It’s no secret that Colorado-based artist Pretty Lights has changed the game for the electronic music genre. While the electronic dance music scene is blowing up, Pretty Lights is going against the current with his live performances.
Derek Vincent Smith, stage name Pretty Lights, has been producing music since 2006. But this past year, he has really made an impact on the scene; with his fifth album debuting last July, a Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronica Album, and a fall 2013 tour that just wrapped up.
Smith is not new to performing live as he has been touring on and off since 2007, playing small, intimate venues. During his early days of performing he was accompanied by his drummer, Adam Deitch. Smith’s electronic funk sound mixed with a live drum-set really added to that soulful vibe of his music music that he is known for, which is probably why he chose to bring along a full live band with him this past tour.
Other EDM artists, such as Bassnectar or Zedd’s Dead produce their own tracks, as does Smith, but do not incorporate any instruments during their live sets. Instruments aren’t really relevant in the EDM world, where most tracks are made by a computer mixer or synthesizer.
Smith, on the other hand, produced his most recent album, A Color Map of the Sun, with live instruments and vocals, so taking these live aspects to the stage made sense.
On the 31-city tour, Pretty Lights had one drummer (Adam Deitch), two keyboardists (Brian Coogan and Borahm Lee), one trombonist (Scott Flynn), and one trumpeter (Eric Bloom). With a different set-list each night, each show gave fans a unique Pretty Lights experience.
Hearing songs from ACMOTS incorporated with live instruments, how Smith intended them to be heard, was much better than hearing them on CD or even on vinyl. The loud drum vibrated the bass. The keyboards mixed well with Smith’s own synthesizing, adding some new riffs to familiar songs.
The brass section was the best addition to the performance. The soulful whines that came out the trumpet sharpened favorite tracks, such as I Can See It In Your Face and High School Art Class, while the deep trombone made the audience move in sync with the movement of the lights. The mesmerizing lasers seemed to reach out into the crowd and created a colorful, striped sky.
His tracks always sound the same as they do on the album. He mixes it up a little here and there, adding transitions or riffs together or speeding up a beat. But this live band show brought the music to life.
The vibe, or feeling, the audience gets of seeing a DJ perform versus seeing a live band perform are completely different. Live bands mix it up with instrumental solos and the crisp sound of instruments fills the arena. DJ sets are heavy with bass and wobbly “womp” sounds that make the audience’s ears ring, in a good way. The unique sound Pretty Lights brought to his live tour was the meshing together of these two sounds: sharp instrumentals complimented by booming electronic bass. Smith took it to the next level by combing these two experiences into one and blowing the roof off of the arena all-together.
Those who would rather fist pump to DJs or others who prefer live bands could both enjoy the Pretty Lights experience that Smith brought to this fall tour.
Fans can agree that the run of concerts really showcased his talent for producing not only music, but a live show unlike any other. Hopefully he will continue with the live band, or at least some parts of it like the drummer or the bass section, because of the success of this tour.
Smith has already announced performances for summer music festivals, such as Spring Awakening in Chicago and Counterpoint Music Festival on the east coast, but nothing has been confirmed on whether the live band will rock on stage with him.
The Pretty Lights experience combines all factors: the lights, the sound, the instruments and the vibe to make it truly stand out above everything else in the EDM music scene.