Pretty Lights knows festivals. The Denver-based electronic veteran has made a career of headlining them, curating his own festivals, and designing his shows specifically for the outdoors, making indoor shows a rarity in his repertoire. With an upcoming string of performances at his home turf of Red Rocks Amphitheater approaching in August, Pretty Lights has teamed up with apparel company Akomplice to release a unique capsule pack of necessities geared at today’s modern festival-goer.
The festival survival kit includes all the finest camping event accouterments, from walkie talkies to bandanas, a reliable grinder, light refraction tools, and even palo santo to ward off bad vibes. The items in the limited release pack are ready for camping, festival music, and creativity, along with a handy dopp kit to pack it all in. Available on July 13 at 11:30 AM PST, the new Pretty Lights Akomplice merchandise can be purchased here.
The full kit includes:
An iconic WWII trench lighter.
The signature AK grinder.
Palo Santo to light and clear your energy.
Festival Walkie Talkies
Channel 1 for Pretty Lights fam to connect.
Channel 2 for special announcements from Pretty Lights.
Pretty Lights has been obscenely quiet for some time now, and it’s rumored amongst his tight-knit family following that the reason behind his silence is that he’s working on new album material. After all, his Color Map of the Sun LP was released more than five years ago. To add further fuel to that speculation, Smith has halted announcements for his heavily attended episodic tour that have been taking place over the last two years.
However, it wouldn’t be summer in Colorado without Derek Vincent Smith’s return to the beloved Red Rocks Amphitheater — and he’s not calling it an episodic tour stop either. Lineup support has yet to be announced, but if it’s anything like his previous events, fans can expect a fully loaded talent roster with funky groove appeal.
The special 10th anniversary event will take place over two nights, August 10-11, in Morrison, Colorado. A limited number of presale tickets will be available at 10 a.m. EST Wednesday, April 18, but fans must register for the Pretty Lights newsletter to get the special code.
Pretty Lights is slowly & successfully building his movement (Event Review)
When Pretty Lights announced his record label was evolving into the newly-minted Pretty Lights Movement, many caught a tiny glimpse into what Derek Vincent Smith had in store for the evolution of his growing family. It was around the time of his Episodic Tour: Season Two Premiere at The Gorge Amphitheater – followed by a series of constantly evolving, innovative live band performances that took place across the nation.
Dancing Astronaut was invited to attend the final episodic event of the tour at Whitewater Amphitheater in the small hill country town of New Braunfels, Texas, wherein we witnessed the raw energy of the live band, the regional beauty of small town hidden gem of a venue, and the sheer vitality of the Pretty Lights Family. Here are five reasons why Pretty Lights Live is more than a mere musical experience, but a way of living.
Smith’s creative decision to put the decks on the back-burner (and, yet, keep them front-and-center) takes his live shows to the next level. The stylings of the live band – made up of Brian Coogan, Borahm Lee, Alvin Ford Jr. and Chris Karns — are spotlighted, as each member aids Smith in bringing the organic analog aspect of his musical stamp to life. In addition, each show features a heavy dose of amazing special guest talent. Whether the heavy bass beats of Ganja White Night, the soulful stylings of up-and-comer Maddie O’Neal, or the funk-driven glitch-hop of Aussie producer Opuio, the Episodic Tour was jam-packed with amazing talent conforming to a clear sound stamp and an accompanying vision of which direction these shows are driven.
2. The PL Family
A heavy sense of family, community, and kindness among this close-knit group of Pretty Lights followers permeates the parking lots and showgrounds alike. The sheer feeling of euphoria and jovial admiration for their leader and their lifestyle is easily one of the most genuine and welcoming that any newcomer to this scene will experience. Take the Pretty Lights Illuminators, for instance, who are tasked with creating special activities, caring for their fellow attendees, or just generally spreading the good energy around each gathering. An emphasis on the small (yet out of this world) aspect of the crowds along these Episodic Tour stops likens them to an early Bassnectar following before it became too big to manage. Hard as it is to capture in words, experiencing is truly is believing with the PL Family.
