Once, time held no meaning, and the night was ours as much as day. Life feels longer when your options are twenty-four seven. I’m told it’s still out there, that you just have to know, just have to go out and find it. Somewhere in the inner-city, it’s five AM and a kid has got his groove on, eyes closed, bass pressing into his chest. A loose-limbed black dude is tossing talc on the floor, feet gliding across the surface, his body covered in sweat. Behind him there’s an old sofa with foam spilling out of the cushions, and a girl lies upon it, her head across her boy’s legs, love spilling out of her chest. Someone is whooping and hollering, the bass is never ending, and no-one knows where they’re at.
Once, was a time it was always like this.
Mark Farina’s music conjures such nights. You expect to hear him in a dark, smoke-cloaked room perfumed with the aroma of flesh and herb, folks sticky with sweat, grindin’ and slidin’, smiling oblivious, with the sun rising on the street outside. Work is for suckers, man. At least for tonight, this hour, this instant.
It’s harder to check those nights now. DJ mix tapes, CDs, we used to prize them for their aural images, snapshots, memories pressed directly onto tape, onto disc, onto our collected experience. They recalled times away, the times when we were happiest. It’s the old man who claims, “Things aren’t as they were”, but there are things the old man knows. Mostly now the disc is product, and each DJ Joe has one out on release. If plenty have the tools, few concoct the brew. Farina knows. He’s been playing live since ‘89. Mushroom Jazz is his backroom set, where the beats are thicker than smoke and the tempo’s down like the lights. He’s got the bass raised, and voices are whispering by, conversations you join, that join you, that move on without you.
Even for a master like Farina though, it ain’t easy. Walk the street with Jazz 5 in your headset, and it still doesn’t feel totally right. You want that whiff of incense, the closeness of bodies rolling next to yours, and you want . . . but then the brightness of day hurts your eyes. Deep inside you reach for the feeling, but it ain’t quite there. Yeah, you dig, but you know this wasn’t the way it was meant to be heard. And what you hope is that some kid gets it all the same, that he tracks down the music at its source. You hope he finds Farina on some late night, on one early morning, hidden away in a dark lot, a remote space; you hope that he hears it as it was meant, funky for you, steaming up the room and all out of time. And if you see him there, then you won’t need to tell him. You won’t need to say that the disc may be cool, but it’s only a single frame taken from a movie. ‘Cos by then, see, he’s movin’ and he already knows.
// Notes from the Road
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