It takes great skill, and an even greater record collection, to effortlessly transition from late-’70s Punk, to British Electronic, to Hyphy, rounding it all out with the perfect Power Pop ballad. Emily Harrison and Gabrielle Jones, the DJs behind Mix Tape, the bi-monthly dance night at the Missouri Lounge in Berkeley, first met in their early twenties as co-workers in the Berkeley record store scene while quietly amassing their arsenal of records.
Their awe-inspiring sensitivity for finding the perfect song for the perfect moment led Claire Haynie, a fan, to describe them as “touched.”
Jones recalls their first encounter one morning, after Harrison had spent the previous night marinating in vodka screwdrivers.
“She was slit eyed, sitting on her bed, watching reruns of Dawson’s Creek. That was back in the day when Emily was goth.”
The pair quickly bonded over a mutual love of teen-targeted dramas and later became roommates, in a house where the stereo was always on. This made the transition from best friend/roommate to bad-ass underground party DJs an organic one.
“We just wanted to play records for our friends,” Jones offers sincerely.
Four years ago, the duo was a regular fixture at Biggum’s Silver Lion on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland.
“We were seriously there like five days a week,” Harrison recalls.
When Biggum’s owner Jamal Perry annexed dive bar the Golden Bull as part of his collection of drinkeries, he asked the pair to provide the soundtrack one Saturday night out of each month. Mix Tape was born.
Harrison and Jones built a devoted fan base that followed them from the now-defunct Golden Bull to the DJs’ new home at the Missouri Lounge. A devotion that Amoeba Music employee and Mix Tape enthusiast Heather Merovich credits to the duo’s eclectic musical tastes and differently- themed nights.
Merovich said, “You can show up to a ’90s nostalgia night were you’ll find about eighty-five wasted scenesters rapping along to (Dr. Dre’s) “Nothin’ But A “G” Thang,” and then a month later they’re hosting a Dream Date concert. It’s never static.”
For others, the appeal rests on the twosome’s insatiable appetite for new music and the expeditious, yet careful, way in which they digest the latest releases.
“Keeping up with Emily Harrison is impossible,” former Rasputin Music & DVD co-worker Jeremy Sullivan said. “She was the first person I ever heard play The Strokes, Amy Winehouse, and Franz Ferdinand. This was months before anyone knew who these artists were, when their albums were only available on import.”
What truly makes the Mix Tape atmosphere so inclusive and engaging is the sincerity of the whole endeavor. No song is ever played in condescending irony, and there is a palpable feeling of music appreciation in the air.