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Tha Juice Joint and cultural organizing




Welcome to Zeitgeist Radio. I'm Morgan Roe, founder of the Zeitgeist Academy. Every episode here on Zeitgeist Radio, I speak with someone from a unique musical subculture looking to understand their relationship with music. Zeitgeist means spirit of the times. Imagine all the things that make this moment feel different from other times.

The way people feel, what they like, the things they do together. That's what we call Zeitgeist. It's like a big invisible bubble that helps us understand the spirit or feeling of the time we're in. The idea here is that music may be universal, but each musical scene has its own mini zeitgeist. And that's what we're here to learn about on this podcast.

But before we begin, head over to zeitgeistacademy. com slash radio and put in your email address. I send a weekly newsletter with. Backgrounds and stories about our awesome guests, cool musical facts, and ways you can get involved if you love music and want to do more than just listen to a podcast.

That's Z E I T G E I S T Academy dot com.

Morgan: My guest today is Melanesia Hunter, the creator and curator of the Juice Joint and the Crockpot Live Music Events in LA. Quick note, there is some swearing in this episode and a brief mention of substance use. If you're listening with your kids or have a personal issue with either of those, this is your disclaimer.

Mel, welcome to Zeitgeist Radio.

Mel: Mel, this is exciting. So happy to talk to you. Me too. We've been working hard to make this thing. We've been talking about this for a while. We had to make it happen. Yes,

Morgan: we did. It worked. I'm glad. So, we're here in your showroom and Tonight is tha Juice Joint, so I'm very excited to get to go for after several months planning.

Can you, let's just start at the beginning. Like, what's your background with music? Who are you musically?

Mel: Oh, see, you know, my background with music, I am a music lover. And I'm an advocate for artists, creatives, musicians in a world that seems to be trying to exploit us and take ownership of our art without pouring back into us.

So I don't play or sing, but I understand the power of music. I am a cultural organizer and a community builder. And in doing that work, I knew that I wanted music to be at the center of it because it's the most universal tool that we have to connect with each other. So many things are dividing us. Music is one thing that brings everybody together.

And I knew I wanted to create spaces like that. That's so

Morgan: beautiful. I love

Mel: that. But I do have a great eye and ear and just, I know music, I feel music deeply. I have to shout out my choir director, Mr. Andre Ashley from high school, because I think with his training, even though I can't sing, I think just being, learning from him, it really put me in this position to be able to.

Curate live music events the way that I do, which is exceptionally well.

Morgan: Yeah. I just looking at the online presence. I'm like, Oh, this is going to be good.

Mel: I'm so excited. That you get to actually, we get to do this and then tonight you get to come to this. I get to come. Yeah. It's like, I know that makes me happy.

Morgan: So can you tell our listeners, they're, they're musicians, they're music lovers. What is tha juice joint

Mel: and where did this idea come from? Well, first, tha juice joint more than anything is a community, right? It's really a family. But the event itself is an open mic slash jam session, which is mostly improv.

And kind of chaotic, but also magical as hell. You know, it's one of those jam sessions where you don't have to have a list to get on the stage. You don't have to know somebody. You don't have to be really good. You know, you go to different jam sessions. Like, you can't sit in unless somebody on the stage knows that you can play.

You can't sit in unless you know somebody on the stage. If you do get to sit in, you might have to send your music first. Or you might have to But this one is really creative because we need a place to come and just be. To express ourselves, right? So it becomes this platform where beginners and experts are in the same room sharing the stage together.

And so you honestly never know what you are going to get because I have a house band and I have house singers. tha juice joint house band and house singers literally hands down best musicians and vocalists in all of L. A. is making a smile in the world, Craig. You know, like in all of the world. So we do have our core.

But once our core leaves the stage, everybody in the audience starts intermingling, getting on the stage, singing, playing. It's not really a rehearsal. You don't really know, when you get on the stage with a bunch of strangers, you don't know who knows what. You know what I mean? Now, at this point, you have to really feel the music.

Now you have to listen to each other. Now you have to pay attention. And if you're new Or just beginning, it can seem intimidating or scary, but because it's such a love space and you got two to three hundred people in the audience like, it's all right, sing baby, it's okay. You know, or you got an OG drummer on the drums tapping you on the shoulder to help you keep the tempo, you know, like it's not, it's a place where you can feel safe to come and learn and get better and just, it's like practicing, but it's like performing.

And because it's improv, it takes you out of that. I only know how to play my song or what I, I don't know how to sing my song. I don't know how to do what I know how to do. Now you are coming in a room with people you're inspired by that, you know, people that will inspire you that you've never met like that type of fuel.

