"One two, shake those germs off, y’all," DJ Mel called out near the top of his Living Room Dance Party on Saturday, playing his own hype man for the roughly 2,500 viewers logged onto his Facebook Live stream.
It was the third go-round for the hottest social distancing get-down in Austin, Austin360’s Residency of the Month for April. The ace party rocker had hit a solid rhythm, whiplash-mixing a choice blend of retro pop, dancefloor destroyers and off-the-wall selections that work way better than they should.
Later in the set, he dedicated the Ray Charles classic "Hit the Road Jack" to the coronavirus.
"Listen to Ray Charles," he said as a trio of backup singers doo-woped "No more, no more, no more, no more."
If you need to shake the isolation doldrums with your kids, your honey and/or your virtual homies: The artist also known as Mel Cavaricci is known nationally for ecstatic sets at Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits Music Festival and Bonnaroo and a stint as President Barack Obama’s official DJ. Locally, he spent 20 years behind the decks running the longest hip-hop weekly in Texas at Nasty’s. His high school dance flashbacks, Rock the Casbah, are cherished nostalgia bombs, and his recent Early dance party series had become a favorite happening for his grown-and-sexy fans who turn into pumpkins at midnight.
He did the first online party on a whim and was "kind of shocked" when thousands tuned in, he said. Each week, the buzz around the event grows. By Sunday afternoon, the most recent stream had more than 200,000 views, 2,200 shares and 17,000 comments.
"Whether it's like, 10 people or 100 people or 1,000 people or even to the extreme of, like, 100,000 people … that's not why I'm doing it," Cavaricci said.
Early on, he realized the true value of the party: "you're impacting people in a very, very positive way at a time when it's really, really, really, really bad."
The sound: Ample hip-hop and old-school soul? Yes! Vintage punk from the Ramones that segues into a psychedelic surf-rock interlude? Sure! Club remixes of "Macarena" that springboard us into banging underground Latin grooves? Sí!
With no rules, no boundaries and no holds barred, Mel dives deep into his collection to lead us on an hours-long musical odyssey. He believes the forced move to the internet has provided DJs an opportunity to "really express themselves musically In a way they couldn't have if they were DJing at a club."
Even for an accomplished party rocker like Mel, there’s a certain amount of pressure to play "obvious bangers" to avoid being harassed by drunk fans. At home, "you can express yourself in any way you want to," he said.
"There are a lot of songs that I've played on the shows that I've done, (that) I would have never played (live)," he said.
The vibe: How serious is Mel about making this a party for the whole family? The first 30 minutes of the most recent livestream included a remix of the ubiquitous Disney hit "Let It Go," a (very clean) version of Megan Thee Stallion’s "Savage" and a chopped up version of UGK’s "International Players Anthem" that segued into Taylor Swift’s "Shake It Off."
He sends shout-outs to families, far-flung friends and fans and everyone trying to muddle their way through this new stay-at-home life. It’s an upbeat musical escape that makes everyone who tunes in feel less alone.
Mel says: Film yourself dancing along in your living room and he’ll try to repost it. "I've been watching all these videos of kids dancing or people dancing with their dogs," he said. "Especially the dogs. You see women dancing with these big Labradoodles and it is so funny to me This is another reminder (of) how powerful music is."
If you go: The stream starts at 6 p.m. Saturday each week on DJ Mel’s Facebook page (facebook.com/DJ-Mel-48330349120) and while the official cut-off time is 10 p.m., Mel frequently keeps the party going later. He doesn’t accept personal tips, but he does solicit contributions to a selected charity each week. On March 21, he raised more than $3,000 for the Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas on World Down Syndrome Day, and on Saturday, he was raising money for HAAM.
It warms his heart when he sees people leaving comments saying "Mel brought me here" on the fundraisers he supports.
"I get to DJ and have people online watch, and then not only that, I get to help out my community, which is something that I was already doing, but now it's at a much higher level," he said. "It's very gratifying."
RELATED: Check out the Austin360 Livestream List