Hey, DJ: Mark O’Brien

The DJ talks 28-hour parties, combining music with art, and his love for disco and deep house.

Mark O’Brien’s fascination with musical devices began at a young age. He would often slip into his mom’s red high heels in order to reach the top-loading turntable on his parent’s TV console. “Clearly, a lot of my life can be traced back to that moment,” he says.

While he collected records, cassettes, and CDs, and spun a few school events during his youth, it wasn’t until 2005 that O’Brien decided to seriously pursue DJing. Since then, his events often incorporate art installations in the form of colorful projects like Big-Ass Amazingly Awesome Homosexual Sheep, and his current monthly party Polyglamorous.

We chatted with Mark O’Brien about his earliest DJ experience, Polyglamorous, and what tracks he’ll be championing this weekend.

Catch him behind the decks for Polyglamorous this Friday, [3/3] at Oasis and Go BANG! Saturday, [3/4] at The Stud.

SF Weekly: What attracts you to the disco/house genre?
Mark O’Brien: Disco symbolizes love, sophistication, and freedom to me, and house music is an extension of that, taking it all to the next level. Growing up, I was aware of this culture happening in big cities and dreamed about being part of it one day. At the time, I didn’t consciously realize the impact of the gay community and people of color in creating these genres, but I was enamored and wanted to be a part of that world. Also, I’m a fan of different types of music, but with good house and disco, it’s hard not to have a good time. People on the dance floor at Go BANG! are always so happy!

SFW: Speaking of that, what are you looking forward to playing at Go BANG! this Saturday?
MOB: For some reason, Sheryl Lee Ralph’s “In the Evening” has been my theme song lately.


SFW: What was your first ever DJ experience like?
MOB: I played keyboard in a Top 40 cover band in high school, and I would spin in between our sets at school dances. I have this vivid memory of playing a track that thinned out the dance floor. I panicked and mixed into another song as fast as I could. The people who were still dancing yelled at me! I’ve learned a lot since then. Also, I brought way too much music and equipment, because I wanted to have options. I’m still working on that one.

SFW: Tell us about the origins of your monthly party Polyglamorous, for those of us that have never been.
MOB: Ben Bellayuto, John Major, and I started Polyglamorous after working on BAAAHS (the Big-Ass Amazingly Awesome Homosexual Sheep) art car together. The early Polyglamorous parties were supported by the Burning Man and Faerie communities, with generous helping of dancing bears, and we grew out from there. For each event, we book DJ’s we love, often in two rooms, as well as a brief midnight performance and an art installation, so the experience is unique each time. We work hard to provide a space with great house music that is flirty, friendly, and inclusive.

SFW: What has been one of your most memorable experiences?
MOB: We did our first New Year’s Eve party recently, in a space that was larger than any other Polyglamorous event. To be successful on that scale, we brought together several pillars of our community, including Juanita More, Grace Tower,s and the Burning Man camp Comfort & Joy, in the hopes of uniting a bunch of S.F. families under one roof. We started planning in the fall, but after the election and the Ghost Ship tragedy, I was particularly grateful to have had the opportunity to bring all those folks together. Seeing the wide range of people who showed up and danced and made-out was very gratifying. Also, going out on New Year’s Eve can feel like the jury duty of nightlife, but people seemed genuinely happy to be there.

SFW: What’s a challenge about running a monthly party?
MOB: We strive to strike a balance between consistency and variety, while maintaining the same level of quality but keeping it fresh from month to month.

SFW: This Friday is the last party at Oasis. Anything you’ll miss about throwing the party there?
MOB: D’Arcy Drollinger and Heklina took a chance on us when Oasis first opened, and I am so grateful for their support. All the staff there are really special and care about the work they are doing. They’ve earned all the success they are having. It’s been a joy to take this journey with them over the last two years. Alas, we really wanted a Saturday night, hence our move to F8 on fourth Saturdays.

SFW: Name a song that always gets you on the dancefloor.
MOB: “Got to Be Real” by Cheryl Lynn.


SFW: What’s your preferred pre-club fuel?
MOB: If I’m throwing the party, there’s usually enough adrenaline that I am fine on my own. On a regular night, I’ll drink a mate.

SFW: If you could change one thing about S.F. nightlife, what would it be?
MOB: It’s probably cliché to mention Berlin, but I wish San Francisco had their stamina and dedication. A Saturday night party will go until Monday afternoon. The Icee Hot farewell party at Public Works, which was about 28 hours long, proved that it can be done here. I think we need to keep building up our muscles in that department.

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