I have seen, we're 10 years in, I have seen artists and musicians. The way I have seen people grow and expand just in their artistry, because you have a place to come and nobody's judging you. If you mess up, you know, nobody's hard on you. If you. Don't get it right the first time you like. Oh shit. I messed up.

Okay, when I come back next month I'm gonna get back up there and I'm a you know, like it just makes it for this playground. That is Beautiful. Yeah. Yeah.

Morgan: Oh, I love that. So what was the first juice joint and What led

Mel: you to start that way back 10 years ago, it was actually February 7th, 2014, coming up, coming up on the 10 year anniversary of the actual Jewish trance.

And I would say what led me to start it is being a community with my, I'm from Alabama. I'm a Southern girl, you know, so, um, music, food, family, all of these things are like such a big part of our culture. Right. So when I, I'm also a makeup artist. So when I was living in Atlanta, I was on makeup, doing makeup for an artist by the name of Chanel.

She was signing Young Money. She was opening for Lil Wayne on the tour. So it was my first tour. And I'm doing makeup on this tour. At that time, I was probably one of the only girls on the tour that smoked weed, right? But I ended up always with the band. Lil Wayne's band. Because we always fucking with each other.

So it's like, I'm gonna ride on y'all bus cause they over there trippin you know, I'm on the bus with y'all. But that developed into a beautiful friendship. A beautiful respect for each other's creative minds and gifts. So now I'm just riding on the back of the bus with them. I'm listening to the type of music they produce.

I'm listening to, you know, like, they're phenomenal musicians, right? Obviously, they on tour with Wayne. You know, and just everybody else. But That friendship and that bond with them over years of touring became so strong. We all went to Africa on the tour and I think when I got back to Atlanta, I feel like my heart, my mind, everything had just expanded so I was like, I have to, I can't, I gotta go somewhere else.

Is it New York? Is it LA? Like I can't, I'm an out girl. I don't know. Just something about going to Africa and coming back just made me want to leave. They all were LA based. I ended up moving out here. We used to just hang out at my house. I had instruments and stuff in my house and I would be cooking Southern soul food and shit all the time.

But also I just moved to the west coast for the first time and I did feel out of place. Yeah. You know, it's different. Yeah. It's different. Like where is the soul? Where is the community? Where is the, where's the real non industry? Like all these popping ass parties I would go to, I would low key feel out of place.

But when I would be at home with my friends and we just Like my homie might just grab the damn guitar and start playing and I'm cooking and And just just being a community for no reason other than hanging with each other My friends that sing all my friends sing all my friends. We all create it. We all love music The way that that shit healed me and pulled me out of depressions It made me want to create that for other people So then i'm like, yeah, I don't know how here y'all are for me keen and cherished, you know, like Charlie, Titus.

I'm just thinking about Ramel. I'm just thinking about the composers overall. And I'm like, we got to do this for other people. So we tested it out and it was beautiful. And here we are 10 years later. And it was the same thing with the crockpot. Everything came from attention of like, shit is hard out here.

And everybody's coming to LA to try to make it. If you don't build that safe community because people talk about yeah You know being for the people and building safe spaces and the damn spaces don't be safe, you know So it just made me want to take it upon myself to curate Truly a safe space for musicians for singers for artists for creators from music lovers But people that move to LA that don't have family here and I'm like looking for their home looking for that Shit is stressing me out right now, but when I come in here, I literally don't think about any of that.

That was an escape for me with us just doing it in my living room. Yeah, and so we wanted to bring that to the masses and we did it. You

Morgan: did. Now you have two, three hundred people you said coming every single month.

Mel: We used to have two, three hundred people coming every week. From what, 2016 to 2020, we had a weekly residency.

Oh wow. In Hollywood. Wow. Yeah, but then COVID everything happened when we came back. It's like I can't even do I'm not even gonna hold y'all We're gonna swing this thing gonna bring it back and we gonna do it once a month. Yeah, we're gonna start there But it's been such a great event. Even the venue we are at now.

It's like what you think about twice a month Yeah. You know, and I'm like, I don't know. Do I get some help? Yeah. Okay. We will see. You see me running around like crazy now getting ready for tonight, but it's the first one of the year. We have a double feature, Isaiah J and Mackenzie Thomas, two people that I'm a huge fan of.

So I think for me this year, it's like, I want to start booking people that. I'm a fan of bringing them into the community. Isaiah has already been a part of tha juice joint community. He used to come when we was in the study doing it every week, but this will be McKenzie's first juice joint and we all are a fan of hers.

