Pretty Lights may be relatively unknown in the UK however in America he is considered one of the biggest DJs in the universe (well, mainly as to most Americans, America is the universe.) Alas, tonight he breaks from playing large amphitheatres and superdomes (including two sold out shows at the world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre last month), instead performing at the comparatively tiny Electric Ballroom. Sadly, due to the venue’s miniscule size the quite astonishing set up which regularly accompanies Derek Vincent Smith has seemingly been left on the other side of the Atlantic, rather the crowd are greeted with a few strobes, some colour LEDs and an indistinct table, garnished with a black cloth and two MacPros. So with Smith’s usual extravaganza stripped down to its most essential parts, how does Pretty Lights fare without his, eh, pretty lights?
Well, probably better than many would expect. With the lack of visual delight that is now a standard feature of electronic gigs the audience are allowed to focus on an aspect which has been much maligned in EDM concerts as of recent; the music. Unlike a multitude of his contemporaries, Smith produces tracks which although highly danceable are also incredibly textured and nuanced; songs traverse elements of hip-hop, funk and glitch, always maintaining a firmly melodic nature. This preference was reflected in the audience response; drops may have been celebrated and enjoyed (the solid bass bursts of ‘I Know the Truth’ deserving of an honourable mention) however it was the grooves that received the most distinguished reception, erupting in to a wave of joy and shape-throwing.
In fact this lack of aggression in Pretty Lights’ music contributed to a far calmer and pleasurable atmosphere than many other EDM shows I’ve attended; not once did I fear for my wallet or phone, not once did I see a fight, all I saw were people dancing their bollocks off and having a great night. And in my idealistic mind that’s what I’d like to think EDM is all about. As Smith drew a penultimate spin of early cut ‘Finally Moving’ (featuring a sample of ‘Something’s Got a Hold on Me’ by Etta James, now made famous bloody everywhere by Avicii’s ‘Levels’) there was a sense of grand unity as the whole club sang along; not the sort of bullshit unity that David Guetta tries to conjure up at a concert, but something palpable, intimate and very real.
There had been no bewildering lasers, no ejaculations of confetti and no fire singeing off the eyebrows of those on the barrier, but everyone still felt as if they had seen something pretty special. A true shared experience and a true feeling of euphoria. Barebones yet wondrous.