Concert Reviews

Review: Pretty Lights at the Fillmore, 8/12/11

Pretty Lights Music is more than just a label now. It's more than a producer. It's more than Derek Vincent Smith. It's huge. Backed by a solid team of producers and talented deejays, the audience last night at the sold-out Fillmore Auditorium witnessed firsthand just what Smith has created, and that's only the first night. Smith will be taking his light walls and LED panels to Red Rocks tonight for the second stop on his Colorado run, and promises to make it a memorable show.

Before the night even got started, it should be noted that Gramatik played a DJ set at the Beatport offices that streamed on Ustream and received more than 10,000 views in the hour it ran. Though his set at Beatport was heavily dubbed down, both audibly and track-wise, Gramatik still left enough in the dark to drop it hard at the Fillmore.

(Read our interview with Gramatik to find out how he got on with Pretty Lights)

The 007 theme was hinted at the Beatport office set, but when he let it ride at the Fillmore, everyone channeled their inner Sean Connery and emulated the Charlie's Angel logo: Silhouetted pseudo-ravers in the their best gun holding pose. It was everywhere. Off the No Shortcuts album, "Step 007" wobbled everyone from side to side and solidified Gramatik's set as one to be searched for. Aside from

Alex, the contributing guitarist to the Gramatik sound, certainly doesn't take away from the beats and added a nice live-feeling to a stage filled with electronic audio equipment.

Michael Menert might receive the MVP award for the night. Following Gramatik, Menert came out in front of the of LED panels and laid down some chill beats mixed with some hyphy up-tempo tracks. The Pretty Lights Music label has a distinct sound, but avoids getting lumped into any certain genre. There's EDM, IDM, House, Dub-step -- and none of it will categorize PLM -- the only way to describe it is to hear it, and once you hear it, you're hooked on it. There's some wobble in the beats, there's some glitch mixed in with the breaks, and then there is some dubstep. Some real slow, grimy, filthy bass lines that Gramatik started delving into, but where Menert really took the reigns and went off. And on to the finale. Derek Vincent Smith is Pretty Lights. Much like how Peter Parker was consumed by the Venom in Spiderman, Smith has completely engulfed himself in his record label, his image and his performance. He dropped the drummer, or did so for this performance, and instead, sat atop a towering inferno of color blasting LED panels, behind the new addition of laser sprayers, completely center stage.

More than anything, Smith has mastered the art of production. From the quality of his sound to the synchronization and timing of his lights, the Pretty Lights performance is more than just a concert, it's an electrified house-party intensified by Smith's dedication and energy.

Photos: Pretty Lights at the Fillmore

And last night, we heard it all. "Finally Moving" and "Hot Like Sauce" might be the hits that sent Smith barreling into the memory banks of everyone from beach bros to backwoods good ol' boys, and they were met with great appreciation last night when he played them in the encore/second-set. I say this because Smith played for more than two hours, dwarfing the 30-minute opening acts, and instead of an encore, it felt like a full on second set.

We heard the "Lights" remix that rolled into "Hot Like Dimes," and there was lovely summer sampling of MungoJerry's "Summertime," that completely got eclipsed by Smith yelling, "Where all my true fuckin' hip-hop heads at?" Naturally, all the true hip-hop heads were at this particular show, and we were all hit with "Understand Me Now," off of Making Up a Changing Mind.

To close, Smith dedicated a final track to Amy Winehouse and played "You Know I'm No Good" for the walk out. It's not too soon, and everyone felt a little something inside that was something like warm fuzzies.

Getting rid of the drummer takes away from the performance, but Smith has added Disco Biscuits style lasers that paint a ceiling of smoke and color, giving the performance one more distraction from the fact that it is only one person playing on his computer at the top of the tower. Think a bit highly of ourselves, do we Derek? Pretty Lights is fucking massive and it is showing no signs of stopping. The whole label is expanding, the website nearly crashes with so many downloads and the live show is...just...pretty. It's just pretty.

Pretty Lights plays again tonight in front of another sold-out show at Red Rocks. Get ready.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Smith has come a long way since playing the Fox Theatre on a beer pong table with three light boards. I do miss the drummer, though. By The Way: The show was sold out, but you wouldn't have thought it by the look of the back of the auditorium towards the end of the show. Random Detail: For an all ages show, it didn't feel teeny-bopped out.

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Britt Chester is a writer and video producer living in Denver, Colorado. He's covered breaking news, music, arts and cannabis for Westword since 2010. His work has appeared in GQ Magazine, Village Voice, YES! Weekly, Inman News and the Winston-Salem Journal. He likes running, cycling, and interviewing people.
Contact: Britt Chester