November 12, 2010
Electronic music sensation Pretty Lights packs an orchestra of sound into just two performers, founder and visionary producer Derek Vincent Smith and drummer extraordinaire Adam Deitch, who has been a permanent fixture since the July 2010 performance at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Rolling into the hipster Detroit Fillmore with enough eye candy to create a full-blown spectacle, these two created a monstrous sound that invigorated the crowd and left everyone wanting more at the midnight curfew.
Upon first witnessing a Pretty Lights performance during their summer 2009 festival tour at Rothbury, one thing was immediately addictive: this was an instant dance party. Summer 2009 took Pretty Lights to virtually every major festival on the circuit that summer and was followed by a multi-city tour. 2010’s hit list was even more impressive with the addition of Coachella, Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, Detroit’s Movement 2010 Electronic Music Festival, to fully round out the aforementioned "virtually."
The current Fall 2010 tour has featured an array of noteworthy opening acts including Michal Minert, MiMOSA, Thunderball, Chali 2na, Eliot Lipp, VibeSquaD, Kraddy, Free the Robots, and Gramatik. Pairing up the PL sound with some of the hottest acts in the electronic music scene is a sure win, and the opener in Detroit, Blockhead, was amazing.
The largest news this year was the unexpected replacement of drummer Cory Eberhard (still with reggae-influenced Dubskin) with the phenomenal conjurer of beats Adam Deitch, who’s been in with rhythm since he picked up the sticks at age 2. With both of his parents being funk drummers, it’s most likely in his genetic makeup. Dedication and practice had him sitting in with his parents’ band by age eight and hip-hop beats were an early addition to his repertoire, joining The Nuyorican Poets Cafe as house drummer in NYC and providing chops for emerging talent such as Erika Badu and Mos Def. He left NYC to study at the esteemed Berklee College of Music in Boston, Deitch connecting with bands such as Fatbag and Lettuce. A highlight of his early career was working with Miles Davis alumnus John Scofield. The lineage is vast and impressive. His addition to PL has been the same.
If one has never been to a Pretty Lights show, he is in for a ridiculous treat. Two performer stations are situated about 2 meters from the edge of the stage. On the audience’s left is Derek Vincent Smith’s position, surrounded by a 1M-high shroud of 25mm-pitch LED’s. On the audience’s right is a slightly elevated rum riser where Deitch sits, skirted with the same LED’s. Huge LED screens provide a backdrop for the duo and a wide range of moving lights, strobes, and LED washes provide the rest. Basically what the producers end up with is a video screen the size of the stage that possesses the ability to put static or motion-based images anywhere across the stage-wide canvas.
Besides the obvious pulsating, invigorating, crowd-shaking effects the video display allows for amazingly surreal imagery of cityscapes, underwater scenes, and live video from the crowd. High-powered lighting fixtures provide blinding contrast across the entire color spectrum and most likely mix pre-programmed positions with an ability to go into a lighting "freestyle" mode depending on the lighting director’s whim. It’s a stage and lighting show like no other and provided endless eye candy accompaniment to the music throughout the night.
Musical highlights included a "Looking good Detroit" opener and "I Can See it In Your Face" which took me from the steps up to the balcony to the floor in about 30 seconds, friends in tow. These, along with a closing "Empire State of Mind" that gave the audience a sing-along version of a house classic, and a longing wish for more.