So I'm about ready to

Morgan: tell me what I'm, what I'm going to see here. So it's a, it's a jam session. You've got a house band, but you also have these two.

Mel: Yes. So the only rehearse portion of the night will come from the feature. Normally it's one feature, but on special occasions, we'll just. Go ahead and make it a double feature, you know doors are at eight, right?

Yeah. Then my favorite DJ, DJ Sean Prince, he spends from eight to nine. Also met him doing music events in 2014. So when I. When I, when you think about all the people that you're going to see tonight, so many of them have been around the whole 10 years, the whole time. That should tell you in itself. That tells a lot.

That should tell you a lot. So many people that came to the Juchon for the first time 10 years ago still come today. That should tell you a lot. That does. You know? Yeah. So Sean Prince spends the first hour. Then we open the gym at 9. The house band and the house singer is kind of opening. I get up there, I talk my shit, I tell y'all what you can expect.

I call them my church announcements. Tell you the rules of the night because it's gonna be a lot of first timers there and everybody don't know. Once the jam starts, I kind of get out of the way and we just see what happens. And that's when, like, people just I don't even know how to explain it besides it's magic, you know?

We, we, we can have some train wrecks sometimes because It's literally a bunch of strangers on the stage trying to figure it out with each other, you know. But we'll always have a house singer, a house band member, or somebody on standby to bring it back if we have any train wrecks, you know. Yeah. Then by 11 o'clock we bring the feature up, and that's like a 15 minute set.

Cause the, the purpose of the event is for people to jam, to play, it's for the audience to be able to be a part of it, to show what they got, to learn, to grow, iron sharpens iron, you know. And then at 12 o'clock, we do something called Midnight Funk. That's when we kind of just turn the shit up even more.

And after that, we jam a little more. And then DJ Sean Prince does a after party set. So that's like the scope of the whole night.

Morgan: Nice. Oh, that's beautiful. So when I was talking to you as we were getting this organized, you mentioned COVID and like. It had such an impact on musicians. And can you talk about what you kind of, what you told me about bringing.

back after COVID and, and like the need that people had for connection and making music together. Cause that was a rough couple of years for musicians, people like I witnessed people the first concerts back at some of the venues and they would just start crying on stage. They're like, I miss this so much.

Mel: Like, think about it. We were doing it every week from 2016 to 2020.

And that, what, four year span every week? Yeah. We was going through Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year's, like we was every, it was such a necessary space for all of us. So even after COVID, or even just being stressed out and burnt out from producing and curating a live music event with so many moving parts.

Yeah. Every week for four years straight, you, there was something in me that wanted a break, but then there was also something in me that knew we could not. Yeah. You know? And so, that was the point of my scaling back, not, just not doing it at all. It was too necessary. Too impactful for the community. Jobs, opportunities musicians meeting each other and end up going on tour with each other.

Musicians and singers meeting each other and falling in love with each other at tha juice joint. And now they producing each other's albums and, you know what I'm saying? It's like people then met and got married at tha juice joint. People been best friends for 10 years because they randomly met as strangers at tha juice joint.

People, so many industry people, even though it's like an anti industry event because we're not on that. Right. They still come, they come to scout talent, you know, they come to, it's like, I tell people, I'm the A& R's A& R, you know, y'all, y'all keeping it, y'all real slick, coming up here. But it's a beautiful thing because so many opportunities have also come from the platform.

So you meet a community, you get career opportunities, you're growing as an artist because you're challenged, you know, like you having to get out of your routine. And kind of like make shit up on the spot, listen on the spot, improv and all these skills. I just knew that like, we need human connection and connectivity and we need community.

I think through

Morgan: music like that and musicians are so like, they're so collaborative.

Mel: So yeah, that's our motto, starve to eat, go feed your soul. Nice. We want to do things to feed your soul. Yeah. It's a lot of shit going on in LA. And all of us are trying to make it. We need to stay happy. Yeah. Sometimes we used to go in there and just scream.

I sit on the count of three, everybody scream. Somebody in here needed that. I'll be that somebody a lot of times. So just like, Oh my God, this week has been rough. I'm just, come on y'all. We all finna scream together. You know, we hug on each other. We love on each other. And that was different too, because every week we would be doing this whole hug your neighbor thing.

We make strangers and everybody just turn around, hug your neighbor. I don't care if you don't know him. Then when COVID happened, you know, it's different. We mask up. We don't want to have to do this shit. It's real out here. So that was also different. We got Lysol everywhere. We got drugs. We got Clorox wipes everywhere.

We trying to figure out how to come back and do a jam session and still be COVID friendly. Yeah. Yeah. It was different. Yeah.

