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.
All photos courtesy of Press Pause
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.