Over the weekend, Pretty Lights, also known as Derek Vincent Smith, hit the Bank Of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford, New Hampshire, for his ninth episodic festival—a two-day festival on September 15th and 16th that also saw performances by Twiddle, Opiuo, Maddy O’Neal, Ganja White Light, Jade Cicada, Exmag, and more. During the event, the festival took a hard stance on the controversial topic of the festival totem, banning flags, signs, and other objects fixed onto tall poles to help groups find one another from the front part of the audience.
The festival totem is already a controversial topic within the festival scene. Those who use them find that it helps their friends stay together at large shows and feel that it can be a form of self-expression. However, increasingly as more and more totems have popped up at festivals, many people have complained that they block the views of those behind them, including the members of the artists’ production team, in addition to being a distraction from the music or, when unwieldy, a hazard. Some festivals, like Suwannee Hulaween, have found a place of compromise, banning totems in front of the soundboard while allowing them outside of the prime viewing spots for stages.
At Pretty Lights’ ninth episodic festival this weekend, the Pretty Lights crew banned the use of totems in front of the soundboard. In between sets, members of the crew made a person with a jellyfish totem close to the front of the stage leave, while Pretty Lights’ lighting designer, LazerShark (also known as Greg Ellis) changed the screen behind the stage to read “No Totems”, reiterating the rules of the festival. The removal was caused after the totem was interfering with a free webcast of the show.
LazerShark later reposted a video of the incident, noting: “Just to be clear since some people think it’s their right to be an inconsiderate douche. Your right to “self-expression” has not been banned at our shows. We simply just want both our crew and our audience to be able to enjoy the show how they intended. We could have simply confiscated this stupid jellyfish bit instead we decided to have a little fun and prove a very simple point. Stand to the side dummys. Or I’m coming to your job with a giant sign that says fuck you and you can explain to your boss why some guy is interfering with your work.”
Other lighting designers, including String Cheese Incident’s lighting director Andrew Cass, chimed in their support of banning festival totems, in addition to a number of photographers and others involved in the production of shows in the scene.
Update/Correction: Pretty Lights’ lighting designer, Greg “LazerShark” Ellis clarified the restrictions on festival totems at live shows. He told us, “Well, it started as a joke. We never made an official statement on anything. Really, we would never that stuff but will be taking a firmer stance on where they’re located. We use tons of live cameras for the show itself and for the live stream so anything in front of the stage to foh is gonna be off limits.” We’ve also amended the headline of the article to reflect this.