Live Review: Pretty Lights @ Gorge Amphitheatre – August 4th-5th 2017

Electronic music and I have developed a distinctly meaningful relationship throughout the span of my adult life. Upon reflecting on this relationship, it is clear that Pretty Lights was the first stop in my journey through the expansive genres of dance music. I Know the Truth was the first dance song I bought on iTunes, Pretty Lights opening the Skrillex Full Flex express was one of my first dance concerts and Pretty Lights at VELD 2013 was my introduction to music journalism. With this in mind, being able to join the Pretty Lights Family at the 6th stop of his Episodic tour at the Gorge Amphitheatre was, not only sentimental, but downright emotional.

What came as a surprise to me is that the Gorge campgrounds were crawling with people just like me: tie-dye adorned, fun loving, Pretty Lights die hards. These people were primarily there to embrace the unbelievable sounds of STS9, Tipper, Atmosphere, and Lettuce, but also to join together and be with thousands of other family members in watching their godfather take over the Gorge. Amazingly, the fact that smoke had drenched all of the PNW only fuelled these fans more.

Indeed the smoke was not all bad, watching Tipper drip his strange music over the heads of these hippies while playing atop a stage that appeared to be floating at the edge of the earth was something special. He opened with the beautifully downtempo Virga and managed to up the pace until reaching the heavier side of his discography. Twilight at the gorge was clearly impeded by the smoke, but Tipper’s post-apocalyptic sound couldn’t have suited the mood any better.

Perhaps the “end of world” vibe was just what the crowd needed because by the time night had fallen they were all ready to hop in their spaceships for the otherworldly spectacle that is STS9. Their set was filled with what sounded to be UFO’s blasting off and constant string of psychedelic, electronic infused jammage. It was impossible to ignore the influence this band has had on Pretty Lights’ music: they had a touch less bass and a touch more jam than PL. They were the perfect way to set the mood for the man of the night.

Even with the tasty jams that streamed out from STS9 I was not adequately prepared for the full Pretty Lights experience. The band walked on stage and Dereck (A.K.A. Pretty lights) met fans with a shining crystal held to the sky. This first night very quickly and clearly became a platform for the band to establish themselves as a full fledged jam band, mirroring the vibes of the openers and introducing their own unique Pretty Lights flavour to the mix. Notably, the lighting and laser show was nothing short breathtaking. A full cage of lasers shot across the stage throughout the set only to be breached by a dazzling display of polychromatic stage lights. For those of us that know the pretty lights DJ sets, this live performance was something completely fresh: more mellow than when just Dereck is on the decks but not without a sufficient dose of the typical PL face melting bass. The lights shined on and the jams were relentless throughout the set with each band member making clear contributions to the sound without interrupting the flow or stealing the thunder of other member’s instrumentation. After two and a half hours of incredible music the crowd appeared to be seethed, if only until day 2.

Fortunately the forest fire smoke that had almost completely obstructed the view of the Gorge on day 1 had cleared up a bit by day two. Although most attendees spent the day hiding in the shade to avoid heat stroke, it had cooled down to a reasonable temperature by the time Lettuce took the stage. The band was a good choice for the day 2 lineup as it appeared that almost everyone needed some time to chill out before night hit, and Lettuce had no problem providing funky tunes for fans to augment their relaxation. Their set was vastly different from the previous jam bands on the lineup: far more in line with traditional styles of jamming (i.e. drawn out instrumentation) with a notable funk flavour. By the time they wrapped up their final jam the pit was packed and ready for rap legend Atmosphere.

Atmosphere was somewhat of a stand alone in a lineup primarily filled with jam bands and electronic music, but there was no doubt that he was the most highly anticipated opener for much of the pretty lights family. Within minutes the entire crowd was waving their hands at his command and most of those same hands went up again when midway through his set he asked for everyone who had masturbated early that day to raise their hand. Crude jokes aside, Atmosphere performed all his classics with the utmost class, even choosing to take a seat whilst performing his emotionally fuelled track Guarantees.

With the sun down and the stars peaking through the smoke it was finally time for the second half of Pretty Lights’ show. After years apart Pretty Lights had reformed back from the solo project of Derek Vincent Smith into the full original duo of both Michal Menert and Derek. Michal was 50% of the Pretty Lights project upon the release of their debut album Taking Up Your Precious Time but had to leave the group almost a decade ago due to unfortunate circumstances. The duo played selections from their album including the title track of the album and the highly acclaimed song Finally Moving. Before Michal left the stage Derek was sure to let the crowd know that Michal was his best friend in the world, and that this is the first time the two had an opportunity to share a moment like this. The love shared between Michal, Derek and the thousands of family members in front of them was palpable.

