Photo by Pitchfork
The Far Side (Formerly of the Pharcyde) Celebrates the 30th Anniversary of their First Album, the Bizarre Ride, at the Catalyst, May 5, 2022
Written by Annicka and Tallulah
Annicka: In Santa Cruz, despite all better sense, the weekend starts on Thursdays. Dubbed as “college nights,” students disguise a weekday as an appropriate night to be drinking and bartenders pretend to not be capable of recognizing a fake I.D. As I got ready for class this past Thursday morning, I felt indifferent towards my day as I knew exactly what would happen. I would go to my section, attend my two lectures, and despite having deadlines to be met by Friday, all productive, academic activities would terminate just as the sun sets, ensuring I have a comfortable amount of time to eat dinner, get ready, and meet with friends before we all hit Pacific Avenue that night. It was a Thursday no different from any other typical Thursday.
Walking to the bus stop, I just wasn’t feeling it. Nightlife in Santa Cruz is repetitive and sometimes I feel like I am wasting my young years dancing to Billboard 100 hits circa 2009 at the Blue Lagoon. The lowbrow bars full of recognizable faces on college nights have become so predictable that I swear that I have every single student DJ in Santa Cruz’s setlist memorized. Thursdays are becoming a sort-of Pavlov’s bell of dreadful conversations with acquaintances and the bass of “fratty” house tunes suffocating my eardrums. I was longing for something more sophisticated and refined, but what could that be on a simple Thursday night?
Tallulah: For many years now Thursdays have been my lucky day. For no explicable reason, things just seem to go as planned on this particular day of the week. My perception of the latter end of the week is usually dismayed by unsuccessful night life that I feel compelled to attend in fear of missing out. I mean, what could be better than attending a restaurant converted into an ear drum-bursting bar/beer-pong-playing arena where belligerent conversations and spilled cheap liquor take over the night? Well, maybe a lot of things, but I’ve convinced myself that I need to enjoy these college nights while they last. After all, I only have one year left.
After slugging through a difficult week, I finally reached my favorite day–Thursday. I woke up that morning on the wrong side of the bed. Attending lecture seemed doubtful, but I somehow got myself out of bed despite my reluctance. I made it to my first class of the day, but could not seem to concentrate. I started daydreaming of my ideal night out, surrounded by friends while listening to music that was actually enjoyable. Who was I kidding, good music doesn’t play at bars in a college town.
Annicka: It seems that the universe agreed, there is no reason that I should slumped over a bar, begging for a bartender’s attention this Thursday. As I turned the corner towards College 9 & 10 towards Social Sciences 2, the universe gave me a sign. A literal sign. In front of me, a poster with a recognizable title caught my eye. “The Far Side (formerly of the Pharcyde),” was performing at the Catalyst tonight.
I did a double take. I am more than familiar with The Pharcyde, but who is The Far Side? Before I got my hopes up, I had to do some research. I wanted to make sure that this play-on-words was the real deal, rather than a local cover band. After a few google searches, I got all the intel I needed and was rushing to tell all my friends.
Tallulah: As the lecture droned on, Annicka texted me a picture of The Far Side flier. At first, I was hesitant. I had been to that venue before and had a questionable experience. My first and only experience at the Catalyst was leaving the venue and seeing someone who had just been in a fist fight, his eye covered in blood as he violently screamed about the man who hit him. That is my only impression of the Catalyst, and it certainly left a mark on how I felt about it. However, I knew that I couldn’t let this moment Pass Me By and the enticement of the Pharcyde’s slick R&B sound greatly outweighed my uncertainty.
It didn’t take much convincing for my friends to get me to buy a ticket. We had all been craving a great night out with equally great music, so I put my feelings for the Catalyst aside and purchased my ticket. I figured that this small venue would be perfect for the coolness of The Far Side’s music and I could already see myself by the front of the stage. In anticipation of the night ahead, I left class early, blaring “Runnin” in my ears as I eagerly skipped home.
Annicka: The Far Side is comprised of three former members of the original Pharcyde, who all tour together. Each of them, Fatlip, Imani, and Slimkid3, have amazing solo careers of their own, too. Slimkid3, whose vocals you might recognize most from the Pharcyde, is behind the hit I Know, Didn’t I, which you might have already heard. If you liked that one, I definitely recommend you listen to No Pity Party, too. Fatlip’s 2005 album, The Loneliest Punk, is full of well-produced hip-hop beats and beautiful, jazzy interludes. The most popular from that album is What’s Up Fatlip, but my favorites are M.I.A., The Story of Us, and Dreams. Slimkid3 and Fatlip recently released a collaborative album, called Love, last year. This album is truly beautiful and I added almost every song on the album to my playlist. The Far Side’s work together, as well as alone, proves that they are no less a brilliant musician than they were in the 90s.
What was really special about this particular concert was that it was a celebration of the 30th anniversary of The Pharcyde’s first album, The Bizarre Ride. Most notably, their most famous song, Passin’ Me By, came from this album. However, I was most familiar with their second album, Labcabincalifornia, which is a uniquely special one for me. Labcabincalifornia is one of the most beloved CDs that I own in my collection, as well as one of my favorite cover arts of all time. So, while searching for distractions in class that Thursday, I studied up on The Bizarre Ride and it is no less great than any of their other works. I already knew quite a few songs from it, but ones that I didn’t know and added to my playlist were 4 Better 4 Worse (which has been on constant repeat since), On the DL, and Ya Mama. For alternative hip hop/jazz rap nerds, like me–a hyper-specific genre, I know–it is so memorable that they would come to Santa Cruz while celebrating the 30th anniversary of their first album and I was beyond stoked for the concert.
