5 Magazine Exclusive: You know what they say: one time is an anomaly, twice is a coincidence and three times marks a trend. The news spread all over the internet this the weekend that Chicago’s own Mark Farina was bumped off the decks at the Marquee in Las Vegas. Mark was about to follow up after Miguel Migs, following complaints from some of the Marquee’s well-heeled patrons in the table service area. (There are threads all over the place, but a decent summary of the facts as presented is here.)
While many took exception to the Marquee’s decision and pointed out the amount of power handed over to the “table service” crowd over the rest of the party-goers, others suggested that a DJ’s job is simply to entertain, and Farina should have played the tune called for him.
In fact, Mark never got a chance. To win over the crowd, you have to play, and Mark couldn’t play a single record before the Marquee pulled the plug.
I had an opportunity to talk to Mark this morning about what went down in Vegas, his thoughts on what it means for the DJ circuit and about his plans for a return, to the same spot, on Thursday as part of the Electric Daisy Carnival.
Have you ever worked with the people who booked you before this happened?
Yeah, actually I have. I was booked for a similar party there last year, last Memorial Day weekend I think, with Miguel [Migs] and Doc [Martin].
Did you get a chance to play a single record before they pulled the plug?
No I didn’t. They pulled the plug on me before Miguel finished playing. During his set though I heard some mumbling from the people around there, people saying, “You need to change it up” – there was some sort of mumbling from the tables, actually.
So it was a tiny minority that decided this – the people in table service?
Yeah, it was from table service or the people in these cabanas that they have set up there for bottle service. I don’t know if there’s some specific quota of complaining cabanas before they pull the plug or whatever [laughs]. It was, from what I understand, a decision by a bar manager or someone that isn’t used to making these decisions.
The table service thing has gone from almost an add-on at clubs to something that’s essential for their bottom line, and having a big club without it is almost like having a hotel without a pool nowadays. Is this a growing concern on the DJ circuit?
I don’t really think so. It’s a good way for income for the club when it’s used properly. It’s when the people paying feel like it gives them some extra privilege over everyone that’s having a good time, then it’s bad. If it’s the opening DJs friends and families or the promoter’s friends or anyone genuinely into the music that’s on the bill for the night, there’s nothing wrong with that. It can obviously be abused when people start throwing their weight around. There’s good and bad people and this isn’t any different. I guess what’s happened to Miguel before is some Saudi Arabian sheikh was there and had thrown around a lot of money and wanted to hear hip hop. For a place in Vegas, it’s all based on numbers and they’re under constant scrutiny to make their numbers.
And in some of these places, the DJ booth is so accessible that the situation in which a person approaches the DJ is becoming pretty common. In Chicago clubs we always sort of hid the DJ booth and even had the door locked sometimes.
Yeah, that’s something I’ve noticed with newer places. It’s almost like they were designed with a rock club in mind – it’d be inconceivable to go to a rock concert and not be able to see the guitarist.
Yeah, it’s very accessible if anyone wants to come up to start talking to the DJ or make a request for Rihanna or whatever it is. Sometimes it’s easier to walk up to the DJ and start talking than it is to get by the crowd to get a drink from the bar.
The odd thing is, I could see this happening with some underground guy who pounds disco and tracks for 4 hours at every gig. But it happened with Dennis Ferrer in Miami and then you in Las Vegas – and both of you have a whole career of playing for more mainstream audiences. Did you feel cheated that you didn’t even get a chance to win them over?
Did I feel cheated? Yes and no. If you have any kind of longevity in this business, it’s a situation you’ll deal with sooner or later. It’s disappointing that the staff doesn’t believe in you – that lack of belief is tough. I mean, they booked you for a certain reason, and if they didn’t think you’d be fine for the party, they can always book someone else who fits better and there’s no problem.
But all DJs deal with this. The less known DJ in his bedroom deals with the neighbors or whatever and a DJ at a local bar deals with it all the time. I know I did, having a bartender or an owner or a group of girls coming up and making requests. As a professional DJ, though, you’d think that if they wanted someone that sounded like Kaskade, they’d just book Kaskade or whoever they wanted. And it’d be one thing if the party took off after we left but from what I heard, it didn’t.
But we all know that Vegas is tough territory for House. It’s not like Chicago or some other city that has a strong local scene. It’s a tough sell and it’s always been that way. The local guys who promote House in the city work really hard but find it hard to do things. It’s a very big city for “electronic music” in general but not really for House.
Well you’re playing again in Vegas again, aren’t you?
Yeah, Thursday in fact.
Yeah, tomorrow, at the Electric Daisy Carnival. Same place and everything.
Do you feel any trepidation about your reception?
Nah, I think they’ll probably make sure they’re extra nice if anything. I think they were really taken aback by the response to this and to see the love that House people have and to hear the rebuttal.