It’s been a doozy of a year, and—although we’re urging the utmost caution when out celebrating (see below for some alternative options)—we all deserve to put 2021 to rest in some form of “see ya!” fashion.
We’ve put together a list of New Year’s Eve activities for you to enjoy, but one party sprang to the top: New Year’s Eve with DJ Mark Farina at Public Works. After three decades of touring the world as an innovative selector, producer, rule-breaker, trend-buster, and Official House Music Royalty, he was one of the first DJs to get back out there in April of this year and remind folks and himself of what we all have been missing.
From residencies at Chicago’s Smart Bar to working at the influential Gramaphone Records early on in his career, Farina sought out abstract ways to connect dissimilar musical tastes. Those forging of musical ideas, mixing hip-hop with cool downtempo excursions created the “Mushroom Jazz” template that he’s known for throughout the world. You can check for those grand excursions at his NYE gig.
I was able to pick his brain before the gig. Enjoy! And scroll down for more.
48 HILLS First off I’m a fan of the Mushroom Jazz days at Cat’s Grill. It was one of my first DJ experiences when I moved to SF and it still makes me smile. Why do you think that party, which still comes up in conversation these days, worked so well?
MARK FARINA That was definitely a special party. That era in SF was rather full of excellent nights to go out to. We chose Monday because that was the one night there wasn’t much else going on at that time. Making the music more downtempo was a focus since there were lots of house events going on. We also added a “food” element with Eddie (Adnan) making various free appetizers.
The layout of Cat’s helped too. Having a dance floor area and also a more chill out and hang area to choose from that kept the music from the DJ as well. Combination of a great time in San Francisco and excellent downtempo music to play made for a memorable night out.
48H Is it true you were housemates in Chicago with Josh Wink, Derrick Carter, and Chris Nazuka? If so, could you talk about that period of time in Chicago?
MF Derrick and Chris yes. (Josh Wink is from Philly.) Also had another roommate, G-Most, that worked at Gramaphone with Derrick and me. This was around that 1989-91 period, a great time for house music in Chicago. Our phone number, 733-6245, spelled out RED-NAIL, which quickly became the code word for our loft at Randolph & Halstead. This was the time of vinyl. Three of us worked at Gramaphone, Derrick was also working at Cajual Records for Cajmere (before his Green Velvet days). DJ International Records was up the block, Chicago house music in its prime.
48H From your long and esteemed career as a music selector, what are some of the significant changes that you have seen taken place in the DJ business?
MF A major one is still the slow transition away from vinyl into digital. Around 2000, when the first Pioneer CDJ came out, the switch to CDs then digital, changed the whole way music was played in the club. No longer did DJs have to rely solely on music released on vinyl. And DJs didn’t have to worry about records skipping anymore. Ha!
48H And a parting shot. What are some of the contemporary labels/imprints you reach for these days and why?
MF If there’s one complaint in the digital world of music, I think that would be that’s there’s almost too much. With vinyl, it took extra work and commitment to release a record more so than to simply do a digital track release. Any given week there are thousands of new tracks coming out. This means more to search through to find the heat. Many previously proven artists like MAW, Chez Damier, Demuir, Honey Dijon, Mike Dunn, Jovonn, Miguel Migs, JT Donaldson, Eli Escobar, Mousse T, Soulphiction, Classic Records, Salted Music, Large Music, Robsoul, etc., continue to put out excellent music. Also, some newer artists and labels like Felipe Gordon, Lebedev, Austin Ato, Javonntte, Ben Hixon, Folamour, Hotmood, Kassian, Jayda G, Dolfin, Purveyor Underground, Razor-n-Tape are all worth looking into.
NEW YEAR’S EVE WITH MARK FARINA, THE SPONGES, AND DIVADANIELLE at Public Works, SF, 9pm-3am. More info here.
IN-HOUSE NEW YEAR’S OPTIONS
If you’re feeling a certain way, yearning for that indoor hang, or at least lesser bodies? With your trusted five folks “vax pack” crew, spouse, partner, mate, dating app ‘freak of the week’ (no judgment), whatever your get down is. Just before Podcasts restore themselves as your brand new bestie…again. And your early morning workout regiment circles back on boxing out folks, bending with your hips, to secure that brand new toilet paper at Walgreens.
