As if a Pretty Lights production at Red Rocks weren’t already an embarrassment of riches. From the giddy, inebriated throngs armed with every manner of glowing toys and clothing, to the city of visualizers, laser and smoke machines erected around Derek Vincent Smith’s DJ platform, the prolific Colorado EDM producer aimed to outdo himself on Saturday by layering live symphony players into his Pretty Lights soundscape.
The result on Saturday for the capacity crowd that trekked up to Morrison for the second in Smith’s two-night run, was exactly the kind of visual and aural spectacle that sets Pretty Lights apart in the live music milieu.
“This is a beautiful place, and this has been a beautiful weekend,” Smith announced during the second of three sets. The first segment of the show featured Smith alone on stage flanked only by the infrastructure that supports the eye-candy visuals that characterize a Pretty Lights show.
As he launched into his second set, Smith, who contributes to the instrumentation in addition to sample mixing, was slowly joined by his band members.
But the best part of this show also happened to be briefest: The third set, in which members of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, wearing the same formalwear they would don at Boettcher Concert Hall, enhanced the scene and the sound from an elevated platform behind all of the other Pretty Lights theatrics. This combination of elements — full moon, clear skis, lighting acrobatics, soul band, symphony players and Smith unfurling remixes of Pretty Lights tracks old and new — made this a milestone show. It was an all-or-nothing approach to electronica, and likely the reason that the sold-out crowd dominated by bug-eyed club kids having way too much fun, also included a tamer, more sober (and often gray-haired) element.
In the end, Smith probably left those casual onlookers behind as accompanying players faded away from the production, leaving the lanky, long-armed DJ alone on stage again to helm a mind-bending, psychedelic climax like the musical mad scientist that he is.
Elana Ashanti Jefferson is a Denver writer, former Denver Post staff reporter and longtime music fan.
Glenn Ross is a Denver-based photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work here.