3. A sense of heady spiritualism pervades
Smith freestyles about crystal children, hyper-dimensional space, positive vibrations, and metaphysical energy whilst refracting light with crystals on stage. Essentially, his antics and overall outlook on life embodies the spiritual self-awareness that guides Pretty Lights shows and the people living within these spaces. Burning Man principles like radical inclusion and self-reliance, gifting, and communal effort guide social interactions at these Episodic Tour stops.
4. The venue(s)
The Pretty Lights team chose a wildly picturesque venue in Texas’ Whitewater Amphitheater for the final stop of Episodic Tour. Its breathtaking hill country views, fresh smells of nature, its friendly easy-going staff, and its setting along the Guadalupe river made the experience feel almost surreal, wherein attendees would float into the venue with new stranger-friends as they shouted their hellos to Smith himself across the river banks. Couple this with other world class venues such as Washington’s legendary Gorge Amphitheater, and one has a series of shows where attendees are guaranteed a weekend of re-connection with the earth.
5. The production value
Pretty Lights’ Episodic Tour is not a typical large-scale electronic music festival, but the production value sure feels like it. For one, every stop along the tour offers rare tracks and unique flips catered to each location. The lighting show — courtesy of LazerShark — is one “not to miss” in the electronic music realm. Whether it’s the wall of lasers projected across the stage, the abstract, psychedelic visual displays, or how they become amalgamated into one with the analog sound, these creative, oft-times improvisational elements are at the forefront of cutting-edge performance in the electronic music world.
Just a few months ago, Pretty Lights launched an ingenius marketing campaign— sending a select number of loyal fans USB drives filled a number of unreleased music, remixes, and posters featuring dates for upcoming performances.
Given the instant success of the initial campaign, it is unsurprising to see Pretty Lights bring out a new iteration of the scheme, “Pretty Lights USB 2.0.” The new 16 track compilation features 9 previously unreleased tracks and has been released just before his maiden Episodic Festival performance.
The playlist features an eclectic selection of hip-hop inspired music, including a remix of Wrong Platform with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. If the producer’s recent output is any indication, his flyaway festival in Puerto Rico is sure to stun.
The entire playlist can also be downloaded via Google Drive.
While fans wait patiently — sometimes very impatiently — for the next Pretty Lights album that is rumored to be dropping sometime this year, Derek Vincent Smith continues to distinguish himself as one of the most groundbreaking and inventive artists of this era. Whether it is adding new features to his ever transforming live performance set up, crushing festivals like Camp Bisco and Euphoria or planning his own destination festival in Puerto Rico, Pretty Lights simply does not cease to push the envelope in terms of artistry and innovation. Now, amidst the announcement of even more stops on his second Episodic Festival, Pretty Lights has given fans a peek into his latest venture, an exciting new chapter that he and his team have dubbed Pretty Lights Movement.
In an attempt to inspire young artists and musicians, while also bringing them into an inclusive and supportive community, the Pretty Lights Music record label will take on a new form. In a post on Pretty Lights’ Facebook, fans are given the first glimpse of what Derek Vincent Smith has in store for the evolution of his ever growing family. The Pretty Lights fan base has grown and evolved with Smith throughout his career and this latest announcement is a testament to the special connection between this artist and his supporters. Details are still scarce as to what this new venture will look like but it is already a thrilling proposition to look forward to.
Derek Vincent Smith has left fans with no shortage of news in 2017. Over the past several months, Pretty Lights has announced such momentous events as his Puerto Rican “Island of Light” festival, and weekend concert series at The Gorge and Red Rocks. Alongside his new live developments, Smith has also satiated fans on the musical front by releasing two large drives of unreleased live flips from his 2016 Episodic Festival tour.
However, from a studio release standpoint, Pretty Lights has remained silent for quite some time. In December, the artist broke news of a forthcoming audiovisual album, which would mark his first release since his single, “Only Yesterday,” in March of 2016. As the year meets its halfway point, the anticipated LP has yet to arrive, but that may soon change.