Morgan: Yeah, so what about the venue? The venue right now is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in LA. Has it always been there?

Mel: No, it was at the Study in Hollywood for 2016 to 2020. We moved out, we, tha juice joint has literally been all over LA.

The first one was like a one off at a venue. I can't remember the name of it. The first one we did February 7th. It was kind of far out. That's when I knew like, well, if we do it, we can't keep doing it this far out. Yeah. Then we took it to Skinny's in North Hollywood. We did a few there. Then our home for a, for a long time ended up being a chaos network in Leimert Park.

So we like little Leimert Park babies. I don't know if you know about that community, but my heart is dedicated to that place. Yeah. Ben Caldwell is one of my mentors and he's the owner of Chaos Network. So he kind of allowed me to use his space. He uses his space like the incubator for people like me to come in and create and organize.

So many amazing, powerful, impactful music events and creative ventures have come from Brewing inside a chaos network. He'll be there tonight. Nice. You know, it's like this family, this tribe is so So

Morgan: even though you're not at his place, he still

Mel: comes. What? He's still one of my partners. So he's still my mentor.

I still do work in cultural organizing in Leimert Park. I'm still dedicated to that community. I'll always be, you know, it's a very special place. So we've been all up on Pico, downtown, you know, we have, and everywhere we went. I try to follow this. That's amazing.

Morgan: What does your conversation look like when you're talking to a new venue?

Because I noticed I mean, Monday night, a lot of these places are, well, at least Kiska's Bang Bang, they're normally closed. So they're opening up just for you?

Mel: Yes.

And I would say basically by the time we started asking around now, other venues have already heard about tha juice joint and who don't want two to 300 people on a slow ass Monday night in your venue and now is our crowd is so different. It's not a. You know, it's not a drunk belligerent crazy, but like, even though the venue, the bartenders are the bar managers, like you guys are so nice.

So it's supposed to be like, this is how do you have 300 incredible humans in one, you know, like nobody. The security is out here grabbing plates and eating and they love everybody whereas Other events you like these people are assholes. You got to deal with but it's like damn y'all night Whatever y'all want.

It was kind of like that at the study too. I would go to do an event One day and they would come back and be like, what are you is this you want to that's how I got the residency I was just I want to go do the event one day and it happened to fall on a monday I was doing the crockpot and tha juice joint like a two day mini festival.

So the crockpot concert Which is not an open mic, it will be one day, and then tha juice joint will be the next day. So the idea is like, you still get to jam with the people that you paid to come see perform live at this festival, this concert. It's still like, it's not an us versus them, it's we still all together.

So tomorrow we gonna jam out with everybody. Yeah. It was that type of concept. So when I did that, and I went to the study in Hollywood, the manager was like, Man, what? Aye. You need to do this. Can you do this every Monday? Like, this shit was crazy. Can you? And we did. And I think it's like the same thing with Kiss Kiss.

We heard about you guys. You know, Mondays are slow. They're saying, yeah, let's do it. And now it's like, you wanna do two Mondays? You know, I think it's gonna always be that because of our impact on how beautiful the evening is. The music? Phenomenal. The people? Phenomenal. You understand what I'm saying? The culture, the culture is beautiful.

Like you'll see tonight. I'm so excited.

Morgan: I'm so excited to come see So tell me a little bit about the crock pot. We've talked about tha juice joint right now, but what's what's

Mel: up with the crock pot? The crock pot used to be monthly, right? And then, same thing, it's giving, wow, scale back, little mama. So then I moved it to like a bi annual.

I do a free concert in Leimert Park for the community in the summer of every year. We haven't since COVID, so this will be our first time coming back. But it will also be July 27, 2024. That'll be 10 years since the first time I did a free concert in Leimert Park. So I'm coming up on 10 year anniversaries for both of these events, right?

year for you. Yeah, so we're planning the 10 year festival. And that's just another thing. All ages. Because the Jewish joint is 21 and up, right? Mm hmm. But I also like the idea of bridging these gaps between the generations. Kids. Yeah. People my age. The elders. At some point, we all need to be able to commune together.

So I think that's what the Croxify has been. And then I do the anniversary show, which is December 1st. And that show is not a free concert. It's ticketed, but those two shows at this point it's a biannual concert or a festival. Call it a festival, a bi annual

Morgan: festival. You get sponsors, or how do you make that happen?

We

Mel: have not been sponsored this whole 10 years. How? At least not by, you know, that is a good damn question because we deserve. We had Fender and Native Instruments sponsor us because they really were supportive of what we were doing. But they gave us, were in kind, they gave us instruments. Sure. You know there's some native instrument instruments over here behind this curtain, you know, they gave us the amps that I have right here.

