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Pick your (dance) poison 

Let your preferences be your guide to the two packed stages of inaugural electronic dance music festival HelmFest.

click to enlarge Catch local DJs, The Real Molloy, Buck Banger, Method, Veev, Steve Nurse and Dekz at HelmFest.
  • Catch local DJs, The Real Molloy, Buck Banger, Method, Veev, Steve Nurse and Dekz at HelmFest.

"I remember when I first started listening to electronic music in 1999-2000, my opinion was that it all sounded the same," says HelmFest organizer Sidney Elwood, laughing. "That's what I remember thinking. But of course there are subgenres, and from those genres there are sub-subgenres."

When planning the lineup, Elwood and his team tried to stay away from what was overly trendy, instead focusing on music that would appeal to a wider group of listeners. "We didn't want a ton of banging racket noise, we tried to be classy with the music. We picked upbeat happy positive music," he says. "We're kind of easing people into the genre, just keeping it simple with two stages."

That said, on those two stages there's an awful lot to choose from. Here's a cheat sheet to finding your new favourite electronic dance music artist this weekend.

If you like big room/electro house

You might like Blau, Michael Woods and Elle Morgan. "Elle Morgan is blowing up right now, she does a lot of vocal-heavy remixed house music," says Elwood. "She's 14. She tours with her mom." What did you ever do at 14 anyway?

If you like reggae and dubstep

Do you still have your Evolve bracelet on? That's OK! Keep the dream alive with Dub Fx. The Australian DJ/street performer makes his beats organically. Everything is made from scratch, in the moment, looping as he goes.

If you like trap

TWRK mix the best of electronic music with Southern hip-hop to give plenty of incentive to see some quality Nova Scotian twerking.

If you like ghetto funk

Fans of the breakbeat, bass, hip-hop and funk hybrid genre know all about Slynk, the proclaimed king of funk. "He's my favourite on the planet," says Elwood. "I would take my mom to a Slynk show." Remixing everything from Backstreet Boys to James Brown, Slynk just wanna have fun.

If you like a little bit of everything

Grandtheft shifts between two main genres, trap and bass-heavy music, and straight up house, but like any good DJ, he plays to the crowd. Quebec's Adam Doubleyou was crowned this Redbull Thre3style World DJ Championship winner, expect a high-energy set fueled by the afterglow of that triumph.

If you like house

Flipside produces "deep chugging house with heavy bass," says Elwood. Ten years ago this Canadian was one of the biggest drum & bass DJs in the world. See what years of dedication to the genre can do.

If you like locals

Scientists of Sound adds riffy guitar and theatrics to electronica, you like when Daft Punk do it, right? Dezza may mess around with major labels but home is where the heart is for the beloved DJ. Satisfying big buildups run into expert remixes in a Dezza set. Pineo & Loeb will release their new album of '80s remixes at HelmFest, and their set comes highly recommended. "It's party music, they will have that place rocking," says Elwood. "I told Loeb they have the potential to be the best set at our festival."

"A lot of people are skeptical. I think it's the same for the first year of anything," says Sidney Elwood, HelmFest organizer of how people have received the announcement of the inaugural Halifax Electronic Live Music festival. "I think they're wondering how is this possible. Halifax is so stuck in the mud usually about allowing things like this to happen. Our city is traditionally conservative."

Skeptics shouldn't be so concerned. Elwood, with Underdog Productions, has been hosting rap, hip-hop and electronic dance music events in the Maritimes for nearly 11 years, even bringing deadmau5 to Halifax in 2008, catching the artist a year before his first Grammy nomination. Formerly the entertainment director for Reflections, Elwood has seen interest in electronic music soar in recent years and thought it was the perfect time for Halifax to get involved in the electronic festival scene. "It was about time that Halifax had its own festival, we have a lot of people go to Montreal just to go to festivals, I think that's because we don't offer anything of that magnitude."

Even once-local DJs like Ryan Hemsworth, Botnek and Vilify (Jenny Carmichael) had no choice but to leave the city due to lack of local opportunities. "Jenny Carmichael is a great example—she did the odd gig here, then she moves to Montreal and becomes one of the biggest female DJs in the world. ... It was very important for us to add locals, we need to expose local talent," says Elwood. "There are so many good artists who don't get a break because there's no exposure. Next year I'd like to incorporate more artists from the Atlantic provinces, but for our first year, it was important to showcase the local guys digging in trenches doing local club shows playing for $50. We owe it to them, they deserve those spots more than anyone else, they've earned it."

And while HelmFest has done well for local musicians, it's drawn some criticism for the lack of female artists—the sole female DJ in the 26 act lineup is 14-year-old Elle Morgan. "When we announced the lineup we got an email from a lady and she really tore a strip off me," says Elwood. "She said I had no taste and didn't know what I was doing." Elwood stands behind his festival selections, noting that HelmFest put out an open call for demos and only received two submissions from female DJs, and attempted to book renowned DJ Juicy M, but she wasn't available on the date. However for their first year, Elwood feels they've done well and notes "no one is more popular than Elle Morgan right now."

Now, after three years of planning the festival with many hands, including an important contribution from the Halifax Waterfront Development Corporation of the waterfront space for the stages, Elwood is excited to see the festival fly and hopes for many more. In the meantime, Underdog Productions is busy planning its 11th anniversary party October 18 with Bad Boy Bill and DJ Dan, location TBA.



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