Pretty Lights at North Coast Music Festival | Photos and music review
Walking out of Union Park last night during North Coast's final moments, my theory about the lack of attention paid to a rap legend like Big Boi proved to be true. Everyone here was busy pushing their way as close to fest-closer Pretty Lights as possible. Eyeing the sea of people that stretched back from the main stage—practically to the entrance—I wouldn't have been surprised to hear that this attendance challenged the record held by any of Pitchfork's biggest headliners. Clearly, the North Coast fan base loves its Pretty Lights, and it doesn't take much to figure out why.
A leader in the Colorado beat-making scene, Derek Vincent Smith has been leading a movement in American electronic music since the mid 2000s. As Pretty Lights, he's taking cues from hip-hop, dubstep and electro—the three dominant forms of club music, basically—and lovingly combining these influences with a feel-good jam-band sensibility. And throngs of fans turn out for it. Citing influences like turntablist master DJ Shadow, Pretty Lights samples heavily from funk, soul and folk, elements that were immediately put on display with an intro medley that included unearthed dusty "Who Knows" by Marion Black, Jack White and Daniele Luppi's "Two Against One," the Zombies "Time of the Season" and Kanye and Jay-Z's "No Church in the Wild." Taking to the stage with his cityscape backdrop, Smith dropped the wobbly bass head nodder "Hot Like Sauce" and there was no turning back. Glow sticks began flying every which way, a dozen girls cropped up on top of shoulders and a laser and light show from the stage bathed the thousands of onlookers in every color of the rainbow. Seriously, there was not a single component on that stage that wasn't whirling, flashing or shining.
With his hat pulled low, Smith was all smiles as he carried on with this set. Tapping out beats and bobbing to and fro, he was a bit of a chatterbox on the mic, clearly elated to have this number of fans freaking out in front of him, and thanking Chicago for such a strong showing. He was like a kid at play. Which is not to say he wasn't concentrating, clearly his set was highly orchestrated. Toggling between stoner numbers, faster electro-like numbers and his own style of instrumental hip-hop bangers, when Pretty Lights performs, there's no such thing as a lull in the action.
Closing out a weekend that included innumerable electro, dubstep, jam and hip-hop highlights—and their fans—Pretty Lights somehow brings together all these factions. The quintessential North Coast Music Festival act, it's no wonder he's played two of the festival's three years and I wouldn't be surprise if we're welcoming him back in 2014, because the size of the swarming audience last night proved without a doubt that this festival isn't going anywhere.