Tallulah: Nine o’clock came around and we hurriedly rushed to the Catalyst, fearing we would miss any part of the show. However, the crowd was sparse upon out entrance. After thirty minutes of trotting around the empty floor, the crowd slowly started to accumulate. We made our way to the front of the stage where DJ Abilities started his set. His remixes of The Doors’ Riders on the Storm, was the most memorable to me. Although it was a unique blend of sounds I am not used to, the fusion of classic rock from the 60s with modern electronic music was an excellent appetizer before the old school hip-hop we were about to hear. After a twenty-or-so minute opener, the show commenced.
The wait was over and the Far Side finally arrived on stage to Y? from their second album. To be candid, I think they were slightly off-put by the somewhat pathetic crowd. People from the upper patios had congregated around the stage, but the crowd still only filled about a quarter of the room well into the show. Looking at the people around me, I couldn’t tell if I was at the Catalyst or the Blue Lagoon. I was slightly nervous as the Far Side froze on stage. “Are they about to bail and walk off stage?,” I thought. But after a quick fix of the Mannequin Challenge, the energy accelerated and the concert began to take off.
Annicka: As previously mentioned, Slimkid3, Fatlip, and Imani’s solo and collaborative endeavors since the breakup of the former Pharcyde have proved each of their merits as talented artists. What I wasn’t expecting was that they would be equally talented performers. Each of them has a sound and flow that hasn’t changed since they released The Bizarre Ride, 30 years ago. I was slightly worried that their live performance wouldn’t capture the same hypnotic essence of their excellently produced, studio albums–as that is not unusual with many popular performers–but this was far from the case. Each song they performed was studio-grade excellent. The group got their start as dancers and choreographers, and this fact was obvious throughout the whole concert. It was impossible to take your eyes off of Imani, whose dancing was as rhythmic as his lyrics. Just when you would think that any normal person would be exhausted, Imani would keep dancing and his energy was transported from the stage into the crowd. I was screaming every song as loud (and unintelligibly) as I could and fangirling as these men, double my age, were touching my hands.
Despite being a tour hallmarking The Bizarre Ride ll, they sang many of my favorite songs from Labcabincalifornia. The songs I was most delighted to hear live were Y?, Bullshit, My Soul, Passin Me By, and Otha Fish. About halfway through the show they performed the song, Pack the Pipe, where Imani took a joint right out of our friend’s hands and lit up on stage.
But, nothing could compare to the end of the show, when they sang She Said–Jay Dee remix (as in the producer, J Dilla). The late and brilliant J Dilla did much of the production of their second album. The She Said remix is a track that I hold near and dear to my heart, so much so that if there were to be a movie made about me, that song would play as the ending credits roll. To hear it live was a very personal and unique memory that I will never forget.
To further touch on the talents of J Dilla and his work with the Pharcyde, I highly recommend that you watch the music video for Drop. J Dilla, alongside famous director Spike Jonze, produced the video, featuring cameos from members of the Beastie Boys, Ad Rock and Mike D. The whole thing was shot backward, and with the help of a professional linguist, the Pharcyde memorized and rapped each of their verses in reverse. It is perhaps one of the best hip hop music videos of the 90s and has inspired the work of many other greats to follow.
Tallulah: The concert, although over an hour long, felt like it went by in a blur. The talent of each group member shined as they captivated the audience through their lyricism, magnetism on stage, and their interactions with the crowd. Each member chose a section of the audience – left, right, and center – and made the audience a part of the performance by incorporating them into a transition to the final song. As Annicka mentioned, She Said-Jay Dee remix, was an incredible performance and displayed the group’s musical variety as Slimkid3 showed off his impressive vocals. That was my favorite part of the performance, by far. I find that in older Hip-Hop, there is a more nuanced mix of sounds and R&B influence, especially from groups like The Pharcyde. The concert made me nostalgic for a time I was never a part of, a true sign of the group’s artistry and their capability to retain their original sound.
The show came to a close and the group thanked the audience. When concerts end, I am usually satisfied. On the flip side, the Far Side had me wanting more once the show ended. The temporality of the performance is part of what makes it so special and unique, which I tried to embrace despite my selfish desire for more music from the group. What is one to do when the show ends? Stand in line and pay $40 for a signed shirt, or get lucky enough to catch Slimkid3 off-guard on his way to sign said shirts? Well, the latter is what ended up happening.
Annicka: Although the show was over, this wouldn’t be the last the Far Side would see of us. While meeting fans and signing t-shirts, I caught a word with Slimkid3. I was extremely nervous and also had no questions prepared, so I just freestyled with the knowledge of the Far Side that I had off the top of my head. That resulted in a brief, two minute interview where we basically talked about nothing. I originally began transcribing that interview for this article, until I realized how silly I sounded asking him about his favorite States. So I’ll just summarize it here:
Slimkid3 now lives part-time in California and Portland, Oregon, where his family is. At this moment in time, he prefers Portland over LA. All three members of the Far Side have a record coming out this year, produced by Spirit of the Nation. I inquired about Spirit of the Nation, who was supposed to be performing that night, but Slimkid3 told me that was a typo made on the poster.
Slimkid3 prefers Oregon over California! The more you know!
The Far Side frozen, upon first entering the stage
Live in action.