Festival features electronica

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

By JOHN BURNETT

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Tribune-Herald staff writer

In its ninth year, the Hawaii Electronic Music Festival has become a Big Island institution.

The festival’s showcase grand gala for ages 16 and up starts Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Palace Theater in downtown Hilo, with two stages of music, in the main hall and the lobby. Tickets are $20 in advance at CD Wizard and the Palace Theater box office. The price goes up to $25 on Saturday.

HEMF also hits West Hawaii at 8 p.m. tonight at the ReMixx Lounge in Kailua-Kona. Cover is $10 and admission is age 21 and over.

“The line-up for this year’s electronic music fest is truly stunning, a nice variety of different styles and moods — everything from ambient, downtempo, dubstep, house music, techno, drum and bass, hip-hop to breakbeats to styles that might not even have a name yet,” said Sprocket, HEMF’s founder.

London’s Samantha Kern, aka “DJ Sassmouth,” returns for her fourth HEMF appearance.

“Sam has gained a solid fan base here during her previous engagements, and she is thrilled to share her new material with us,” Sprocket said. “Sassmouth is bringing two of her friends from Chicago, Elisabeth Dowell, aka ‘EH3,’ and Adam Stolz. Both of them are talented techno and techhouse producers and have a strong following in the Midwest electronica scene.”

Making his third HEMF appearance is Evan Mark Bartholomew, aka “Bluetech,” whom Sprocket describes as a “hyper-dimensional space funk pioneer.” He released a rainforest benefit album last year titled “Rainforest Reverberation,” which features collaborations with indigenous musicians from the Amazon River basin.

“I’m honored to have an artist of his stature at our festival,” Sprocket said, adding that two of Bluetech’s friends from Minneapolis, Jake Penn, aka “Mumukshu,” and Bobby Bottorff, aka “Samyasa,” will make their HEMF debuts.

“Jake and Bobby are talented waveform manipulators and live electronica acts who stitch together a new sound from dripping bass lines, dub delays, broken beats and chopped up organic recordings,” he said.

Another HEMF debutant is Ricardo Rodrigues Feher, aka “Polyrhythmic,” who, according to Sprocket, “seasons his tasty, chicken-fried breaks with sultry Latin house and anything yummy he can squeeze into the mix.”

In addition, there are numerous Big Island DJs and electronica producers, including Sky Makai, Chris Smith, Anne Nutall, aka “Annabelle,” Craig Kohland, aka “Shaman’s Dream,” Tai Blackford, aka “Tai Sun,” and Brian Lamb, aka “Unit:E,” who will close the main floor show at the Palace.

Sprocket has also lined up visual artists Trevor Arnholt, Toben Lindell and Glenn Grillo, aka “Arcane.”

“They are some of the best visual wizards I have ever met and are bringing their magic to the festival from Maui,” he said.

The ambient lounge in the Palace lobby will feature original work by Puna artist Heather Wilkinson.

Dance company L’etheria Performa will also perform, fusing belly dancing, ballet, hooping, butoh, hip-hop and ritual dance into a mind-bending show full of theatrical surprise.

Sprocket said that after nine years, the festival runs “like good German engineering” and that the down economy has had no effect on the event.

“The festival is run in a pretty small budget which keeps ticket prices low and lets me sleep at night,” he said. “With the help of 50-plus artists, performers and volunteers we put on a truly special event which promotes itself though the community and a lot of positive word of mouth.

“After all, no matter how sad things might be, what better way to start the year off with a good party?”

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HEMF online: www.bigislandlove.com/hemf9.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.