In the early hours of Sunday, May 28, Pretty Lights performed a three-hour set at Illinois’ Summer Camp Music Festival, Pretty Lights debuted a new single, reportedly titled “The Sun Spreads in Our Minds.” Captured on video by Press Pause Films, the unreleased track takes on the essence of the artist’s 2013 album, A Color Map of the Sun. Beginning on a sedate note before progressing into a formidable, glitch-laden crescendo, “The Sun Spreads in Our Minds” simultaneously induces nostalgia among Pretty Lights fans while instilling hope for his next album’s imminence.
When Pretty Lights surprised his loyal family following with USBs of new live recordings recently, the analog sound-sculptor also announced two more destination events as part of the Episodic Festival Tour. Now the producer born Derek Vincent Smith unveiled an impressive line-up of supporting talent for his return to Denver and Chicago in August.
On August 11, Pretty Lights will begin a two night run with his live band at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO with special guests G Jones, Manic Focus, SoDown and Daily Bread. The next weekend, Pretty Lights and his band will head to Chicago’s Northerly Island with special guests The Floozies, Big Wild, and The Soul Rebels, amongst other acts.
These two-day experiences make for a busy month for Pretty Lights, as he is kicking off the August at the Gorge Amphitheater for Episode 06 of the Episodic Tour, featuring the likes of Atmosphere, STS9, Tipper, Lettuce, Cherub, and many more.
Two-Day general admission tickets, VIP, and Red Rocks travel packages are available right now via Pretty Lights’ direct-to-fan pre-sale. Tickets will go on sale to the public on May 19th at 10am MT
In late February of this year, Derek Vincent Smith underwent a musical reawakening of sorts. Following a series of cryptic messages posted to the Pretty Lights social media accounts, Smith announced his Episodic Festival tour — the most recent evolution of the perennially updating Pretty Lights live experience. Though Smith’s success during his 2016 tour has pushed him further into the limelight than he’s been for quite some time, he still has been relatively quiet in the past several years, granting few media appearances and approaching the fourth year of a hiatus from releasing original music (excepting his single “Only Yesterday,” from March 2016).
In a rare interview with Denver Post, however Smith has divulged that his musical moratorium is coming to an end. Apparently in 2017, Pretty Lights will release his first album since 2013’s A Color Map of the Sun:
” I’m really excited about what I’m working on. I’ve got an album that’s almost ready. It’s slated for an early 2017 release. It’s not just a music record — I’m actually making a film with it, as well.”
The post noted that the new album/film hybrid may be released on April 20 of next year. The notion of a mixed audio/visual project from Pretty Lights is innately scintillating given his track record for appealing to both sensibilities in innovative ways. In extrapolating upon how he plans to meld the two visions for his forthcoming project, Smith relates his goal to his Episodic Festival tour:
“I’m trying to make a film and a record that’s really about the connection of people — the amazing things that happen between people on the same frequency. It will be an episodic thing that makes a full piece. Every song has an episode.
It connects to my episodic music festival. When I was booking that tour, I wanted to call it ‘The Weekend’s Episodic Festivals.’ I didn’t know why I wanted to call it that, but it’s all going together. Every festival, we’d have a film shoot that became the building blocks of these episodic film pieces. It’s pretty (cool).”
Read Smith’s full interview with Denver Post here.
In the reigning electronic music era, the term “DJ” has become extraordinarily convoluted. Many electronic artists are judged and ranked as DJs based on their production prowess, rather than their skills behind the decks. Furthermore, as music technologies continue to develop, the lines between the actual tools which electronic artists use onstage have become increasingly blurred. Many of dance music’s most important figures don’t use anything resembling turntables or CDJs during their shows.
