Derrick Vincent Smith, better known by his stage name, ‘Pretty Lights’, brought his live-band show to the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, NJ on Friday, November 1st (presented by Live Nation, Soundgarden Hall events, Steez Promo, and House of Hearts).
The show also featured an impressive support line-up of Krewella, Seven Lions, HeRobust, and Candyland. Coupled with the fact that Halloween was the night before, we knew fans would be decked out in costumes and ready to party during the six hour, sold-out show.
Candyland kicked off the show on the early end. Unable to make it in time for their set, we had to rely on fan reviews. Those we talked to said that they dropped a lot of unreleased music (sorry we missed it) and their mixing was on point. They evidently included a vocal sample of Wendy Williams denouncing the rave scene which we heard was a highlight from several attendees.
HeRoBust was up next. We loved his set when we last saw him at Soundgarden Hall and he was impressive again on Friday night. Aside from Pretty Lights, this was the next best set of the night in our opinion. His hip-hop infused style has definitely earned him respect amongst fans, media, and his peers but we still feel that he goes somewhat unnoticed compared to far less talented DJs.
Fusing trance and bass music together into a sound that we’ll call ‘Trubstep’, Seven Lions is another producer that has earned our admiration. His sets have proven to be highly emotive, taking fans on a journey from deep, soulful lows, to pulse driven, lose your mind highs. We personally enjoyed his multi-genre set but it seemed like others didn’t know how to react to the constant switching from one style to the next. While we’ve heard his mixing be a little tighter in the past, we enjoyed his track selection on Friday.
Krewella has come a long way in a very short period of time. In the past, we enjoyed their performances because their sound was fresh, they have a ton of energy on stage, and were some of the most gracious artists we’ve interviewed (on and off camera). However, on Friday night we were highly disappointed with their set. Unfortunately it seems that their rapid commercialization has led them to be more and more gimmicky than when they first broke onto the scene. If Friday night was any indication, they might soon be chucking cakes at fans and wearing giant banana suits.
Yasmine and Jahan were out front for most of the show singing but their vocals weren’t popping like they were the last few times we saw them. Instead of a DJ set with some live vocals, it was more like a group playing a concert. They played almost full versions of many of their songs and the transition from one to another didn’t flow. They also dropped several hard-style tracks (which we would normally enjoy) but it just wasn’t working.
The crowd reaction, for the most part, was very similar to ours. Many people ventured outside during their set (admittedly we left for several songs in the middle to get some air) complaining about how awful they thought it was. Those who remained inside had mixed feelings on Krewella’s performance. From the hordes of ‘bros’ that were going (almost too) hard to those seated in the back just looking puzzled, the vibe just wasn’t right for a Pretty Lights show. Krewella and Pretty Lights also attract very different crowds of people that didn’t seem to mesh well together. We were actually shocked to see some people leaving the venue after Krewella. They’d obviously just come to see the Chicago based trio and weren’t interested in sticking around for the headliner. Music is subjective though; to each, their own.
Hopefully the next time we see Krewella things will be different. We honestly would have preferred to see another artist off of the Pretty Lights Music label as part of this show instead. Big Gigantic would have been stellar in the set up role. The night would ultimately come down to Pretty Lights and his live-band performance.
We’ve loved every Pretty Lights set we’ve seen in the past. From his shows at the Electric Factory and Tower Theater, to Popped Festival, to Ultra, he has yet to disappoint us. This was our first time seeing him with the band so we weren’t fully sure what to expect. We checked our expectations at the door and decided to let the performance speak for itself.
Pretty Lights is one of our favorite producers. We respect the fact that he doesn’t rest on his laurels and is always striving to push the envelope and try something new. That’s exactly what the live band show epitomized: something fresh. We’ll start by saying that all of the live musicians were fantastic. From the spot-on drumming of Adam Deitch to the funky horn and trombone duels, the vibe was unreal. Pretty Lights even got in on the live instrument action himself at points, stepping away from his electronic set-up to pick up a bass guitar.
The crowd absolutely loved his set (we’re sure there might be exceptions but we’re willing to round up to 100% anyway). The light show, as per usual, was an aesthetic wonder.
One of the only negatives we took away from his set were the fact that he appeared to be whacked out of his mind during his set (it didn’t affect his performance but it was kind of uncomfortable to watch from the photo pit through a 70-200 mm lens). Perhaps he was stone-cold sober and was we misread all of his facial cues; anything is possible. He also kept speaking into a microphone that wasn’t audible to the crowd. Did he realize people couldn’t hear what he was saying? It didn’t look like it. Again, we can only speculate about what was going on.
The two hour set was definitely the highlight of the night. It wasn’t what we’ve come to expect from a Pretty Lights DJ set, but that’s what made it special: it was something else, something new. For those who were expecting it to be the same as his DJ sets, well, that’s the danger of expectations. It was funky, upbeat, and uplifting. Further proof that acts can blend electronica and a live-band (a la The Bloody Beatroots) to form something truly inspiring and unique.
You can view some additional photos in the gallery below (click thumbnails to enlarge) and check back soon for additional photos being added: