Derek Vincent Smith, better known as Pretty Lights, is an electronic artist hailing from the Fort Collins / Boulder areas of Colorado. Originally an aspiring hip-hop producer, his songs are often based in rap or soul, mixing segments with one hand rooted in the 1970s while the other hand reaches into the glitchy sounds of the modern century. Music is arranged and performed via laptop. Bonnaroo appears to be developing a tradition of getting fans hyped about the lineup using PL's music.
The double album A Color Map of the Sun will be released in July. Aside from the single below, all that's known is it features a ton of artists who recorded stuff that was then thrown through the washing machine that is Pretty Lights. Check it out:
Earlier albums, like Filling Up the City Skies, relied more so on scaling synth assaults paired with bobbing, urban drumlines, perhaps taking a line from Big Boi, putting it on repeat with some Robert Plant wailing -- tempo and scale jacked to the rafters. Later works are more evolved mutations of this style. They exhale breaths of soul around deep gasps of bass-heavy electro riffs. That air is then carried down a swollen river somewhere near the haunted house in that old Scooby Doo episode, where the Temptations met Captiain Dubstep.
Compare 2009's Hot Like Sauce with 2011's I Know the Truth to get a taste of the music and its progression and pay no mind to the mere words.
A 2009 festival-run brought Pretty Lights fans of genres across the spectrum, wooks and bros joining hands, thanks to stops at Bonnaroo and Electric Forest. These early shows were more improvisational, played live with drummer Cory Eberhard and later, for a short time, Adam Deitch. By the 2011 return to Bonnaroo, the element of a live drummer had been replaced with a synchronized tower of lights that emulate a city skyline. That setup has since been modified, adding more strobes and lazers at the cost of an improvisation that shows up only in well-timed pockets.
Myself, I first caught Pretty Lights with Eberhard drumming at a late-night Bonnaroo set in 2009. Via press pass and in front of the rail, the crowd behind us was electric. We were close enough to witness the droplets of sweat rolling to the brim of Derek's hat and dripping off the front of the bill. Special access led to a special Bonnaroo moment. Hard work, great sound, and an eager crowd. Girl Talk and Tiesto also performed that night. Neither held a flickering candle to what was Pretty Lights. Before the surge of wobble bass in EDM, this was something unique in an ever-emerging genre, roaring from the gate like a longhorn finally set free.
The drums, sweat and tears behind that set seemed more relaxed by the 2011 appearance, where what looked like an adult beverage stayed at arms length and the lights did more of the work. Still, 2011 brought the performance above, edited into the I Know the Truth video. And that set went well into sunrise, so it takes a tough jury to convict 2011 as lazy. Simply put, if you don't enjoy yourself at one of these shows, you already came in convincing yourself of this fate.
Back to 2009, it was a big year for Pretty Lights and me. I caught the act, with drummer, a month later at Forecastle, a late add as the name swelled with buzz. A short set on the main stage was surpassed the following night in a sold-out afterparty show on the Belle of Louisville, 500 degrees and illuminated by hypnotized dancers with glowsticks and bewildered officers with flashlights. The energy and creativity on display was an early indication of what now, four years later, looks to be a Which Stage set that will probably earn PL even more fans. EDM is a bull market, and PL is still worth a buy rating - even with the loss of a drummer on stage and the magic it brought.
Continuing with the throwback feel, songs like Pink Floyd's Money and a Radiohead-Nirvana-NIN mashup have been remixed by Pretty Lights, along with John Denver's Take Me Home Country Roads for the West Virginia crowd at All Good in 2011. These work like change-up pitches in a live setting.
Pretty Lights has been a pioneer of offering music at no charge on the web. Go there and download some if you choose. Nobody will yell at you. Prettylightsmusic.com also features material from Deitch's band, BreakScience, along with Bonnaroo 2013 performer Paper Diamond, so grab a couple of armloads of blips and bleeps while you're in there.
What to expect: - A lengthy set. Unlike Skrillex in 2012, the track record indicates PL will go 2.5 hours plus and, unlike plenty of EDM artists, the content is diverse enough to keep even passing listeners' attention. In short, Pretty Lights brings a wealth of fresh electronic concepts and then joins them and moves them with conventional theory that is accessible to people who primarily listen to other things. - Something new. The release this year of The Day is Gone shows that Smith is still hard at work. 2010 saw a handful of EPs to be accompanied by several live albums and a collection of remixes. 2011 and 2012 included enough singles to have warranted another couple of EPs. Writer's block is scarce with this dude.
- Something remixed. I wonder if he is a Macca fan. - More lights. And that's what's important, breh.
I can't believe he is from up the road and I still have never seen PL. I could see the lights from the other stage at Coachella, but was busy watching another show. I need to catch him somewhere. BTW, the only knock is where you said there isn't a lot of room for improvisation because of the production. I dislike but understand that. Some of the greatest shows I went to were like that. Think D Bowie or YES. cr****