With so many new and exciting (and oft-experimental) sounds emerging from the electronic music scene these days, a night filled with the steady, pleasant rhythms of house music was a welcome piece of nostalgia.
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Mark Farina is perhaps best known for his long-standing Mushroom Jazz series: an 8-volume collection of downtempo mixes which heavily incorporate elements of jazz and R&B over a sampling of the smooth drumming found in hip-hop beats. As of this year, Mushroom Jazz is twenty years old, but his newest edition (released in July 2016) is still as jazzy, and groove-inducing as the first, and his Saturday show at the Aggie did much to explain the longevity of his career.
Leading into Farina’s set were four DJ’s who built a fantastic house ambiance for the crowd. Anthony Cole started the ball rolling with laser-focus, delivering a fun and energetic set which encouraged dancing of even the meager crowd found early in the night. Following him was massTree, who introduced the crowd to a darker house vibe, including a masterful reworking of The Smiths’ “How Soon is Now.” Douglass came next and embodied much of what is so mesmerizing about house music, knowing just how to let the music slowly build, and then crest in the breaking wave of a new sound. It was the last opener, PK, who was the perfect lead-in to Farina, with a set that geared towards the fun, upbeat attitude necessary for a lively house show.
However adept the openers were at building a lively atmosphere for the crowd to let loose in—and they were—Mark Farina entirely sent the night over the edge into a free-fall of dance and celebration. Farina unleashed a variety of musical flourishes over the driving bass of the music; ambient keys mixed and danced with jazzy flutes, while the sounds of soul music would cascade out from amidst the medley. He incorporated elements from all types of genres, mixing in a bit of The Talking Heads one moment, and a funky remix of Sly and the Family Stone in the next. He led the crowd through an appropriately extended rendition of “Shakedown Street,” with seemingly the whole crowd finding and falling into the groove; this being one of the great strengths of house music as a whole, and a place wherein Farina is quite at home, as it were.
Mark Farina typifies what makes electronic music so great: the ability to adapt and incorporate all types of music into a soulful blend of sound for the audience. It is quite clear that Farina has an extreme focus on the audience as well, as he would always be looking out and interacting with the boisterous members throwing him a smile or a thumbs-up. All of this combined with a sudden performance by two break-dancers on the stage made for a crowd that maintained an enthusiasm throughout the show, and one that will undoubtedly welcome Farina back any time he wishes to come.