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Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008

Malcolm Michiles

Official Packers DJ

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Malcolm Michiles looks out his apartment window. It has begun to snow, and he studies it, sipping a mug of tea. It is two days before the NFL’s Green Bay Packers will beat the Oakland Raiders and win the NFC North division title. “I’m not sure about this snow,” Michiles says. “I haven’t had to deal with this. I’m mostly concerned about the equipment.”

Michiles is talking about his unusual and challenging DJ gig—a job he calls “the best gig of my life.” For every home game at Lambeau Field, Michiles sets up his DJ equipment on the Packers’ sideline and spins for the players warming up, the idea being that the music will help the team get psyched up. Over the next couple of games, Michiles will struggle to stay warm, keep snow off his records and needles, and heat his equipment with hand warmers typically used by deer hunters.

The idea of a sideline DJ came from the company that provides the audio for Lambeau, and praise for Michiles came early. “Whose idea was this?” asked a higherup at Lambeau. “The players love it!” Michiles is equally loved by the local music scene. He DJs under the name Old Man Malcolm and recently toured with his band Codebreaker. He was part of Citizen King, and recorded in the studio with Garbage.

He’s also a lifelong Packers fan. He has fond memories of watching the game while his granddad yelled at the television. After moving around, Michiles attended high school in Green Bay. He recalls frequent trips down to Milwaukee to buy records because choices were slim in Green Bay.

On game day, Michiles, now located in Milwaukee, loads up his records and equipment around 6 a.m. and makes the drive up to Green Bay. During the 2007 season, Lambeau Field was voted the No. 1 NFL stadium in game-day atmosphere and fan experience by a Sports Illustrated poll, and endless small details must come together to maintain this image.

“The precision of the timing is amazing,” Michiles says of the operation. As the pre-game starts, Michiles sets up his equipment by the sideline. “I had to overcome the last bit of stage fright I’ve had,” he says. “It’s weird seeing yourself on the Jumbotron. It’s a huge crowd.”

At first, Michiles said he thought that people perceived him as “the weird guy who showed up in the infield spinning records.” But soon the team was asking what he was going to spin. Michiles says he is trying to get more input from the Packers, but still manages to fit in a few requests. A player once shouted that the team wanted to hear “Crank That” (by Soulja Boy) from the bench. But what about the king of touchdowns, Sports Illustrated’s sportsman of the year, Brett Favre? Michiles says Favre is a fan of Tim McGraw and Toby Keith, so he throws their tunes into the mix as well.

For the last game, he started his playlist with songs by Cupid, Bob Marley, Smashing Pumpkins and Dr. Dre. “I try to mix it up as best I can,” he says. There are limitations, however, and he has to be careful about what he plays at the family-friendly arena. When the game is over, Michiles packs up and drives back to Milwaukee, where he has a lower-key gig spinning at the Good Life restaurant on Sunday nights. I ask Michiles if he sees himself as a possible trendsetter, if someday we might see every team with a sideline DJ.

“I think it’s possible,” he says. “It has to be the right guy for the job; there’s a ton of things to keep track of.” The Packers beat the Detroit Lions by 21 points in the last game of the season, and despite spinning records in less than 20degree weather, Michiles says he is excited: He’ll be DJing at Lambeau for the playoff game Jan. 12.
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