This list celebrates the ten electronic artists that we believe provided the most evocative performances in 2016. While many of the names below have released spectacular music within the past year, the artists’ production skills were not used as criteria while compiling these rankings. Rather, the aim of this list is to highlight the acts who most formidably astounded their audiences in their concerts; the artists whose tour announcements sent a hush throughout the electronic music realm; the musicians who put on shows so spectacular that the moments they cultivated have achieved legendary status in the year’s canon.
These are Dancing Astronaut’s Top 10 Performers of 2016.
Year after year, Sonny Moore remains one of dance music’s preeminent influencers, and to his credit, one of its most energetic performers. In addition to heading up his OWSLA imprint and continually providing a platform for new talents, Skrillex held down a breakneck performance calendar in 2016. Among Skrillex’s international touring itinerary this year were noteworthy performances at ComplexCon, Chance The Rapper’s debut Magnificent Coloring Day Festival, and his Boiler Room debut in Shanghai. Moore also returned to Burning Man and Coachella, to accompany Snails.
What long-time fans may consider treasonous is actually the key ingredient to Skrillex’s ubiquity — nothing is too dissimilar from his current work to touch. He brings the same earnest and genuine energy to his performances. Dubstep fan or not, its one of the most inclusive environments in the mainstream scene.
– Lucy Davidson
9. Bob Moses
Bob Moses hit the nail on the head with their 2015 debut album, Days Gone By, entering the dance music realm at the exact right time for the industry to welcome them with open arms. With the rise in popularity of indie-electronica crossover acts over the last few years, listeners were ready for something different, and the Canadian partnership of Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance proved perfect to provide that difference.The duo’s multifaceted style yields a stellar live show, but impressively isn’t compromised by their DJ performances. Rather, the two divergent live formats allow Howie and Vallance to explore different facets of their tastes and talents.
2016 has seen Bob Moses play sets at some of the biggest festivals in the world, including Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo. Howie and Vallance have also garnered mainstream attention, receiving a great wealth of airtime on BBC Radio 1 and earning the chance to perform on The Ellen Show. Conversely, the duo fit right in with house and techno legend Lee Burridge on his “All Day I Dream” tour, easily catering to the more underground side of the spectrum. With their enthralling live performance, unique combination of influences, and ubiquitous appeal, it’s glaringly apparent that Bob Moses have established a firm, yet still blossoming legacy.
– Toby Reaper
Amid the rigorous clamor that defines much of the dance music scene, there is the beautiful sound of Tycho, which continuously reaffirms the notion that there is much more to composing music than simply putting sounds together. A true artist in every aspect, Scott Hansen, the leading force behind the project, creates breathtaking, organic soundscapes wherever he goes. Whether performing at the Dusty Rhino art car for his Burning Man sunrise set, or headlining Red Rocks, Hansen’s performances are always inventive and tranquil. Tycho’s music breathes with life, brimming with meaningful depth in both its composition and its performance. Artists with such capabilities have become increasingly rare, as technological advances make production — and performance — more accessible, but arguably less personal.
– Toby Reaper
7. Claude VonStroke
Dirtybird label boss Claude VonStroke has been transitioning from an underground hero to a household name over the last decade. In 2016, a number of mainstream accolades began rolling in for the DJ as well. In September, Claude was named America’s Best DJ (via fan votes in Pioneer DJ and DJ Times’ annual poll), and his uniquely nostalgic festival, Dirtybird Campout, drew an enthusiastic international crowd for its second iteration. At Campout, the DJ performed both as himself and under his real name as his hip hop alter-ego, Barclay Crenshaw, demonstrating that his breadth as a performer is continually expanding, even at this stage in his career.
The house and techno scene is alive and well in the United States, but VonStroke possesses a unique quality among his cohorts — a sense of humor about his craft. In 2016, VonStroke stepped his game up by incorporating elements from his side projects, Get Real and Barclay Crenshaw, without losing the heart of his performance: the tangible irreverence of a Claude VonStroke set.