It came from a vendor sponsorship, but not a financial sponsorship. Yeah. So a lot of that came from me paying for it. So the first few years. Most of it, if blue is in the red, me or one of my friends that's in, shout out to Ethiopia. You know, some of my friends will be like, girl, you can't keep doing this.

They will hold it down. If the bargain, if the bar didn't meet the guarantee, I would have to pay for that. My friends would be like, Oh God, let me go help with Jesus. You know, like trying to pay these events cost thousands of dollars. Yeah. So we will rely on the ticket money, but if the. If the ticket money didn't quite add up to the expenses, then I would have to cover it.

And all the concerts that I did for free in La Mer, I came out of pocket. Oh my goodness. Five, 6, 000, you know, just trying to put on these free concerts. And that's why I do feel like this year I'm going after sponsorships and partners because what we have been doing, it has been too important to the culture, to the community, to the artist community in Los Angeles, worldwide.

People from all over the world come to both of these events. They go back home and try to recreate them. You know, like, it's very impactful and like, I think this, this time around, we looking for some damn sponsors. Y'all want to sponsor the Juice Show and the Crock Pot Holla at me!

Morgan: Her information is in the episode description and on our socials.

As you're hearing, Mel has a lot of plates in the air. Her showroom in LA had everything from areas people could do photo shoots, to inventory for her business Hippie Chick, to amps and music equipment. As we were talking, people started coming in to rehearse the backup vocals for the feature. You'll even hear a little background noise of people starting to arrive and set up.

By the way, if you're one of those musicians, I really appreciate your courtesy while we did this interview. Also, you blew me away at the event! Wow. If you want to hear all about my experience attending the Juice Joint, head over to zeitgeistacademy. com and subscribe to my newsletter. It was an incredible evening, I've definitely never been to anything like it, and I want to tell you all about it.

That's z e i t g e i s t academy. com

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This course is appropriate for any instrument. Technical guidance can be provided for guitar, bass, piano, voice, and drums, however we've been able to accommodate other instruments if you have knowledge of your instrument and playing basic scales. Learn to jam and solo while also immersing in the rich blues history and a great soundtrack.

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/

Morgan: Let's talk about taking this elsewhere. So, that was one thing when we were talking earlier that you mentioned that, that stuck with me is, is you were so encouraging or, I mean, I would say, like, adamant that you can do this. Like, where's your community? Where's your need? You can do this.

What would you say to people who are realizing that they need a community, seeing a hole in their community, don't have 5, 000 to drop, but maybe want to make something happen. How did you start? Like,

Mel: like, Well, I started it with just my friends and my friends believing in my vision would show up and we would just do the events and whatever we made from the door, they split.

Like all last year, because I don't have a sponsor, I didn't pay myself at any of tha juice joints for last year. I plan on paying myself this year. You know, I paid everybody else, but that's what those one of those sacrifices where some people in business say as the business owner I always pay yourself first.

I have been advised that I've never been able to do that with this. I've never felt Right to do that with this and like struggling artists musicians and people just want to do their art and not have to go Work a job that they hate but they trying to make a living. I don't even feel comfortable, you know, right?

Yeah, it's like we're gonna split this door money. Yeah, I'm gonna put this door money Yeah, you know like if you guys could commit to just the way I started it was my friends committed to doing this with me and they wasn't Seeing you got to pay me this you got to pay me that that came later Yeah, once we already built it, but the beginning stages was we're just showing up and splitting the pot You know And the pot comes from tickets the pot comes from tickets the pot might come from selling food the pot might come from Asking people for donations passing around a little collection plate like we do in the black church You know like that it comes from community like we want to keep doing this, but let's take care Even if you ask the people in the audience You know, like even if it was a free event, we still want to take care of the people that's on the stage.

If you've got anything that you can donate, do so. Or you just heard like when people hit me, we don't have a list or this pretentious. I'm, I'm too good to pay to get in. I don't really accommodate people like that, but I will accommodate an artist who say I don't have it this month and I want to come.

/

Morgan: what are some of the types of people that come to this event? If you open it up to just musicians generally, , You're going to get all genres. I imagine you get up folks from all different types of backgrounds, music. What, what types of folks tend to come or like, what do you, what do you see as far as that

Mel: mishmash of people?

It's not just musicians. It's people that never played an instrument in their life that come. I tried, I took piano lessons, honestly, I sucked though, it's like I quit, you know, but it's really one of those spaces. Yes. Musicians from all over the world. Amateurs to experts are going to be there. You will see that right?

