03.13.10 | Ogden Theatre
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There is so much sweaty cleavage dangling over the railing of the Ogden's upper deck. One girl, in her haste to abandon her inhibitions, has rolled her shirt up so high that fully half her bra is in view. Not that anyone's really paying attention.
After all, hers is only one of too many exposed belly buttons to count, and that's if you can see through the haze of pot smoke. There's no mistaking the number of people in this place literally glowing, wearing flashing jewelry and toting glowsticks and laser pointers. When they bathe the room in black light it becomes clear just how many pairs of neon-plastic sunglasses there are. Who knows what all these people are on. This place is Gomorrah.
And Derek Vincent Smith, as Pretty Lights, is our tempter. This music is fast-forwarding to all the good parts and stacking them on top of each other. It's the part right before the final chorus of your favorite song soaring over the beat that comes rattling out of the shiniest Escalade in town.
He uses samples, but it's not like Girl Talk. The samples aren't the main attraction most of the time - they're just another layer to be cut and pounded and repeated until you get bored. Smith must sit as his computer every time he starts building a song and think: How can I make pretty people dance?
So there is no discussion to be had about a challenging artistic vision or an opportunity to expand your horizons. And while the songs don't exactly all sound the same, they do blend into each other. You can download every song he's ever released for free on his web site, but unless you're throwing a dance party, I can't imagine the point. If you are throwing a dance party, however, stop reading this review and go download everything because it's perfect for that. Pretty Lights' genre might as well be Standing Room Only.
Here in the Ogden, one of the ceiling fans, high above the crowd, is spinning silently. Fat lot of help that is - a snowball in hell. More effective are the bottles of water being sprayed over the crowd by the staff. They're splashing everyone indiscriminately, trying to make sure no one passes out in the belly of the beast. They're aiming with a little more conviction at the kids passing around joints. But who are they kidding - this is the first show I've ever seen where a medical marijuana dispensary set up shop in the back.
Though, again, no one's paying much attention to that. It's hard to look at anything but the light show: Crisscrossed beams of rich colors and little blocks of blinding LEDs illuminating the crowd. Teal spotlights of broken glass and a wall-to-wall light board projecting a souped-up iTunes visualizer. Pretty Lights.
At one point early in the show, the board was projecting a monstrous Jordan dunk over and over. Again, this is no underdog story. It's not even the story of a spectacular rise through adversity. No, this is about the best in the world, shoving it down your throat on repeat. Smith was wearing a Yankees hat. Of course.
There's a Biggie verse that was first recorded for a collaboration with KRS-One and the Wu-Tang Clan. It was never released there but it was later on the posthumous album Born Again. The beginning of the verse was censored completely, but the full version showed up later.
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It was censored because Biggie's being denied entry to the pearly gates by Jehovah and he says: "Fuck Him. I didn't want to go to heaven anyway." That's the line Smith took for one of his lyrical hooks.
Smith dials in the line and starts saying it. His live drummer, Cory Eberhard, starts saying it too. The crowd is all hands up, thick with white people doing a gangster lean. A girl standing nearby sticks her hand down some dude's pants. The pit is heaving. Again and again:
"Fuck Him. I didn't want to go to heaven anyway."
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: None to speak of. Random Detail: This was Pretty Lights' fifth sold out show in Colorado this week. The dude's huge. By The Way: Bay-area rapper Lyrics Born played an impressive opening set. He's been at this forever, and it shows.