Cool nights, setting sights: I’m in awe of the Sacramento Electronic Music Festival. In four years, it’s gone from subjecting Daedelus to the dangers of heat exhaustion in the packed upstairs room of the TownHouse Lounge to hosting shows over the course of four air-conditioned nights in the best locations Sacramento has to offer. In my smarmier days, I’d have placed air quotes around the “F” of SEMF. This year, I left Saturday’s secret-location party, a vacant store in Downtown Plaza, knowing that the SEMF is now the best yearly music festival in the city.
I’m in awe of the SEMF presentation. The debut of an SEMF flyer always stirs an anxiousness in me for lineup announcements. It consistently looks as if it will be the best event of the year. A superimposed astronaut appeared on the 2011 flyer, with those special four letters on the sleeve of his spacesuit. The image announced itself as an event of exploration, whether intentional or not. That astronaut set the tone for every year to follow. This year’s design reached great expanses of presentation: a sleek website, stargazing posters aligned with the festival’s exploratory origins and projections unique to each night that transfixed the eye in kaleidoscopic wonder.
And music, too: I’m in awe of the SEMF lineups. Tycho headlined the inaugural year to reconnect with 916 Junglists and Command Collective comrades. Daedelus joined Tycho for the second installment, possibly eating up the booking funds—worth it. Year three shipped in artists from Minneapolis, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Milwaukee for three nights at the Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub building, with sets on the main stage, upstairs at Momo Lounge, and deejays on the back patio. It was not just about bringing in national acts though, and the same can be said for this year’s installment. SEMF is quickly building a reputation for booking electronic musicians, such as Shlohmo, Eprom, Adult., Pictureplane and Remix Artist Collective, who are at the forefront of EDM. Whether it was the turning over of curatorial honors to Mophono’s (a.k.a. DJ Centipede) Change the Beat weekly in San Francisco this year, or last year’s emphasis on the Frite Nite collective, SEMF brings the best in the EDM spectrum to our otherwise overlooked city.
I’m in awe of the consistent affordability of attending the SEMF. It cost $5 a night for the original SEMF. Three-day passes ran $10. Last year, a three-day pass jumped to $30, while single-night tickets went for $13. This year, the hike was rectified when SEMF unveiled a presale cost of $9 for those who bought passes prior to the lineup announcement. Post-lineup prices remained at an economical $12 per night.
Hashtag this: I’m in awe of Sacramento’s indifference to the SEMF. Pardon the lurking of this portion. I saw everyone I expected. The Grimey contingent, Shaun Slaughter, DJ Roger of Record Club, that couple that publishes Submerge Magazine, Dusty Brown, and photographers, such as Buff $lut. But when I scour the hashtag resources of Twitter and Instagram, the SEMF absence is alarming. Only three photos from the first night were tagged #SEMF, one of which was mine. It picked up throughout the week, but given the number of cameras and phone shots I saw flying around, why did people bother to document an event they didn’t intend to share on social media? Isn’t the point of taking a show photo to prove you were there? #SEMF.
Finally, I’m in awe of the SEMF because if it carries on—as it should—it must do so with an unflinching bravery. For two straight years, the SEMF challenged Sacramento to spend one weekend at an event that cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco book on a monthly basis. It asked us to step up to the cultural standard of festivals and hashtag the ever-loving hell out of our wild nights. On Saturday, the inevitable conversation found me: “Sacramento just isn’t ready for cool shit like this,” and I cringed, because as I looked around at the solid, but far from jam-packed crowd and I had to agree with that old excuse.
I’m in awe, and if you felt it, too, then it’s up to you to tell your friends.