But people from literally well non creative corporate. We have corporate people coming in there. We have industry executives coming in there we have Singers. We, we say Asada and Anissa, the tap dancers that used to come and blow everybody's mind because they are musicians too. We've had dancers come and get on the stage and while everybody is playing, their expression is to just dance.

They're not singing or playing. You know, it is for people. If you got a soul, tha juice joint is for you. You don't have to be an incredible musician. You don't have to. If you don't know much about music, you just, if you got a soul and you were looking for something to inspire you, you need that spark, you should check it out.

You should come. You should join the culture. You know? It really is a place that's for everybody. I've seen so many people that probably would never cross paths in their lives, end up becoming BFFs and friends, you can use it together, you understand what I'm saying? What's some of your favorite stories?

Honestly, to see how people that probably would never interact with each other end up loving on each other. I think that's like, I've had a lot of accomplishments in my life as a makeup artist and as an artist, period. So many things that people think I would be so proud of, but creating tha juice joint and the crock pot is my greatest accomplishment.

And it's because of what actually happens in those spaces. You know, and I, that's what I dreamed of, that's what I wanted when I got healed by music and my friends, I wanted that for other people and to actually be able to manifest that with my friends and still be doing it and not be scarred or soured by it still being something that's so much bigger than all of us.

Like we are the vessels, of course, but the people in the audience, who I'm trying to touch and who I'm trying to reach and who I'm trying to give back. That little bit of peace, that little bit of hope, that little spark of inspiration to me. You know, cause I know what it's like once we leave, you know, and so I think I have been seeing that for 10 years straight.

That's what makes me feel like I'd be so damn stressed out. Just everything else that goes on with tha juice joint outside of musicians and singers showing up and playing on Monday falls on me. So I get burnt out, you know, and I'm doing that for. Juice Joint, Crock Pot, my makeup career. I have this boutique shop, Hippie Chick.

I have like four different things going on and I'm trying to remember my name, damn, you know, so I get Burnt out like this is work. When people say niche down, pick one thing. It's like How? I'm not sure. I can't not do this work. I Feel like it's too important now. Mm hmm. And just because of how it touches people.

So I think though it's so many stories like that Seeing the friendships develop, seeing the musicians end up on so and so tour and producing on so and so album and getting their first placements because all because they met people and started playing with them randomly at tha juice joint, you know, like That's beautiful to me.

Seeing people that came ten years ago still show up tonight is going to make my heart smile Because I know that that's how important it is to all of us. That says so much to me. So it's things like that, seeing, we just think about, think about the state of the world right now. Religion is dividing us, race, ethnicity, identity, sexuality, all of these things just, it's like a shit show outside, then you come into tha juice joint and you see every race, every gender, every sexuality, every religious background, every, you literally see everybody loving on each other.

How are we supposed to stop doing that? You know? That's what it's really about. That's what you were

Morgan: called from Africa to do here? Yeah,

Mel: you know, yeah, because when I, something clicked in me. What was that? What was that? I, all I know is when I landed, it was in Cape Town, South Africa, we didn't even leave the airport grounds.

It ain't like I saw anything. We got all our bags, there was a big little tour bus or whatever waiting for us outside. But everybody, I got there a little early and then some people said, you got to sit on the bus and you're waiting for other people to come. And I had already been world traveled. We had just came from Australia.

So it wasn't just being in the news. It was specifically something about Africa that I still to this day can't quite fully explain. So we left Australia, flew to South Africa. We get there and I'm on this bus and I'm just feeling like, cause I was a little sad when I was in Australia over a bunch of stuff.

And my mom was telling me like, girl, you over here crying about this. And you've been to more countries this year than I've been in my whole life. You know, like get out and see it. Cause I was like in Australia on some old time shit, being all sad and woe is me. And then when I got to Africa, I felt myself about to start crying on the bus.

So I got off the bus because I didn't want to give them ugly face crying on the bus and I wanted to sit outside and I just broke down and my friend came and she saw me crying and she was like what the hell and I was like, I don't know. I can't explain. It's not a bad cry. It's a, I don't know. It's making me about to cry right now.

Like thinking about it. I'm like, I don't know what I was feeling, but I don't know if it's this land, I don't know if it's our connection to this land, like, I don't know what's happening to me, but all that heaviness that I felt in Australia, it's like, it's gone and it's being replaced with something else.

I don't even have the words to explain, like, all I can do with it was cry. I thought, I'm still trying to move the after shit. I thought I was going to move then, you know, but it went, when something expands, it can't go back to being the same size. So they don't call it the motherland for no reason. You know, it was one of, it was just so special and it makes me want to go all over the world and take this community everywhere to Africa, to Australia, to Bali, to Jamaica, to Ireland.

