Recap: Pretty Lights at the Washington Avenue Armory

Pretty Lights headlined at the Washington Avenue Armory on Saturday night. I spent $26 on a ticket (plus an additional $5 in fees) and went with a group of friends. None of us were particularly familiar with Pretty Lights, or even the genre, and we didn’t quite know to expect.

To do my homework, I listened to as much Pretty Lights as I could the night before to try and familiarize myself with his work. Pretty Lights consists of DJ Derek Vincent Smith, who has been in the electronic music scene since 2006. On Saturday, drummer Adam Deitch accompanied him. Nothing I found online, however, could prepare me for the actual experience.


Photo: Keith Foote of jamforums.com

Due to the difficulties of wrangling cab rides for a large group of people (did anyone actually drive to the event?); I arrived late and missed opening acts Michal Menert and Chali 2na. However, the crowd seemed to love them. I arrived as the second act was finishing and there was already a swarming pit of dance and emotion. The collective state of mind could be described as altered, to say the least. Many fans rolled into the Armory ready to be taken over by the music. That is, those that didn’t have to wade through the immense blob of people waiting at the will-call line.

A thick haze of smoke hovered lazily over the mob of fans and helped enhance the dreamlike quality of the lightshow that was melting faces left and right. Lasers shot everywhere, illuminating the entire room. Behind Smith, a large LCD screen constantly assaulted viewers with continuously morphing images of abstract designs and colors. Strobe lights flashed in machine-gun bursts of radiance. In the pit itself, glow sticks and other flashing accessories cut through the darkness and helped to integrate fans into the spectacle. Clusters of people banded together, passed around water bottles, and let themselves be carried away.

Smith himself maintained a relatively low-key presence. He didn’t speak much, except to occasionally urge the crowd to cheer.  Despite the heat from the lights, he kept his hood on throughout the performance. His calm demeanor on stage stood in stark contrast to the zoo below.

The music could be described as a soulful and intense dance party. A constant thumping beat progressed throughout the performance, highlighted by Adam Deitch’s live percussion. The inclusion of a real drummer, rather than a recorded beat, gave the show a fluidity and naturalness that lent itself well to the expressive nature of the visuals. It was like being consumed by a living, breathing, glowing organism. The collective bodies of the listeners in the crowd swayed and grooved in time with the fat and even funky sounds produced by Smith.

The event transpired relatively hassle free. As far as I was aware, there were no serious fights or any other forms of static. I did see a dazed and frightened young hippie hurry out of the arena with a comatose girl slumped over his shoulder. I hope she’s okay.

At the end of the set, the crowed erupted in a loving rush of gratitude. Smith returned for his encore, apparently impressed by the applause. “Damn, Albany,” he drawled, cigarette in hand. That seemed to be enough for him, however, and he finished off the night with an “Empire State of Mind” and “Juicy” mash up that was definitely a crowd pleaser.

After the show, the crowd poured out onto the street and commenced a fierce battle over the cabs that began swarming the venue. Fans dispersed in small groups, their ears still ringing from the deafening display of phatness they had just ingested.

Article written by Charlie Vella for Keep Albany Boring.

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