Concert Reviews

Mark Farina gets funky at the Fox Theatre with DJ Rootz and Pillowfight

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Colorado dubstep duo Pillowfight took the stage next, trading off at the turntables to throw down crashing, dirty bass and spooky melodies, with ray-gun noises and synthetic, meandering beeps and blips. My favorite track involved a screechy piano line blended with deep, mumbling bass (like a deep-voiced Cookie Monster, trying to communicate from the bottom of a K-hole) and a female vocalist crooning "You got to go" repeatedly.

Pillowfight moved from the darker end of the dubstep spectrum into disco diva mode with even tapping and deep, plodding bass, before dropping into a new track reminiscent of pure hardcore -- not as fast or as hard, but with the same energy and intensity.

The pair picked it up and slowed it down, continuing to play with the first three notes of House of Pain's "Jump Around" before moving into a track with more of a techno feel, squeaky sirens and a slightly steadier beat mixed with shrill, distorted melodies and severe bass. The dance floor was slowly filling up, but Pillowfight was only on for a short half-hour set before it was time for the main event.

Mark Farina didn't waste any time getting on-stage and starting to mix his magic. He's got this penchant for old-school educational speeches, and he opened with one on American waltz, followed by a basic one-two cymbal beat, then dropping in some popping noises before bringing on the deep, driving bass.

The components of his tracks are always deceptively simple; he turns each effect on and off, bringing the noises in and out of the soundscape while the speech continues and a gentle piano line begins describing carefree notes in the air. And then the jazz component enters: The wailing saxophone is insistent on getting people dancing, and it does just that as the clean bell of a xylophone enters the mix.

Farina never disappoints in his buildups and breakdowns, whether he's using a soft voice spewing nonsense jazz or dramatic drums and horns returning to their place in the mix. You don't even miss one of the elements he removes until he brings it back to up the energy a notch, using crashing cymbals and clean basslines, seamlessly blending from one track to the next.

As soon as he hit the decks (so to speak; Farina uses CDs and modern technology instead of sticking to strictly vinyl), the dancefloor filled, and he kept it packed and engaged. When he removed various effects to build up the energy, the audience responded with clapping and noise to encourage him to drop the drumline back into the mix. He loves the uplifted, jazzy saxophone, and I even recognized a track from his famed Mushroom Jazz downtempo/trip-hop series of albums, appropriately sped-up for the audience.

Farina's pounding drum, with its steady rat-a-tats, and wailing sax are an intoxicating combination, and he uses a lot of the aforementioned '50s-style educational speeches or hip-hop or another contribution of some vocal element to tie his style together. The Beastie Boys' "Shake Your Rump" from Paul's Boutique was sampled in this set, as was Gang Starr's "DWYCK" and even some orgasmic moans and wails from a female (Farina's probably the only DJ who can get away with that particular sample without sounding hopelessly cheesy).

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Amber Taufen has been writing about people, places and things in Denver since 2005. She works as an editor, writer, and production and process guru out of her home office in the foothills.
Contact: Amber Taufen