I love Ireland. You know, I was in Ghana, I was in Senegal and every time I go to these countries, I'm like, I cannot wait. So get this shit cracking. Sponsors, where y'all at? Juice Joint Tour on the way. You know, I cannot wait to take this to other countries and be that bridge. Yeah. You know, like, the same work I do here, I can do anywhere in the world.

And I really want to do that.

Morgan: That's amazing.

/

Morgan: After that, after that amazing moment. What do you wish that people knew if there is someone who's like, man, I'm feeling really inspired. This sounds amazing. I want to do something like that. What do you wish people knew about starting it up? What do you wish people knew about community organizing when it comes to music?

Mel: Communication is important. I think I knew early on that I was trying to build something that was anti ego addressing things like for us, people always tell us all the time. You can't be, you know, y'all can't build together or work together. You can't, but I built this whole platform and we 10 years in with my friends, you can, you know, but I've also been very protective over the energy and just making sure that even I myself as the leader I watch my ego.

I check the people's ego that's on the team. We check the people ego that come into the space. You know, we try, we have. It's rules to caring for people and being in a community with people we can't just be out here messing over each other We have to hold each other accountable. We have to consider each other.

We have to have mutual respect you know, it's so hard to deal with people when It's somebody in the crew that don't respect everybody else I know it's somebody in the crew who's a egotistical asshole who thinks just because I'm an amazing musician I get to you know All of us are amazing at what we do And no one cares because we're here to do very specific work.

The intention behind the work that you are trying to do. I think if you know your why, Yeah, that is, that is key, you know, and you find people who get your why. And as soon, I'll tell you something, I would fall in love with people and just be attached to them knowing that they didn't get the why, knowing that they didn't try it the same way, but still wanted them to be a part of it because you know, we all friends, we've been here.

If I could take it back, I probably wouldn't, you know, I would just go ahead and pick out the little cancer and seeds as when I, the first signs of seeing it, we don't want, we're not, we don't have the same why we can't build together. If we don't have the same one, you understand what I'm saying? That's how you keep it safe.

It don't matter if you love him, you can come and kick it, you know, but maybe you shouldn't be. Maybe you shouldn't be one of the main ones that's putting it together because the people putting it together gotta be on one accord when it comes to why are we doing this.

Morgan: To protect and love your team too.

Yeah.

Mel: And then when you bring team members in that don't get it, you gotta get rid of them too. Yeah. Yeah. That's hard. Cause it could be your friend. It could be your friend. Or you can talk to your friend about whatever shitty behavior they, you know what I'm saying, just playing or doing. You got to protect whatever it is that you're building and you have to know exactly what you're building and why you're building it.

And I started with friends that would just believe in me. Yeah. That wasn't pressing me about money. Now we in the pan half pandemic the groceries, the quadruple gas is crazy. On the rent in LA is ridiculous. Now it might be hard for people to just show up. Put out getting money because of how hard it is now, but 10 years ago We was able to do that to at least get it started, right?

But also you can't be selfish in this, right? I was very selfless in this work I, I, and I'm not recommending that you make yourself a sacrificial lamb. I wish I had to try to get sponsored and, and reached out to other nonprofits to partner with, reached out to whatever the city council or the city, I should have been contacting the city of LA.

I'm doing cultural organizing, you know, like. If I tell you anything, it's go get some grants. Go get some

Morgan: grants. I was going to say there's grants. Go

Mel: figure out. Your city gives money to people who culturally organize. You just don't know it and you never looked it up. Start doing that research. There are non profits in your city that you never heard of that probably is aligned with your why.

You should reach out to them. Mm hmm. Collaboration.

Morgan: Collaboration.

Mel: These are mistakes. Don't do it alone. These are things that I didn't do that I wish I did, right? So I would not recommend trying to pull this shit off and struggle for 10 years to get it done, you know? I would say now, I'm talking to representatives with the city of L.

A. I have to in order to fund this crockpot in July. Yeah. You know? Now, I'm asking, okay, I need sponsors. People get sponsored for way less shit, you know? So. Look into the grants, look into what's already happening in your city, collaborate with people who have the same wise and figure it out. You can do it.

Like, I really do feel like that because when you create something that's needed, it's gonna feed so many people, you'll be able to sustain it. You'll get the fuel that you need. But you really got to know what your why is, you really got to know what your why is. If you don't know why you're doing it, all kinds of hell can break loose.

