin’s spinning and generally encouraging people to have a good time. Salinger uses his eclectic DJ sensibilities when booking a lineup for a show. This night featured Martin spinning everything from soul to hip-hop to garage rock, Brandon Bunting as Farewell Viking sitting barefoot on the floor creating otherworldly experimental beats on his synth, Dave Ginolfi’s funny freestyling alter-ego Bruce Banter and Matt Kelly’s brand of hard-driving psych-surf punk.
“Matt Kelly is incredible,” says Salinger. “I feel like he’s one to watch out for this year.”
Around 11:30 p.m., as Kelly’s trio started to get looser and louder with an especially noisy version of the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” Salinger, always knowing the exact time to bring the energy levels up, swooped by the stage and swung in front of an open mic to play hype man - bringing the crowd to the front to match the band’s energy levels. Empty bottles outnumbered the full ones and the crowd danced harder as Friday night rolled in Saturday morning.
With nothing on the schedule for Saturday, we took a break from hanging out in bars and listening to music with DJ Salinger to…hang out in other bars and listen to music. Every working man needs a day of rest and we assumed the same applied to Salinger. We were wrong. Saturday night the DJ was spinning at a private event. Twenty-four hours later, Salinger was back at it again for another Sunday night at Penn Square Grille.
Listen to this playlist featuring music from this article below.