It was the prettiest weekend of the year in Colorado.
A weekend in which old friends, from college and abroad, flew in to the big square to rejoice and celebrate the end of amazing summers by embarking on a party bus up to Red Rocks to see the lights that are so, so pretty.
It is quickly becoming every Twenty-Something's annual Summer Solstice.
Last spring, tickets sold out in minutes for Friday and Saturday night- posts on Craigslist were going for well over $100, as demand far exceeded supply.
Last summer's Saturday show at Red Rocks was dubbed by many as the, "greatest show ever." The anticipation for another round of Derek's amazing creation could not have been higher.
Missing Friday meant missing the half of everything that is Pretty Lights. It wasn't the "chill" night, or the "classic" night, but a mixture of both. All the hits that make you not just like Pretty Lights, but LOVE Pretty Lights visually and audibly exploded between the two red sandstone monoliths. "Hot Like Sauce (Rustified Remix)," "Hot Like Dimes" (which actually mixed in a drum and bass kick that I absolutely loved), "Total Fascination," "If I Could Feel Again," and "I Can See It in Your Face" brought me back to the simpler days of Pretty Lights, when Derek had a few LED displays and spun from a fold up table.
In addition to completely unreleased songs, newer songs like "We Must Go On," "You Get High," and the "Nirvana vs. Radiohead vs. Pretty lights" mashup all blared at high, but clear levels, making every seat in the house just as good as any other. Something a lot of shows have honestly screwed up this year with distorted/too high/too low volume.
Unfortunately if you didn't attend the first night, you missed out. While a somewhat disappointing summer in terms electronica at Red Rocks, this was easily one of the best. The best sound, the best lights, and a 2.5 hour set on the first night is not something I expected, and if you are reading this and didn't go- FOMO.
When "Finally Moving" finally came on, Derek remarked, "just because they stole this song doesn't mean I can't still play it!," obviously referencing Avicii and the abominable Flo Rida, that stole the Etta James sample while proclaiming ignorance. But it makes no difference. Pretty Lights is 5,280 feet above the rest, and two sold out nights illustrates this.
It seemed like everyone I knew was going to be at Saturday night's show, not just because it was a Saturday, but because Michal Menert, Paul Basic, Supervision, Elliot Lip, and Gramatik were representing that Colorado swag through 15 minute, alternating sets. This was a very cool idea- it didn't mean that each act only played 15 minutes, but that they played multiple, 15 minute sets. There were 3 setups, all right next to each other, in order to facilitate the orbit of DJ's going in and out. And it worked well- the set's were great and illustrated Colorado's new musical method.
After the Pretty Lights Music showcase, it was finally time. Colorado flags and the Denver skyline covered the LED displays as a 5 minute countdown started off this special night.
"Ima be rocking with yall for 3 hours!" -Derek Vincent Smith, at the beginning of the show. And while it wasn't a full 3 hours (see below), it made the crowd go B-A-N-A-N-A-S. That's right, I just got that song stuck in your head for the day. Hollerbackgurl.
Saturday night was the same as Friday, but not in terms of the music played, but the type of music played. As I said above, it wasn't a "chill" night, or a "classic" night, but a hybrid. More relaxed tunes like "Understand Me Now," and "Drift Away" relaxed the crowd for a few, but some new bass and sample heavy tracks kept us dancing all night long. I don't think his new tracks don't stray far from his current style, and that's totally fine. Nothing about this needs to change. Finally finishing with "I Know the Truth," the set ended a bit earlier than I thought it would, but I know they wanted to give people time to get to the after party, which is totally understandable considering it takes a long time to exit Red Rocks.
While the set time (2.5 hours) and sound were the same as the night before, the lights on Saturday night were much more intense than Friday. More lasers with greater intensity, more strobes, and the most beautiful arrangement of lights I have ever seen made this spectacle top notch. Nothing else really compares.
Because this event has been solidified as a two night Red Rocks electravaganza, going to both shows is essential. I think Derek is still fine tuning the perfect two night set, and once he does, I imagine both nights will be completely equal to each other in the future.
I cannot emphasize this enough for both nights- the sound was engineered perfectly. From every seat in the house the sound was clear and loud, something a lot of people may not have completely noticed since the lights dominate the ethos of attendees (it is the most beautiful arrangement of lights in the world). But bravo to whomever is on Derek's sound team, because it made the night all the more enjoyable.
Crowd and Vibe
Simply put, Pretty Lights is magical. Everyone was lovely all weekend. Scalpers, hippies selling glasswares, and even the security guards had sh*t eating grins on their face because they knew Pretty Lights is the most special concert all summer. It was all love, and the vibe you get there is unlike any other event through out the season.
Derek is like Deepak Chopra with all the love he gives back on stage. Nothing is more annoying than DJ's that say absolutely nothing to the crowd. Smith also makes it personal- always reps the sound people, the technicians, the lighting gurus, his Grandma (yes, she was there Friday night), his mom, the love of his life, and especially the fans. And as the most supportive fans on earth, it's all of us that are helping make it happen.
What really stuck out to me was his challenge to the crowd, "who is going to be the next producer to really change the game?" And it's true. Someone in that crowd of people may have the ability and desire to overtake Pretty Lights as the next up and comer. And Derek is ok with that; he wants to support it and potentially help it through. Because he has helped put Colorado on the musical map and this movement is too special to not push forward and keep alive.