It’s the hottest social-distancing dance party around! Austin's DJ Mel has been hosting a weekly Saturday night 'Living Room Dance Party.' Thousands of fans have joined the live, family-friendly event on his Facebook page. Decibel’s Samantha Guzman talked with the popular DJ who is helping the nation shake off the blues.
Samantha Guzman: So a lot of people are stuck at home right now because cities across the country have put in these shelter-in-place orders. Shortly after Austin put theirs in place, you started hosting these living room dance parties. What do these look like?
DJ Mel: Well, it's just me in my studio, just playing music. I was actually documenting my sets online, way before this even happened. So it was kinda a way for my friends to listen to music and what have you. And then all this stuff went down with the pandemic, and I just put a name to my sessions that I was broadcasting online, so I just called it "Living Room Dance Party," and then it just took off!
And it wasn't just an Austin thing. At first that's what I intended it to be. And it just wound up being this thing where people from all over the world were tuning in. I feature a charity each week, along with "Stand With Austin" and "Banded Together." And I'm getting direct messages, and emails from people from all over the world, that are thanking me for providing this small little respite from the new norm that we have.
SG: So I went to the dance party last weekend, and I gotta say, what I really loved about it is that you sorta took us on this musical journey. I went through every decade. You rolled from artists ranging from Madonna, to The Beatles, to Drake. It really felt like you had something for everybody.
DJ Mel: Yeah, you know. When I decided to create this dance party for everyone, I didn't want it to be for just hip hop folks, or electronic music people. I dunno, I wanted it to be very inclusive, you know. The messages that I got this week were from people that were older, that expressed their gratitude because the event online was inclusive. Then also for the most part, the music's all clean, because there's kids there.
There's a heavy focus on the kids, because there are a lot of parents with kids that need a place for their kids to just run around and dance to some music, and they can just kinda sit back, or dance along with them, or take a break.
SG: I'm wondering how different is it for you to host this virtual event? As opposed to being at a live event, or DJing at a club?
DJ Mel: I mean, each situation is different. There are certain situations where like yeah, this is a Hip-Hop party, or this is just a straight Disco party, or whatever. But for me, I just kinda prefer it to be everywhere, where I'm just kinda weaving in and out of genres and decades.
SG: Yeah something I, well I think might be a little different, is the way that you're hyping up the crowds, or the shout outs that you're doing during the dance party. You know it seems like you have maybe a little bit of a different messaging going on.
DJ Mel: Yeah, absolutely. It's all about inclusion. I feel like these people are kinda sequestered, and they're not really having any contact with anyone outside of their house. If they're recognized, I think that it's huge, because there's definitely a lack of contact right now.
SG: So I'm sure you've seen that party's similar to this are popping up all across the country. I'm thinking about DJ [D]-Nice and his Instagram party that sorta blew up. Why do you think these dance party's, these virtual dance party's, are becoming so popular?
DJ Mel: I think everyone's cooped up in their house. Music is kinda like this therapeutic thing. We have all this energy pent up. There has to be some sort of release. And so I think it's just a place for people to just forget about their problems.
SG: How does it make you feel to be the person that's giving people a much needed stress relief?
DJ Mel: It feels big. It feels, I mean, it's huge. This is pretty much in alignment with the vision that I had at the beginning of the year. Or the vision that I have at the beginning of every year, where I want to make an impact with music, and also have connections through music. Yeah DJing for D.K.R., or the Frank Owen's Center for the men's basketball team, that's one thing. Those are huge groups of people. But there's just something about playing to people that are in the UK, or China, or Australia, or New Zealand, and seeing what's happening now with this show is huge.
SG: Yeah it's gotta feel good. Something that I noticed is that you can see those comments sorta scrolling on your screen, and you can see where people are all across the world as they're tuning in. You get like sorta this instant feedback that you don't necessarily get at a live event.
DJ Mel: Absolutely. When you're able to see that, it's really, really awesome. And I think people are really appreciative of having this ability to dance to music, and what have you. And so instead of them thinking it, they're actually typing it. And what's so funny about the comments, it's its own world where everyone kinda knows everyone now. It's really incredible to have that sense of community on a computer.
SG: So when's the next party?
DJ Mel: This Saturday, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. central standard time. It's every Saturday. And I'm going to do this until who knows when. Until this is over.
SG: How can people find it?
DJ Mel: On my Facebook page. Yeah, on my DJ Mel page on Facebook.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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