Yep. That again. But no worries, we gotcha covered ova there in the micro-hang department. Here we go!
Josey Rebelle, “TTT Mixtape”
So last year DJ Josey Rebelle, a Black woman born in the North London neighborhood of Tottenham where she still lives today, blew our wigs back with her “Josey in Space” mix for the Beats In Space imprint.
It was a celebration of Black electronic music culture on both sides of the Atlantic. She’s from a generation of kids who grew up on estates (the equivalent of the projects in the US) building sound systems, attending raves, and loving the jungle genre, and this era shows through in her selections.
This past April, the Trilogy Tapes asked Rebelle for a 90-minute mixtape. Upon delivery, it sold out instantaneously. As fate would have it, the Trilogy Tapes put it on SoundCloud, providing the model NYE mix for the Red Cup jam happening at your Casa. Phillip Sherbourne of Pitchfork spoke of the mix—we call him Uncle Phil around these parts from his SF days: “Weaving between soul-jazz, drum solos, deep techno, R&B, vintage house, and more, it’s a beautiful example of the range that Rebelle routinely brings to the decks, but there’s nothing performative about her eclecticism: Even with all that zig-zagging, she carefully constructs a coherent vibe—moody, murky, a little melancholy—and uses spoken-word fragments and treated snippets of sound like caulk to fill the seams.”
It takes superior talent to make such a mix that swings in several directions, stays plucky, but never departs from its main objective: To make you dance to the things you never expected to break your ankle to. TTT Mixtape is the mood setter that gets your low-key NYE thang, proper.
200 Cigarettes (1999) and Boogie Nights (1997)
Both of these films, one far more epic in scope than the other, kind of get New Year’s Eve right, for different reasons. Listen, 200 Cigarettes, with its Paul Rudd-Courtney Love coupling (obviously weird casting and not sustainable), a late ’90s Dave Chapelle as the storytelling cab driver, Chistina Ricci and Martha Plimpton, a cameo from Ben Affleck: It does pack that extra bump of doing too much for one night of “lower your expectations”-type revelry. But I do enjoy the realness of trying to make your way around a city without GPS. The screenplay takes place during the ’80s when maps left people stumbling into the unexpected abyss of trying to figure it all out. Device-free.
Half of my New Years’ Eve experiences as a youth definitely involved getting lost respectively in Boston, New York City, Oakland, and San Francisco. Looking for that party. Those journeys don’t happen much anymore and I blame it on the cell phone. 200 Cigarettes serve as an apt gateway to simpler times.
Boogie Nights, conversely, creates the exact sensation of identifying that one time period is abruptly over, and the future, sho-nuff, looks really messy. In a memorable, tension-building couple of minutes, Paul Tomas Anderson escorts the ’70s—with its freaky, weird hippie energy—on out the door….. Signaling the on-coming cold, stiff Reagan dominated ’80s. Predicting it will (and it does) land awkwardly with a bloody splat (sorry Little Bill) up against the wall.
Grab your coats folks, the party is indeed over, and shut down. We need to give Paul Thomas Anderson an Oscar every year, for reminding us to trust that primary, gut instinct that says “Oooh, I don’t like this at all.”
And hey, if you don’t care for either one of these, go pick some out for yourself. The Criterion Channel has a 14 Day free trial offer happening right now. Go on, get in there.
RETRO TV VIBES
Darlene Love—ranked among Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest singers, the lead vocalist on historic “He’s a Rebel” and numerous Phil Spector arrangements, plus a recurring player as Roger Murtaugh’s wife in the Lethal Weapon film series—is a holiday staple in her own right.
From 1986 until the very end Love would perform “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on David Letterman’s holiday show.
It became a much waited-for annual yuletide moment that turned Letterman and Paul Shaffer into giddy little boys. You can go to Youtube and witness the warmth and absolute professional holiday showmanship Darlene Love brought with her in every performance. It’s a nugget of care from that antiquated television landscape that can warm you up during a spiritual cold stretch.