Shortly after, the full band took to their respective instruments and went in deep. The group took a different angle than the night before by throwing down hit after hit. Night 2 wasn’t about drawn out jams, but rather a reflection of the music produced by Pretty Lights over the past ten years. Incredibly, Lasers shot out from behind the stage to the gorge like bridges of light during his Radiohead vs. Nirvana vs NIN remix. No one wanted it to end, but no one could say they weren’t satisfied with nearly 5 full hours of Pretty Lights either.

Reflecting back on the entirety of this show the most amazing part for many people, both in the crowd and on stage, was that each act has collaborated, been influenced by or influenced the Pretty Lights movement in some way. Derek noted that Atmosphere has always been an influence of his and STS9 were one of the first acts to put the Pretty Lights name on one of their bills. This element of artist interaction added a distinguishable element of cohesiveness to the event, and emphasized the fact that this event was truly a culmination of what Pretty Lights is.

The lights were pretty, the jams were delicious and the fans were in love proving that no one puts on a show quite like Pretty Lights.

  1. OK. Some friends and I arrived the day before the first of 2 shows by Dead & Company. We had Big Rig Gold camping tickets.
    First off they searched every vehicle for guns (I get it) but the dogs would alert if there were any, right? So why do they have some 20 something enter my RV afterward and search it while I’m being FRISKED! Here again wouldn’t the dogs work for this.
    Second it wasn’t an organized ordeal getting in at all. You have all these big motorhomes and travel trailers you know are coming so they water the grass? Yes alot of people got stuck in mud and had to be towed out. There was a paved road (for the staff) right next to where we had to enter. I guess they count and we didn’t. Personally I think whoever was in charge of Big Rig Camping entrance should be fired. I sounds harsh but it was a complete cluster F%#k!
    Ok then we get in and it’s a beautiful campground with a staff that didnt seem to have the slightest clue of where peoples awnings would be in relation to the sun in 90+ degree weather or how to park vehicles accordingly. I had to argue with the kid to park so we wouldn’t fry in the sun for 3 days. He kept telling me “So you can get out easy”. I finally told him “I know how to drive” and after 5 or 10 minutes he FINALLY gave up and I parked correctly for the weather.
    So finally all is well (I thought) LOL.
    5 in our party with 3 vehicles and three disabled ADA customers.
    Day 2 time to go in. The regular ADA gate as shown on their website map is closed off and we have to cross several lines of people (At least the other customers were helpful-to the extreme) to get to the ADA entrance into the venue. Finally got there and all went well.
    Day 3 the same thing crossing through all the other people in line to get to our entrance(ADA gate on map still not open) Then someone obviously decided all the disabled people had to be searched AGAIN after the front gate fiasco. I felt like I was being punished for being disabled. The search relulted in all the cripples baking in the sun with no shade and warm water to drink (That is if you brought your own). All in all another Cluster F%#k.
    LiveNation obviously doesn’t care about their customers since they practically have a monopoly on large venues.
    Tickets were grossly oversold. I went in 2019 and there was no problem finding a place to sit on the grassy hill to watch the show then. This time it was standing room only and still hundreds and hundreds of people kept coming in until it was so crowded it got very uncomfortable with no real air circulation due to it being so crowded and 90+ degrees. Before LiveNation they used to have misting stations for people that overheated. So crowded my wife fainted (I’ve been with her 22 years and have NEVER seen her faint or wilt in the heat in the slightest. She’s always lived in central Washington and is used to the heat.
    Thank God there was a nurse behind us that took charge and helped her.
    Kudos to the medical staff that did get there once a customer dialed for help. 911 I think. Once they arrived they acted in a very efficient and kind manner and checked ALL her vitals right down to blood sugar levels at the medical tent. They gave her 2 IV’s of saline and the Doctor made sure she was OK before releasing her. They then gave us a ride back to our campsite. The medical staff was amazing!
    The rest of the personel NAH.
    LiveNation ruined yet another venue. I will NEVER EVER go to another LiveNation venue, I’m done!
    For the prices they charge, what you get in return is pathetic.

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