Have you never been mello on a Monday?
- Michaela Bancud
- Portland Tribune - Features
Ringlers gets its weekly bounce thanks to a DJ dynamo
Perhaps Monday night is your own personal spa night. You haul out the lavender bath salts and detoxifying green tea and sit in a lotus position, wearing that Tommy Girl nightshirt from Ross Dress For Less, searching for something meaningful on the Oxygen channel. You reach for another Luna bar and apply a BiorŽ nose strip. É
Snap out of it, sister!
In case you haven't noticed, the world is going to hell in a handbasket, so you might as well start treating Monday with the same healthy respect you lavish on Saturday night.
Throw on your sluttiest Forever 21 jeans and head on over to Ringlers Pub for Mello Mondays, where global anxieties can be submerged in the comfort of '80s pop and soul in the capable hands of DJ Mello Cee.
These days, everyone claims to be a DJ, but Mello has been at this longer than most. Originally from Harlem, N.Y., he came to the West Coast after joining the Air Force. Now he works as a mechanic building trucks for Freightliner during the day.
Before spinning, Mello makes three trips past the tables and booths with a hand truck piled high with crated records. He wears a Yankees cap pulled down low and avoids unnecessary eye contact.
The fluorescent lights from Everyday Music across the street light up the room, and the windows start to shake with the vibrations coming from the speakers. Mello usually plays bigger gigs than this. He used to DJ over at Balzer's, an Old Town hip-hop club that had its share of problems, culminating in its closure by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Mello has spun just about every place in town over the past 10 years. He blames much of the trouble leveled at clubs where hip-hop fans gather on 'parking lot pimping.' This involves men sitting around in cars and shouting out such irresistible invitations as 'Hey, baby! Where you going NOW?!' as women leave the club.
Though DJ competition is out there, it's not that fierce, Mello says. 'I've always been street,' he says simply. That's why he's not particularly interested in being on the radio, even though most consider him to be one of the best party rockers in Portland. His blends, beat matching, tricks and intuition are pitch perfect. 'Radio's just not for everyone,' he says.
Who does he like out there?
'DJ P, I like this cat. Juggernaut's also a good scratcher, and a friend of mine,' Mello says.
DJs have to 'get' the crowd, it's part of their job. Mello walks the room before his main gig on Friday and Saturday nights at Stephanos, in order to read the people before he starts. He might start with the Eurythmics' 'Sweet Dreams' for older white guys, for instance.
'I'm not here to ridicule nobody,' he says. So you might hear Hall and Oates, or even New Addition at Ringlers.
'You never want to run your music. You don't play all the hits,' he advises. 'The good thing about me is, I have no format. No schedule.' But he's all vinyl, all the time. 'That's the art and the fun of it,' he adds.
Mello seems happiest when it's time to turn down the lights, put on his headphones and play. On a recent Monday he begins his set with the song 'Lovely Day' and transitions into Soul II Soul's 'Back to Life.' Later, some Janet Jackson, and then some Prince. When Jacko's 'I Want to Rock With You' plays, people can sit still no longer. Some Madonna, some Mary J. Blige, and the room is moving.
'At Balzer's, I'd see the same brothers every time. I prefer a mix,' Mello says of the crowd he brings in at Ringlers, one that recently included Trail Blazer center Dale Davis. And though he gets offers to play for more money at other places, he says, 'You've got to be humble in this line of work. You go further that way. You're name is everything.'
Dance enthusiast Rob Kelly tries to make it to Ringlers every Monday.
'Mello beat-matches, he's got technical skills,' Kelly says. 'He keeps the dance floor moving. And I also feel like he's teaching a little bit as he goes.'