MUSIC BOX: A Mushroom Jazz Dance Party

By on December 28, 2016

Iconic DJ Mark Farina at the Garter, Cure for the Common + horns and Nicki Bluhm joins Lucas Nelson.

An acceptable reason to brave the drunk rookies on New Year’s Eve: House music legend DJ Mark Farina plays at the Pink Garter.

An acceptable reason to brave the drunk rookies on New Year’s Eve: House music legend DJ Mark Farina plays at the Pink Garter.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – There’s acid jazz, cool jazz, big band jazz and then there’s mushroom jazz—a psychedelic-minded electronic music subgenre mixing jazz, house and hip-hop nearly singlehandedly designed by DJ and producer Mark Farina in the early 90s. The term was coined from his 25-year, eight-volume Mushroom Jazz series of albums. Originally released on cassette in 1992 with a modest 50 copies, the latest compilation dropped this year to a worldwide audience.

It has turned the heads of old fogies, indie-leaning hipsters, hippies and jazz purists while penetrating a club scene shaped by aggressive drum ‘n’ bass and uptempo house music. All the while, Farina has existed in two types of rooms—mushroom jazz and a jazzy Chicago-meets-San Fran house style that caters to the uptempo revelers. Farina will drop his first beats in Jackson Hole on New Year’s Eve at the Pink Garter.

“Being a longtime snowboarder and skier since ski club in high school in the 80s, I’m excited to spend five days in Jackson for the first time,” Farina said from Dallas.

It’s fascinating to ponder the time and place of electronic music when Farina was cutting his teeth. It was the late 80s and mixtapes were all the rage. He was working at a record store where he met house music renegade, producer and DJ Derrick Carter (Symbols & Instruments) and other “in-the-know” aficionados that would eyeball the 10 or so copies of a single album that would fly off the shelf as quickly as they’d get priced. There were only records to mix, and a lot of times Farina would buy two of the same copies, as certain instrumentals were in the three-minute range. Today, there’s a 25-year library of electronic music at anyone’s fingertips.

Farina represents an era of electronic musicians that worked much harder to DJ and produce electronic music—lugging crates of vinyl through asbestos ridden warehouses, and using actual synthesizers and drum machines to make music. Today many people use computers to do everything.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and the club scene has changed so much,” said Farina, who has spent much of his latter career based in San Francisco. “Music is more fast paced than it used to be, as in vinyl had a longer shelf life where a song would be around for a couple of months and you’d hear about it by word of mouth. Now there’s a new digital chart every week and the music cycle is short lived with maximum accessibility.”

“Anyone can make tracks now,” he continued. “When I started, you had to know somebody with a real studio and gear, take time to press it to record, and it took a bit of work. Now you can have your home setup, your own label, and put it out in the same day and play it that night at your gig. In terms of electronica back then, you were either playing house or techno, or there was hip-hop or soul/funk classics, and that was it. “

Back in the day, Farina’s marathon sets would roll from 9 p. m. to 4 a.m. on a regular basis. He still prefers the longevity of a three-hour set in order to approach the peaks and valleys of dynamics with patience in mind. With technological advancements in DJ and electronic gear, some things have gotten easier for Farina in terms of how he can access sounds and beats, though his artistic process remains intact.

“With making music, sometimes there’s not always a clear line of what the DJ is doing,” Farina answered when asked about technology role’s in modern DJing. “Are they DJing? Are they syncing? Are they playing some live stuff with Ableton? You have to be a little more observant, whereas in the old days, they were playing records and it was pretty clean cut.”

Today, Farina says he still keeps things somewhat old-fashioned, mixing with CDs and from a USB. “I use a Pioneer CDJ 2000 Nexus 2. It’s a great machine, no cheats or sync options that you can find on some machines that you see newer DJs using. Regardless of the technology, you still have to mix and that’s where the art form is for me. There are advantages with the Pioneer as opposed to a turntable that would have been nice to have back in the day, like looping. Or, I’ll take a hip-hop a cappella and move it up to house speed but keep it to where the pitched-up vocals don’t sound all Tweety bird.”

