Scenes from Pretty Lights at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium

Photos by Shaun Hollingsworth.

Pretty Lights (the stage name of DJ and producer Derek Vincent Smith) performed at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium earlier this week. It’s Smith’s first time back in Asheville since playing last year’s Moogfest — you can check out a pre-Moogfest podcast with Smith here.

The Tuesday, Sept. 20 show had a festive air, helped a long by a large number of glow sticks (and glow hats, glow-gloves, glow body paint, glow hair accessories, etc.) and an enthusiastic crowd. While for many shows it’s hard to get people onto the dance floor, especially early on, The small audience that arrived early for opener Big Gigantic (above; just in Asheville this summer for Bele Chere) had already filled the floor right in front of the stage, leaving everyone else to figure out how to dance in between the rows of auditorium seats.

Big Gigantic is just two guys but they create a huge sound with laptops, a drum kit and a saxophone. They played a full hour (at the end of which shirts — the crowd’s — were coming off) ending with their hit, “I Need A Dollar.”

Big Gigantic brought an interesting set made of stacked light cubes, but that had nothing on Pretty Lights’ set-up. Of course, Smith’s new set design has been talked about across music blogs since he revealed it this summer. The LED lighting technology involves a number of erector set-style towers that, when lit up with projections, mimic a city skyline. Smith himself worked from the center of the stage, his booth incorporated into stacked cubes that became part of the light show.

The new Pretty Lights material shows the producer at the top of his game. His performance is a non-stop dance party (the glow-stick-festooned crowd can attest), but it’s hard to talk about his music without talking about the set. The two are intricately linked. As a writer for PlayJones put it, “Maybe it’s just a placebo effect instigated by the name, but during a Pretty Lights show I always feel like a bug to a flame (‘can’t-stop-looking-at-the-pretty-lights’). Kids, make sure to bring those fractal glasses, you won’t be sorry.”

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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