How exactly does one start DJing for the president of the United States and then start feeling the Bern for a senator from Vermont? You've got to know someone.
DJ Mel, straight out of Austin, is an internationally known DJ who happens to know the right Democrats.
Last week, Mel announced on Twitter and Instagram that he'd be spinning for the crowd at Sen. Bernie Sanders' Iowa caucus headquarters in Des Moines. This week he's taking his turntables to Manchester, N.H., for the campaign's primary watch party.
Mel has always gravitated toward music. When he was growing up near Fort Hood, he and a buddy would sneak into bars. While his friend was socializing, Mel was studying the DJ and dissecting the sound. He was inspired.
A neighborhood friend supplied him his first mixer, a castaway from a dad's attempt at DJing in a previous life. Mel broke the cardinal rule of his own home — Mel took his dad's turntable, the man's pride and joy, from the living room and plunked it down his bedroom and hooked it up to a cassette player and the mixer.
"It was really, really hard," Mel said about his first attempt at DJing. "Way harder than I thought it was going to be."
He worked restaurant jobs and saved until he could buy a better mixer and his own turntables. He practiced alone in his parents house for months until he caught a break when a local club needed a DJ. He moved up through the Austin warehouse party scene, became the Monday regular at Nasty's, and racked up stacks on stacks of best DJ awards.
But Mel wanted to meet the president. He had a friend who worked in the White House and they'd talk about it every so often.
"I just wanted to shake his hand and tell him that I appreciate him," Mel said.
Mel said his friend generally rebuffed him, but then Mel booked the California delegation's party at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. The room was filled with heavy hitters for the Democratic Party. He did his thing and the party elites seemed to like it.
A few months later his buddy in the White House called: "What are you doing on Tuesday?" he asked Mel.
"I want you to play for the president in Chicago for election night."
The Obama campaign gave Mel 50 or so songs that they wanted played during the event. Mel's job was to keep the crowd going as results rolled in all night long. Sounds simple, except Mitt Romney's campaign was slow to concede the election to President Barack Obama. After a while of waiting, Mel's friend who was producing the event told him, "do your thing."
He knew the perfect song: "Twist and Shout" by The Beatles.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
"I don't know why I had the presence of mind to play it," Mel said. "When I played it the place just went nuts."
Mel saw on social media that people like QuestLove and Mark Ronson were asking who was DJing and people who knew Mel from around the country would chime in and give him some love. The president gave his victory speech and everyone called it a night.
"To this day, I'm not really aware of the enormity of the event," Mel said.
Mel was invited to perform at the National Day of Service and the inauguration. He was in good company. Katy Perry, Usher, Jamie Foxx and Lady Gaga all performed at inauguration parties. Mel's job was to introduce them all.
In a rush to get from the DJ booth to the line for photos, Mel ran back stage and was almost tackled by Secret Service. He casually waited in line behind Alicia Keys and her boyfriend and then it was his turn to meet the president.
Ever since, whenever the White House has needed him, Mel's been there. He's DJed every Easter Egg Roll since 2012 and is gearing up for the 2016 bash. He said he is not paid to perform at the political events.
Someone from the Sanders campaign remembered Mel from his White House events and thought giving him a call was worth a shot for caucus night. Mel put some thought into whether he would support Sanders or not. After looking at the senator's plans for the country and his voting record, the choice was easy. He could feel the Bern.
"He isn't just saying the right thing to get votes," Mel said. "He marched with Martin Luther King. He's legit."
So he hopped on a plane in sunny Austin and landed in snowy Des Moines. What does he play to get the Bernie crowds going?
"Starman" by David Bowie, "We Take Care of Our Own" by Bruce Springsteen, "The Way You Do the Things You Do" by The Temptations and some Parliament just to name a few.
"The Bernie Sanders crowd is super passionate and super young. They're just really energized excited people. I definitely fed off that when I was DJing. It's hard not to."
Mel, who declined to specify his age or who he'd vote for, said that everyone should get out and cast a ballot no matter what candidate they support.
"Everyone needs to do their part, whether you’re in the right or the left you have to just represent who you want in office."
Mel will be DJing the Sanders event in New Hampshire and said he's ready to keep on Berning for the rest of the campaign season.