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On Tour: Pretty Lights

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Founder and Editor, The Weekender

DECEMBER 05, 2013

Laptops are replacing lead singers. Technology is redefining music; artists are becoming famous from the internet, manipulating sounds in ways once inconceivable. But not everyone can conceptualize beats the way Pretty Lights can.

Pretty Lights played both Friday and Saturday night at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. The brain behind Pretty Lights is Derek Vincent Smith, a Colorado native who has been producing music since 2006.

Starting off the Friday show was Odesza, an alternative electronic sound produced by Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight. The duo, based in Seattle, creates an uplifting and shimmery sound mixing soft and summery beats and sampling beautiful vocals. Their music is both relaxing and upbeat.

The Grouch & Eligh performed next, two previous members of the rap group Living Legends who have continued to work together and are expecting to release a joint album in 2014. This summer, the two released “All These Lights,” a track produced by Pretty Lights.

A mesmerizing kaleidoscope video of human faces and designs appeared on the screen behind the third performer, Tycho. The meticulously constructed beats producer Scott Hansen combines alongside live instruments creates a smooth, tranquil, and organic sound. With occasional dark moments, Tycho is dynamic and uplifting.

Pretty Lights’ music in the past has been a combination of digital sampling and synthesized beats. But in his most recent album, A Color Map of the Sun, Smith worked with live musicians to create original samples he then pressed onto vinyl and mixed. Just like the title, Smith’s music combines sounds from across the spectrum. Friday’s two and a half hour set featured a live band with a trumpet and trombone, two keyboards and a drummer. The melodies of the horns paired with the synthesized beats created a soulful, funky sound that put the audience into a trance. The crowd dancing like they were at a hip-hop meets jazz meets trance concert.

It is the combination of the auditory and the visual — the music and the epic light show — that makes a Pretty Lights concert a participatory experience. His sets flow harmoniously from song to song. Smith stood in the center of the stage as if he were conducting an orchestra of musical instruments and laser light shows while controlling the core of the sound. On stage, Pretty Lights becomes a magician of sound, entrancing crowds with his music and lights.

Contact Anya Schultz at [email protected].

Contact Anya Schultz at 


DECEMBER 05, 2013

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