– Lucy Davidson
Ambitious producer, live musician, and All Good Records owner, Grant Kwiecinski, better known as GRiZ, had yet another year of exponential growth in 2016 — and for good reason. GRiZ is an innovator, and it’s easy to see that he enjoys setting the bar ever higher as he builds his style of futuristic funk into something of a movement. Kwiecinski’s world-class musicianship shines brightly at each and every show he plays, big or small. The energy at a GRiZ show is a spectacle to behold, due to his formidable skills as a saxophonist and Ableton live controller.
From his groundbreaking sold-out Red Rocks show to playing sets all over the Playa at Burning Man, GRiZ can, and will, do it all. The dedicated performer appears at practically every major festival amidst his rigorous touring schedule. Furthermore, the multi-instrumental talent never shies away from a unique collaboration, which perhaps manifested most notably this year during his Big Grizmatik set at Summer Camp, where Kwiecinski partnered with like-minded influencers Big Gigantic and Gramatik to purvey a legendary performance. GRiZ’s most astounding trait, however, is his unbreakable authenticity — both as a musician and a person — which has fostered a devoted cult following (known as “The Liberators”) that few artists can achieve.
– Toby Reaper
5. Pretty Lights
As a performer, Pretty Lights has constantly evolved. Following a musical reawakening in late February, Derek Vincent Smith premiered his Episodic Festival tour. In their new live performance, Smith and his band have finally achieved the perfect balance between their electronic and instrumental components. Pretty Lights has always been revered for his live edits during shows, but in 2016, he inverted his performative process entirely. In the new era of Pretty Lights, Smith implements his improvisations within Ableton impeccably with those of his bandmates.
Overall, the well-tuned musical experience provided during the Episodic Festival is the ideal marriage of Pretty Lights’ contrasting elements; the yin and yang innovate, rather than collide. Greg Ellis’ subtler lighting choices melded masterfully with Pretty Lights’ new performance. In the accompanying visual production, Ellis favored psychedelic laser displays over frenetic rave patterns and reintroduced the sepia-toned cityscapes which were definitive of Smith’s earlier tours.
To create an inimitable live experience that combines free form jam band music, calculated electronic music, and hip hop is an ambitious feat. Setting this divergent combination to an ever-changing, astounding, and harmonious visual spectacle adds a further layer of difficulty.
In 2016, Pretty Lights achieved this feat with resounding success.
– Will McCarthy
4. Boys Noize
Fans were unsure of what to expect when Boys Noize premiered his Mayday performance at Barcelona’s Sónar festival in June. Alex Ridha hadn’t crafted a new live experience since the haunting skull booth which accompanied his electro-heavy Out of the Black tour following his 2012 album of the same name.
In 2016, Boys Noize’s live show manifested the essence and theme of his Mayday albumimpeccably. Rather than revisit the sinister occultism which pervaded his Out of the Black tour, Ridha masterfully recreated the apocalyptic pandemonium which defined his fourth album. Standing behind an elaborate industrial rig, designed with towering iron bars and glaring alarm lights, Ridha wove his dystopian scores through an array of equipment complex enough to make deadmau5 uneasy.
In order to ensure that the Orwellian sensibilities of his Mayday show were properly executed, Boys Noize took a step that very few performers possess the dedication to take. While seamlessly integrating live edits into his performance, Ridha additionally controlled a significant portion of his own visual production.
As the German visionary crafted an apocalyptic masterpiece from behind his industrial imprisonment, chaotic visuals designed by Sus Boy and LIL INTERNET completed the experience, culminating in a showcase which simultaneously evoked visceral energy and airs of totalitarian oppression.
Independently, Boys Noize’s live shows of the past year were a staggering artistic feat. Given the pre-apocalyptic despair that many people are feeling as 2016 draws to a close, one might say that Alex Ridha’s most recent tour was a conceptual embodiment of the year itself.
– Will McCarthy
3. Eric Prydz
Eric Prydz is a veritable juggernaut of a performer. The multi-talented, multi-monikered DJ excels onstage regardless of which identity he chooses to don for any given show. As Cirez D, he purveys a selection of techno which is harrowing and recondite, yet also energizing — often playing warehouse sets for hours on end.
