Pretty Lights rang in 2014 with a massive dance party that transformed the Colorado Convention Center into a sprawling nightclub on New Year’s Eve. The second night of Decadence — an event billed as Colorado’s biggest New Year’s Eve party — also brought performances from Datsik, 12th Planet, Supervision and Paul Basic.
The night of Dec. 31 not only ushered in a new year, but a new era of legalized marijuana in Colorado. And Pretty Lights’ wavy electronic dance music along with mind-altering visuals were the perfect way to end prohibition of cannabis. Though the use of the substance is prohibited in public areas, fans still indulged throughout the concert. Front and center at the Illumination Arena, fans twirled a large sign that read “FUN” with an arrow pointing down into the crowd. Nearby, another fan lifted a crutch and pumped it to the beats as if proclaiming that the lame shall dance. The experiential, site-specific production dazzled the crowd with a vibrant show of high-intensity incandescent lights and lasers drawing Spirograph patterns on the industrial architecture of the gargantuan convention hall. Wandering among the free-range, bohemian ravers, buskers performed with glowing hula-hoops, spinning light tops and other glow props. Video included Derek Vincent Smith’s nods to inspirational pretty lights from the natural world: pink peach blossoms blowing off branches, sunshine spangling lake water, and Colorado’s spectacular fiery sunsets of ember orange and purple.
Based in Fort Collins, Smith is creating a worldwide sensation, thanks in most part to his visceral live performances. With the volume cranked up for the party goers at the Convention Center, Pretty Lights’ music was full body experience — as the hordes of dancers can attest. Smith just finished his first tour with a live band in support of the Grammy-nominated “A Color Map of the Sun.” It was a run that showed his diversity as a musician — as did the new album in which Smith sampled live instrumentation. Pretty Lights’ performance on New Year’s Eve incorporated live instrumentation once again with drums, a pair of horns and keyboards tethered to Smith’s traditional electronics. The set linked modern music with the past and a definite strain of New Orleans tradition. His willingness to think outside of traditional EDM separates his music from many of the other producers who performed throughout the two days of Decadence.
Shouting Colorado repeatedly throughout the three-hour set, Smith showed his hometown pride and displayed the state’s flag at the end of the show.
“Keep it beautiful,” Smith said.
Colleen Smith is a longtime contributor to The Denver Post and the author of the acclaimed novel “Glass Halo” and “Laid-Back Skier” by Friday Jones Publishing.
Vy Pham is a Denver photographer and a new contributor to Reverb.