Farina’s international acclaim can be narrowed down to the voyage that listeners didn’t know they desired when he hit the scene. Though what has kept both electronic connoisseurs and casual listeners engaged for more than two decades is a funky, energetic voyage that is exceptionally crafty and of course, psychedelic. Analog hip-hop drum patterns underlying instrumental jazz samples and sublime downtempo beats with flashes of vocal refrains—that’s Farina’s money spot.

“New Year’s is a different night than most,” Farina said. “Now, with this whole new disco kind of sound in the last five years, I might play Mushroom Jazz stuff and go up to house and different tempos. More than anything, I like to feel out the audience and find a happy medium of playing the sounds that I want to play and trying to get the most out of what people are feeling that night.”

Mark Farina with DJ Londo and DJ Eric Burba, 9 p.m. Saturday, December, 31 at the Pink Garter Theatre. $37-$50. PinkGarterTheatre.com, 307-733-1500.

Lost Legends get Cure

The go-to party in Teton Village will be highlighted by a tribute to Lost Legends of 2016 set by Montana’s “electro thunder funk” ensemble Cure for the Common. The Bozeman-based five-piece will stretch to eight with the addition of a three-piece horn section for what drummer/vocalist Joe Sheehan is calling the band’s “most ambitious New Year’s Eve setlist to date.”

“We picked a selection of tunes from influential artists that we lost over the last year or so and some of the material is really complex, which has been keeping us busy,” Sheehan said. “It’s gonna be a hell of a night, and we’re branching out into artists like Prince. Over the last couple of years, we’ve had our fair share of big production shows in the region and it’s been refreshing to have these opportunities where we can get comfortable in our space and really stretch out. Music on Main in Victor last summer and Music in the Mountains in Big Sky—which we just recently released as a full live show—were a couple of moments that we were collectively stoked about.”

Cure for the Common, 9:30 p.m. Saturday, December 31 at the Mangy Moose in Teton Village. $20 at Mangy Moose Market & Cellars or at MangyMoose.com.

Nicki Bluhm joins Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real Thursday at the Center.

Nicki Bluhm joins Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real Thursday at the Center.

Nelson and Bluhm get Real

Aside from New Year’s parties, it’s advised not to sleep on a rare bill that will feature guest vocalist Nicki Bluhm with Lucas Nelson and Promise of the Real.  Nelson, son of Willie, has forged his career largely before our eyes here in Teton County. First, as a 17-year-old guitarist sitting in with his dad’s band on Labor Day 2006 at Snow King Amphitheater, and later in Teton Valley as a matured, rippin’ guitarist with the ability to croon a ballad or jump off a speaker rack as a shoeless, shirtless, playing-with-his-teeth blues-rock veteran. This is a killer band that has climbed the ranks, most lately as Neil Young’s backing band. As for Bluhm, her freelance vocal skills in the last year have proliferated through the music of the Infamous Stringdusters, The Waybacks, and Ryan Adams.

Lucas Nelson + Promise of the Real with guest Nicki Bluhm, 7 p.m. Thursday, December 29 at the Center Theater. $54-$66. JHCenterForTheArts.org. PJH

Aaron Davis is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

161228music_planetpicks

161228music_planetpicks-2WEDnesday

Latin Party with Calle Mambo (Pink Garter Theatre), PTO (Mangy Moose)

THURsday

Lucas Nelson + Promise of the Real with guest Nicki Bluhm (Center Theater), ZoSo: Tribute to Led Zeppelin (Town Square Tavern)

FRIday

6 Foot 2 (Silver Dollar), Joe Rudd’s Goldcone and DJ Era (The Rose)

SATurday

Sneaky Pete & the Secret Weapons (Town Square Tavern), Head for the Hills and Screen Door Porch (Knotty Pine), Mark Farina with DJ Londo and DJ Eric Burba (Pink Garter Theatre), Cure for the Common (Mangy Moose), Papa Chan Trio (Alpenhof)

SUNday

Songwriter’s Alley featuring Isaac Hayden and Low Water String Band (Silver Dollar), Hof Polka Band (Alpenhof)

Monday

Jackson Hole Hootenanny (Dornan’s)

TUESday

One Ton Pig (Silver Dollar), BOGDOG (Town Square Tavern)

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About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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