Monday, October 26, 2009

Pretty Lights 10.23.09 - The Park West - Chicago, IL

Thanks to Rich Kujawa and Tim Hara for this great piece of cultural journalism on an emerging music scene; Hipsters x Addicts= Hipstatics!

Pretty Lights @ Park West, Chicago, IL 10.23.2009

Tim Hara Photography - Pretty Lights 10.22.09 & 10.23.2009

I rolled into the Pretty Lights show Friday night with more on mind than just having a good time. I had to figure out what all of the fuss was over this DJ & Drummer duo. I am still a little bitter over the fact that I missed their set at Camp Bisco 8 this summer. It was cold and rainy, and I (just like many others) fell asleep in my warm, dry tent. For the better part of the next day you couldn’t go far without being asked what you thought of the Pretty Lights set. Fans were freaking out over them almost as much as they were over the Biscuits. Although I was happy to hear about some new, fresh live music on the scene, I was pissed that I missed it!

I got a pretty good indicator of what was to come when I stepped up to the front of the Park West Theater in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. Kids were walking around 2 & 3 blocks from the venue looking for tickets. It was sold out tight. The PW is a pretty small venue, but it is definitely the plushest spot to see a show in the city. It is nothing like the dingier venues…The Vic, The Riv, The Congress, and the list goes on and on. To get to the main floor of the intimate 750 person capacity theater, you have to step down 2 levels of 2 – 4 person reserved booths. There is a good size lane where partiers can get down in between booths, and they come complete with a team of servers eager to bring you the next $6 bottled beer of your choice. The disco ball that hangs below the creative globe in the ceiling and the screens around the upper level both catch lights to make the already sweet venue glow with goodness.

Following openers, Dark Party, synth dude extraordinaire, Derek Vincent Smith hit the stage with his drummer Cory Eberhard at around 10:30. The LCD screen behind the stage lit up with the Pretty Lights logo and the fans shouted out a warm welcome. There was a very festive attitude parading about the crowd. A lot of people were dressed in their raver’s best neons, glow sticks were prevalent and bugged out eyes above jacking jaws were everywhere. The crowd was a bit more mature than I expected with the median age being somewhere in the early to mid 20’s. On the contrary, I did hear a group of girls in front of the venue speaking with disgust about a group of scantily clad young hotties. “There is no way she’s 18,” one girl said to the other. I stepped in the conversation and laid out the facts and said, “but you know her ID says she’s 22.” They laughed.

Smith has amazing stage presence and makes controlling the crowd look as easy as LeBron makes a slam dunk look. Rocking back and forth to the beat in front of multiple laptops and musical tools that I don’t understand, he rocks the house with various bass heavy jams that have a progressive Hip-Hop presence. Some of their tunes are instrumentals, some have jazzy soul lyrics, some have rhymes and some have female vocals. I’m pretty sure that Smith even busted a beat (you know, BeatBox?) a few times during the night. They hit various styles of funky dance beats, always making the entire crowd wiggle like worms.

Early on during the show a recurring theme kept hitting my brain. I couldn’t stop thinking about the old break dancing pop movies of the 80’s called, Breakin’. I loved those movies and noticed the break dancing capabilities that Smith brings forward with his beats. They have that snappy beat with driving bass and a bunch of complimentary humns and electronic taps. Yet Smiths take has built greatly upon the electronic aspect of the originals. He knows just how to morph a beat and drop it down before bringing it back into his fans faces. I watched the packed crowd all night, scanning for the best dancer. Despite the very danceable beats, the closest thing that I saw to break dancing the entire night was when a chic tripped over a step in front of the bar. She sort of spun around and I was hoping that she would break into a windmill. It didn’t happen. She got up and exclaimed, “I’m OK.”

The scene that PL sets with their stage set up is completely satisfying in itself. They have an array of pastel colored lights that scan the crowd in different constellations. But the real treat is the huge LCD screen behind the stage. It lights up with various themes that almost seem to control the beat. They had blue skies with white, puffy clouds, fires blazing and an array of flashing colors and psychedelic designs. The screen makes any seat a good one because you can always at least see the profile of the artists in all their creative glory. When you put that background behind tunes like crowd favorite “Finally Moving,” there is almost no where else that I would rather be.

Someone also threw out a slew of glow sticks on the main floor. Glow stick wars rage, but apparently no one told that to the PL fans (or maybe there weren’t enough Phish kids in the crowd this night). Everyone bumped heads while bending over to get a stick, but not one was thrown in the air. It was a great idea and would have added to an already sick scene.

My prayers were answered. Not only did I have a great time, but a hyped up group in the live music scene met the expectations that others have set forth for me. That doesn’t always happen. I saw the self-promoting Smith, hoodie hood up, don a hat that hosted a glow-in-the-dark “PL” Pretty Lights logo with a white towel swinging from side to side around his neck. I loved it. Despite the packed venue, the fans created a welcoming scene, kept it friendly and danced their asses off. Selling out any venue in the Chi shows that you have made it; Pretty Lights has to be stoked right now. It looks like the next time they come to town it will have to be for 2 nights. .

Check out their website for a bunch of free music:
They’re still on tour too. If you missed them in the Chi, check them out at one of these spots:

Oct 27 2009 9:00P
Headliners Music Hall
Louisville, Kentucky

Oct 28 2009 9:00P
Exit In
Nashville, Tennessee

Oct 29 2009 8:00P
The Valarium
Knoxville, Tennessee

Oct 30 2009 9:00P
The Orange Peel
Asheville, North Carolina

Oct 31 2009 9:00P
Halloween Party @ The Music Farm (SOLD OUT)
Charleston, South Carolina

Nov 3 2009 9:00P
Ybor City, Florida

Nov 4 2009 9:00P
Miami, Florida

Nov 5 2009 9:00P
The Engine Room
Tallahassee, Florida

Nov 7 2009 9:00P
The House of Blues
New Orleans, Louisiana

Nov 10 2009 9:00P
Granada Theater
Dallas, Texas

Nov 11 2009 9:00P
La Zona Rosa
Austin, Texas

Nov 12 2009 9:00P
Georges Majestic Lounge
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Nov 13 2009 9:00P
Memphis, Tennessee

Nov 14 2009 9:00P
The Masquerade
Atlanta, Georgia

Nov 17 2009 9:00P
Cat’s Cradle
Carrboro, North Carolina

Nov 18 2009 9:30P
9:30 Club
Washington DC, Washington DC

Nov 19 2009 9:00P
Fillmore NY
New York City, New York

Nov 20 2009 9:00P
The Note
West Chester, Pennsylvania

Nov 21 2009 9:00P
The Paradise Rock Club
Boston, Massachusetts

Jan 3 2010 11:00P
Jam Cruise 8
Carribean Ocean, Florida


RR said...

I want whoever does marketing for this band!

mellon said...

pretty lights is good new music, you should get it out

Anonymous said...

hes coming back for nye now too

all because someone started a facebook group about it and got 2500 members in like 2 days

this time its a the vic tho.