Derek Vincent Smith, otherwise known as Pretty Lights illuminated New Orleans in an epic, highly anticipated two-day New Year’s Eve event. Held at the Mardi Gras World Ballroom, Smith was joined by live band mates Chris Karns (turntablist), Borahm Lee (keyboardist), Alvin Ford Jr. (drums), and famed lighting designer Greg Ellis (TheLazerShark). The event also featured acts such as Curren$y & The Soul Rebels, Manic Focus, Emancipator, Maddy O’Neal, and an exclusive Chris Karns set.
Pretty Lights has one of the largest followings in the electronic music scene. Fans, who refer to themselves as “The Pretty Lights Family,” or “PLF”, have traveled far and wide to attend Smith’s episodic tour that took place in the late summer and early fall of 2016. The intense passion shared amongst PLF drives fans to great lengths in order to witness the spectacle that is the Pretty Lights Live experience. New Year’s Eve was no exception to this as fans from across the country gathered in NOLA for the event, filling the Mardi Gras Ballroom to the brim. Fans were undoubtedly anticipating a spectacular production, but were awed as their expectations were surpassed by a milestone.
The event offered two ticket options, general admission and VIP, referred to as the “PLF” pass. The venue was enough to amaze concert goers, however those with PLF passes were given an experience like no other. PLF passes included access to the so called “Pretty Lights Mansion,” that featured an open bar and exclusive sets. The Mansion was beautifully styled and fit to the New Orleans aesthetic. Upon entering, crowd goers were presented with mirror-decked hallways and white-washed pillars. These vintage style hallways led to an outside area shrouded by a dome cover, designed to mimic the deepest and clearest starry night sky. The heavenly aesthetic of the dome included bubbling ponds with lily pads, trees laced with Spanish moss, cobble stone pathways, and old-style shacks for fans to rest and have a drink. With outgoing staff members, merchandise pick up, and exclusive sets, those with access to the Mansion were given the royal treatment. Although the Mansion was a spectacular addition to the event, everyone in attendance was graced with an unprecedented production entirely unique to the Pretty Lights Live Experience.
Ellis, “TheLazerShark”, famous for his unique lighting design and ephemeral touch to stage production, graced The Ballroom with a five-dimensional visual experience. With the integration of advanced physics, the Pretty Lights Team exceeded traditional 3-D visuals through the use of holograms, sublime strobe lights, and crystal induced diffraction, the stage production transcended beyond audio-visual comprehension. PL live events are notoriously equipped with Ellis’s “Lazer Cage”, a series of horizontal laser beams that create a glowing illusion of a cage around the stage. Production took the famed laser cage to new heights with a feature that has yet to be used in any PL event, a waterfall that flowed gracefully in front of the stage. This waterfall expanded to nearly 6 stories and bubbled down in an ephemeral mist adding a multi-dimensional visual experience.
The allure of the Pretty Lights live experience is marked by its mystery and the tracks that will be played. Fans debate over upcoming setlists, and requests are posted online in hopes of receiving the gift of a rare song. Many music artists have a rolodex of tracks that get recycled throughout various shows, however Smith has a completely different method. As he insists he is not a DJ, Smith puts his skills to test with the help of his bandmates. With each set being so different, fans rejoice with each song that is played for it is is rare and its renditions can only be heard in a live setting.
Night one was fit to tease the crowd, including both tracks that are trademark to a PL set and those that are rarely heard as well. As many tracks surfaced and teased fans, the production induced such visual stimulation to take center stage. PL played many of his trademark tracks such as “Out of Time” and “Done Wrong”, while also teasing rare tracks throughout.
New Year’s Eve was charged with the yearn to leave 2016 behind and enter the new year. A new energy was amongst the crowd and the basis of family was evident. As the ballroom was decked with glitter and fluorescent sequins, the crowd came together to fill the air with love. The end of 2016 reared its head as Smith filled the room with energy. Throughout rarely played tracks such as “Country Roads”, and “After Midnight”, Smith took to the mic to proclaim “We are in 2016 about to move into 2017, we are trying to charge you up, charge ourselves up, we are trying to get by.” This proclamation along with the ephemeral rain wall charged the room with a unique energy, this energy was pulsating with static love. On the cusp of midnight, Smith paused a heavy jam of “I Can See It in Your Face” to begin the final countdown into 2017. While the crowd anxiously belted the countdown, the seconds leading into 2017 were gloriously relieving. As the clock struck midnight, balloons fluttered from the sealing while misty cannons blared in rejoice. The Pretty Lights Family shared love to everyone, exchanging hugs and kisses to all those around.
PL rang in the new year with a jam of “Future Gospel” led by Lee’s progressive synthesis as the rain wall washed away the negativity of 2016. The set came to a close as “Finally Moving” came on, a PL staple laced with soulful violin. Smith took moments to allow the crowd to belt the famous lyrics and as rain poured down the room was filled with bliss. The set ended with a bolting rendition of “I Know the Truth” and the crowd was wild with excitement.
Moments of question passed, and as the crowd grew doubtful, Smith and his bandmates took back the stage for a high energy encore. Tracks such as “My Only Hope” were laid down in addition to rare renditions of Nirvana, “Anytime (Love You Left Behind)”, “Cream State of Mind”, and finally “Yellow Bird.” Ending his finale with “Yellow Bird” set the tone for the rest of the evening; fans were filled with the glowing warmth of love as hugs were exchanged in the midst of delightful sways.
As the night came to a close, the crowd exited the venue and into a heavy monsoon. The Mississippi river was boiling as a deep fog began to surface. Crowd goers danced in the rain, while some ran for cover. Regardless of action, Pretty Lights continued to wash away troubles as the sky released its own waterfall.
Pretty Lights 12/30/16: New Episodic Jam 1, Out of Time, Easy Way Out, transitioned into Gotta Stay Fly (Jim Jones), Laser Rain Put Me Up, Where I’m Trying to Go, A Million Tomorrows, Hot Like Dimes, Drift Away, Freestlye, Make You Feel, There is a Light, Fly Like an Eagle, More Important Than Michael Jordan (MITMJ), Only Yesterday, We Must Go On, If I Could Feel Again, More Important Than Michael Jordan (tease), Done Wrong
Pretty Lights 12/31/16: One Day They’ll Know (Odesza Remix), Country Roads, Time (Remix), Prelude 3 into Freestyle, Total Fascination, Hot Like Sauce (Rustified Remix), I Can See It in Your Face, Father Stretch My Hands Pt 1., Prelude 4 into Wayfaring Strangers, Ladies of the Canyon Sample, Solar Sailor into I Got 5 On it, After Midnight, Low Orbit, Wisdom of Antiquity, Brain Reaction (Teaser), Color of My Soul (Paul Basic Remix), Solamente, Freestyle into Maybe Tomorrow, King of Rock, Rush Jam, Future Gospel, Understand Me Now, Looking for Love (but not so sure), Prophet & Culprate, Hip Hop Hooray (SuperVision), Finally Moving (Slow), I know the truth (Closer)
[Photos by Djivan Schapira]