Despite having a dance scene with some vibrant pockets, the Twin Cities are often passed over for larger markets (damn you, Chicago!) when big-time DJs are plotting points on the tour map. So any time a pioneering party starter like Mark Farina, who graced Bassgasm 5 last fall at First Avenue, plays an intimate room in town like Honey, as he did Friday night, ass-shaking addicts best be on it.
The dance floor dapifer’s Minneapolis stop came as this month’s House Proud installment, a monthly dance night for local house heads at the Northeast basement bar. Fans filled the sold-out subterranean lounge, looking various degrees of dapper (a mixture of t-shirts and sport coats), but nonetheless ready to move.
Known for his jazz/house cocktails, Farina took the decks around midnight slowly phasing out vestiges of local luminary Bryan Gerard’s electric set, introducing his own sophisticated sounds and bringing them to a vaguely Afrobeat simmer. A projection screen behind the house steward flashed 8-bit, “Take On Me”-evoking animation, as 3D glasses circulated the crowd. Some seemed reluctant to don the goofy goggles that also invited headaches and collisions with neighboring dancers in the cramped space (though my depth perception was still recuperating from Amon Tobin the previous night).
Besides, visual enhancements were inconsequential as the San Francisco-based DJ unleashed his textured compositions with piercing bass shots he’d pull at will, lingering in near disco-clap eddies before the kick drum mounted a thumping return. Earthy synth tones often hovered 4/4 house beats, while frenetic horn samples poked through the dense rhythms.
After going largely vocal-less on the front end, the spectacled house statesman eventually added hip-hop snippets and the oft remixed (but always well-received) “Sweet Dreams” to his set. “Are you sweaty?” asked a prerecorded voice over a disorienting bass break, during perhaps the busiest track of the night, which seemingly reached its dizzying zenith before disintegrating and reemerging in an even more chaotic whir.
Anytime Farina wants to bring his thoughtfully club-rocking sound to a small Twin Cities room, we’ll be happy to come out and sweat through our t-shirts or sport coats.