PRETTY LIGHTS @ RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATRE | 8/17/12
Similar to the unprecedented Skrillex show at Red Rocks last week, the Pretty Lights show started with a five-minute countdown and Trentemoller's "Take Me Into Your Skin" playing over the speakers. A Colorado flag with the Pretty Lights brand waved on the screen as the numbers winded down, and just as the thirty-second mark hit, Derek Vincent Smith took the stage in his traditional black shirt/black PL flat-bill hat combination to blast out the opening cuts from Glowing In the Darkest Night, the third entry in the three-part EP set he released in 2010.
Following the countdown, Smith jumped into a host of samples from those EPs (Making Up a Changing Mind, Spilling Over Every Side and the aforementioned Glowing In the Darkest Night) before taking things up a notch with "Keep Em Bouncin," which is where the energy level peaked for a while.
When you're dealing with two nights at Red Rocks, as an artist, you have to make a decision about how you want those nights to flow. Smith opted to keep things in the hip-hop realm, meaning the night didn't reach the apex of energy that some might have hoped for. There was no real peak in the evening, but that doesn't speak to the quality of sound and light the audience experienced.
Smith shared some new tracks that were a good guide as to what to expect from the seasoned vet in the future. They're glitchy and leave a lot of the fluidity of previous work in the dust in terms of danceability. The new sounds are leading the way for sample-heavy tracks that are delicately mixed with precision, resulting in what feels like an entire album mashed into one song. But, it works -- at least for Smith.
Following a three- or four-song mash-up of new material, Smith jumped back into some old flavor with "Aimin' At Your Head," "Can't Stop Me Now," and "I Can See it in Your Face," which pretty much sums up the new era of disco. If Skrillex is the new face of rock and roll, which he clearly displayed last week, PrettyLights is the new disco. Or, nu disco.
Following this dose of dope mayhem, Smith pulled the ultimate rabbit out of his flat-bill hat by bringing in Eligh and Grouch, two of the night's supporting emcees, on a collaborated track set to be released at a later date. For reference, the vocal hook went heavy on "Let's get busy," which is presumably the title of said track. It's only a matter of time before this dance/dubstep/EDM thing tackles more of the live element, and where there is a lack, or need for that matter, of organic musicians, the implementation of emcees brought a whole new, welcome element to the show.
Smith's outro came in the form of "Hot Like Sauce," and "Finally Moving," otherwise known as the two tracks that sent him to the top of the college music charts. These were the songs that really built him up, and they are still the songs that people love. It's the equivalent of Led Zeppelin playing "Stairway to Heaven," in that we all know the songs so well that it's almost annoying to hear them at a certain point. But last night, it wasn't annoying, and with hem the Nu-Disco King to be claimed his place at the throne.
Continue through to read about the rest of the acts.
Eligh and Grouch prepped the crowd with tasty throwback tracks, including nods to Living Legends. As requested by Grouch, the entire venue took a quick look to their left, then a quick look to their right, and repeated the phrase, "You ain't artsier than me." The whole place commenced to groove along with the mellow beats.
A real treat came in the form of Denver's own Mikey Thunder making it rain during the set breaks. Emerging directly above the sound booth, right in the middle of the crowd, Thunder proceeded to slay the crowd with some dope dance music. It was a mystery for the first ten minutes where the music was even coming from, and to be honest, most of the front row probably had no clue that the DJ was behind them. Once it started to rain a little, Thunder's camp held a tarp over his tables to keep the party from stopping. It was the coolest way to celebrate a set break ever, and it gave a reputable local musician the chance to do something unique and memorable while probably setting the precedent for set breaks to commence at future shows.
Personal Bias: You can't play enough PrettyLights for me. His music never gets old, and when it comes close to doing so, I play a track off Taking Up Your Precious Time to remind myself why I enjoy it so much.
Random Detail: I have yet to meet a hardcore Pretty Lights fan who doesn't say, "I was listening to Pretty Lights before he got popular." No you weren't. The fact is, you were listening to Pretty Lights before he was selling out Red Rocks, but so was any person from Fort Collins who went to a coffee shop between 2006 and 2011.
By the Way: "Shout out to my grandmother who is getting down in the front row. She is definitely certified," remarked Smith in regard to his grandma dancing the whole night on the front line. Coolest thing I've ever seen.
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