Sacramento Electronic Music Festival: Bleepin stoked

On spending Cinco de Mayo weekend at the city’s premiere electronic music gathering

Sleep on this year’s Sacramento Electronic Music Festival = face palm.

Sleep on this year’s Sacramento Electronic Music Festival = face palm.

The Sacramento Electronic Music Festival goes down Thursday through Saturday, May 3-5, at Harlow’s (and the Momo Lounge upstairs); 2708 J Street; 8 p.m. each night; $13 or $30 for a three-day pass;


2708 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95816

(916) 441-4693

Electronic music is way too complicated. Mostly because it seems listeners engage the genre from such diverse and rabid angles. There are beats-aficionado and synth-aholic insiders, post-ravers and dubstep fiends, nerdy and reclusive glitch types, ambient trippers, beats-per-minute brain fryers, bros who only listen to Washed Out, and Rusko girls. Not to mention the countless haters, what with their sweepingly old-timey rejection of music made predominately by—forbid!—computers. Hard to believe these folk still exist. But you hear them ad nauseam—“That racket!”—especially in Sacramento, where the bastions of guitar rock seem to have the coldest of dead hands.

Anyway, these attitudes will obviously be shifting as electronic music continues to invade the mainstream—Grammy for Skrillex, anyone? (I will repent for bringing him up.) But the point is that there really is a special beat for everyone at this weekend’s third annual Sacramento Electronic Music Festival.

This Thursday, Lorn is the opening-night main attraction: Milwaukee guy who put out a 2010 full-length on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label with a penchant for linear upbeatness that embraces everlasting head-nod groovedom—very unlike the storybook noodling of Ninja Tune-label contemporary Amon Tobin. For the uninitiated: Bring your dad or uncle, stick a cold one in their hand, and they’ll be able to handle Lorn. It’s accessible.

Not sure the same applies to fellow SEMF Thursday nighters Jon Wayne (slow-fi bass bruiser with a dark side) or Dibiase (local producer, amazing patchwork and mashed sequences with chill-plow tendencies). But that’s why there’ll be two floors of tunes—Harlow’s main stage and upstairs at Momo Lounge, plus a deejay tending to the back patio—all weekend.

Yes, the mantra of 2012 SEMF apparently is choices. Consider: Dusty Brown, DJ Nobody, Dolor, Dials, Doom Bird, Satellites, Adoptahighway, Paper Pistols, World Hood, Young Aundee and Master System all also perform on Thursday as well. Friday ups the ante: Bogl, El Conductor, A|d, Seventh Swami, Night Night, Ini, CrookOne, DJ Whores, Boss Magic, Tel Cairo, Tha Fruitbat, Bad Looks, Giraffage, Little Foxes, Jantsen, Mux Mool.

Just leave 13 bucks at the door, please. Or fork over $30 for a three-day pass, which gets you into the probably-gonna-sell-out Saturday-night main event: Death Grips.

Aye, what to write about Death Grips? For those not up to speed: They’re a Sacto trio, inked to Sony’s Epic Records and are one of the more ubiquitous, even trendy acts in the nation. Which is kind of wild to fathom, because they’re withdrawn Sacramento dudes. Andy Morin—veteran local producer—is the ringleader, and Zach Hill his proverbial partner in grime. The two have big, inimitable thumbs on the power of the beat: producing undeniably addictive hooks, such as the choruses of “The Fever (Aye Aye)” and “Hustle Bones,” two patented bangers from their major label debut The Money Store. Along with emcee Stefan Burnett, who goes by stage name Ride and raps with a furious baritone idiolect, the trio merges dance and a punk ethos in an original way many find raw and refreshing.

Saturday night also is a stacked deck: Los Angeles producer Shlohmo, San Francisco synth-funk party starters B Bravo and the Starship Connection, local off-kilter rhythm-and-beats maven Raleigh Moncrief, plus Salva, James and Evander, Light Year, Favors, Yalls, Melee Beats, D.A.M.B., Ryan Lindow, Eames, Wes Steed and Ross Hammond, Thriftcar, and Chachi Jones.

Yes, that’s a whole lot of complication. Just roll with the beats.