Yeah,

Morgan: you can burn out and not get back in. Yeah, you

Mel: can get your heart broken because you will be letting people that shouldn't be in, in.

Morgan: Yeah. And then your event is ruined. Like the, the protective, I love how protective you are over your people.

Mel: I don't fight, they don't fight. Yeah, my whole tribe, my whole community, it's so many of us, we're like 50 deep, maybe more, like the core of the crackpot and juice Joint people, it's a lot of us.

All volunteer? No, like just, they're musicians, they are singers, they are production managers, they are creators, they are, our team is so big. Cause we rotate through musicians every month, my like pool of musicians, we rotate through singers, so you know, it's a family affair. So we're not just, it used to be relying on like maybe one band, you know, it started like that, but that's not sustainable.

People got to go on tours. Yeah.

Morgan: Especially when it was weekly. Yeah.

Mel: You gotta have a little group, a little rotation so that not no one person will get burnt out. Yeah.

Morgan: Well, I'm very excited to come. I got one last question for you do you know what Zeitgeist means?

Tell me. It means spirit of the times. And it's like that energy that we're all plugged into at any particular point in time. And so I have what I call a Zeitgeist moment where you just like feel that moment, just everything comes together. And of course, since this is a music podcast. I like to have it be through music, where you just, you're part of something bigger than yourself.

What was a, either a recent or a memorable Zeitgeist moment for you?

Mel: Zeitgeist moment, alright. First, time I did the Crockpot and Lamarck part, July 27, 2014, right? It was one of those things where I had to pay for the stage, I had to do this, I think I had sold my little raggedy car to pay for the lights.

I needed to pay for something else and I had, my friend had to take me to the ATM to get out the money. And I was like, I'm about to pull out my rent money for this shit, but, you know, whatever. And I remember crying, and when we got back to Leimert, I was crying in the car with him. You know, just about the finances, but I knew I had wanted to do it so bad, but it was costing me thousands and I was doing the most to make it happen.

And as I was sitting in his damn car crying, people started walking up to me that was at the concert. A man and his wife and his child, they came up first to the car like, I'm sorry y'all talking, but are you the girl who put this on? I just wanted to tell you that thank you so much. This was so beautiful for our community.

This was so amazing for our family. Like, I felt so good having my wife and my kids out here. And so then once he started a line start for me. Oh, my goodness. And people just started coming up to the car. I'm like crying for one reason, and then it flipped. And then I started crying because I'm like overwhelmed with like the thank you.

So, like, we needed this. Like, this was so beautiful. Like, and it just It was something flipped for me then too, you know, I don't think I ever cried about the money after that, even when I took a hit, I knew it was worth it. You know, like that something, it was so crazy. I was crying over the money. And those same two, you know, he like, I'm sorry, y'all talking.

Can I just want to meet you? I just want to introduce. I just want to tell you thank you. And then that's just line of people just like we needed this for our community. Thank you so much. This is so impactful. This is so powerful. This is so beautiful. And it just was like, oh God, we can't stop, you know, like that, that showed me what it really was.

So

Morgan: beautiful. Well, Mel, thank you so much for being on my podcast. I so appreciate your time.

Mel: I'm excited about you seeing the juice joint tonight. I can't wait. I can't wait. Yeah, it's going to be a part two after the juice joint.

Morgan: There we go.

This season I'm trying to share my zeitgeist moments too. For this episode, I'll actually share one that happened after the interview actually took place when I was at the Juice Joint itself. I got there right when DJ Sean Prince was doing his set. Mel is right, he is a great DJ. But the moment that I knew this was going to be really good My zeitgeist moment was actually the pass off to the house band.

DJ Sean Prince started fading out, but kept his beat high. Then slowly I realized the house drummer had taken over the beat and I was hearing it in stereo. Then someone hit a chord in the same key and the jam started. DJ Sean Prince faded out completely and the house band took over. And I see Sean Prince wander over to the bar to get a drink.

It was so seamless, so together, passing the vibe from one side of the room to the other, that right away I could tell. that not only was this going to be a full, really nice night, but I felt like they were cradling my experience of the evening. I highly recommend this event if you're ever in LA on the last Monday of the month.

I'll definitely try to go back as I can. A huge thanks to Mel for what she's doing for the community and to you for listening.

Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Zeitgeist Radio. If you'd like to take the next step in your musical journey, head over to zeitgeistacademy. com slash radio to join my newsletter. Seriously. It's fun and informative, and I never spam or sell your information. That's zeitgeistacademy. com slash radio.

Music for this episode was created by Ian Boswell. Please hit that subscribe button and tell all your friends you found a cool new podcast. See you next time.


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