However, Prydz’s shows under his given name are his crowning achievement as a performer. The veteran DJ’s live shows have become so legendary that they have spurred a revered series of their own: Eric Prydz in Concert – appropriately abbreviated as EPIC. Its 2016 edition, EPIC 4.0, is the zenith of a DJ career which spans more than a decade.Eric Prydz in concert is, funnily enough, less of a concert and more of an audio/visual journey.
The technical prowess of Eric Prydz’s EPIC stage production is unparalleled. Prydz shrouds himself within a colossal LED encasement, upon which a vibrant, ever-shifting phantasmagoria enthralls his audience. As thousands of lasers project from his inventively lit fortress, Prydz carefully selects music from his extensive oeuvre to score his inimitable sensory experience, taking spectators on a journey with his uniquely immersive visual platform.The energy of the experience undulates as the multifaceted musician shifts between segments highlighting his various alter-egos.
Each year of Eric Prydz’s storied career has been momentous, but in 2016, Prydz raised his own bar substantially as a performer and producer. Given the artist’s innovative leaps in the past year, the degree to which he’ll shake the dance music world when he premieres EPIC 5.0 in May 2017 is unfathomable.
– Will McCarthy
2. Carl Cox
Carl Cox needs no introduction — the legendary artist’s residency at Space Ibiza concluded its 15 year-run in September with an epic ten-hour, all-vinyl set. While a packed room ushered in the closing of Space, millions of viewers tuned in online to watch Cox’s dazzling final performance. The set further marked the end of a 27-year era, as Ushuaïa will take control of the site next Ibiza season, but the king of dance music isn’t hanging up his crown just yet.
Infectious energy and an ear-to-ear grin are only some of the trademark elements of a Carl Cox DJ set. Over the course of his career which spans more than three decades, Cox has become a master curator with an inexhaustible archive, and a masterful technician to boot. Simply put, there is no superior DJ anywhere, and Cox proved in 2016 that he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
– Lucy Davidson
1. Porter Robinson & Madeon
“One single song, one single tour, and then it’s over.”
There’s a bittersweet beauty in the nature of transience. Diamonds are coveted for their rarity. Gesaffelstein’s announcement that his Coachella performance would be his “last live show” made its experience that more exciting. The same principle applies to the “Shelter” phenomenon.
In 2016, no other artists managed to engender widespread fervor for their live shows to the degree which Porter Robinson and Madeon did with Shelter. When Porter Robinson and Madeon abruptly partnered in the studio and onstage, both artists’ respective fan bases were ecstatic. Based upon their sudden ubiquity and undeniable compatibility, many hopefully assumed that the pair of prodigies would continue to work together extensively for years to come.
When Robinson and Madeon announced that their dual tour would mark the end of their partnership, a sizable faction of their followers were devastated — and understandably so. However, while the retirement of their partnership is a disappointing loss, it’s important to note that its impact is inextricable from its ephemerality. Live edits from the show, such as Madeon’s revision of Robinson’s “Flicker,” are evocative not only because of their intrinsic qualities, but because they only exist within the context of the Shelter performance. Robinson and Madeon’s tour is formidable largely because it is fleeting.
The Shelter tour was simultaneously a perfect reflection of both artists’ unique live aesthetics and an expert fusion of their compositional styles. Bookended with renditions of their sole collaboration, Porter Robinson and Madeon transformed each other’s original works throughout their joint performance, both individually and in conjunction. As the pair alternated vocal and instrumental duties behind separate altars, the accompanying visual production was a dazzling combination of both artists’ signature live spectacles.
We were astounded by Porter Robinson and Madeon’s collaborative live endeavors in 2016, and we are excited to see what both artists individually have in store for 2017.
– Will McCarthy
Photos by Rukes, Molly Gale, AJRPhotography, and courtesy of artists.