I believe most artists would agree: We have a sixth sense, meaning that most times we can feel when something amazing is about to happen. It’s an instinctual type of thing. That said, most of my encounters with celebrities or other artists are hardly ever planned, often times they happen in a serendipitous fashion. I’m walking down the street on the Upper West Side, and I literally bump into a well-known news anchor. Or I’m covering a show at Highline Ballroom, and a popular poet and her friends are seated two tables away from me. So Saturday night at Sullivan Room, I had a feeling something good was about to happen. As I’m posted next to the DJ booth (as close as one could get without being the DJ), guess who walks past me, and basically posts up next to me about a half hour prior to his set? Once I stopped doing internal cartwheels, I tapped DJ Mark Farina on his shoulder and simply stated that I was a huge fan and was so glad to finally catch one of his sets live. Ever gracious he was. And that’s how the night began.
The Chicago-bred, San Francisco-based down tempo king hit us gently at first with his signature acid jazz-infused, West Coast-style beats: a mixture of jazz, hip hop and R&B. It was funky, it was sexy; undoubtedly, it was Farina. However, one thing about live DJ sets, you should never expect to hear the same ol’ same ol’ mixes from their albums. Yes, Farina packed in the sounds of soulful Chicago-San Francisco house but he upped the intensity levels with hard house ala up-tempo rhythms, off-beat timing and hard-hitting basslines. As he rocked out behind the decks, we boogied down on the dance floor. But if you could imagine dancing with 200 or so people for nearly two hours in a room the size of a New York City apartment, you’d know it felt like a sauna plus a hundred degrees in that place. But it felt awesome.
Even so, if you’re an acid jazz fiend like me, you know of the DJ-producer’s newest EP, Geograffiti but you also remember that it all started with the lovely Mushroom Jazz series (1-6) back in ’96 (and #7 is on its way!); the San Francisco Sessions from ’99; Air Farina (his debut artist album) from ’02; Live at Om with another house legend and his mentor, Derrick Carter in ’04 and the countless other compilations over the years.
Farina has been quoted as saying, “I look at my job as a modern day traveling minstrel, to bring new music to as many places as I can, and expose obscure records that, otherwise, might go hidden.” In the game for nearly 20 years, I’d say the man is doing his job and at Sullivan Room, he did it damn well.