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Pretty Lights

Arts & Culture | October 10, 2011

Wordplay was not lost on the masses at Bank of America Pavilion.

“Those were some pretty lights,” the glow stick-riddled college student said to his friend, who was decked in newly acquired neon from Goodwill.

However coy the turn of phrase, the light show accompanying DJ/producer/electronic musician Pretty Lights was, in a word, beautiful. Vivid animations displayed on building-like structures prompted some concert-goers to invoke the classic chicken or egg paradox.

“Do you think the light show is really good because his name is Pretty Lights, or is his name Pretty Lights because of the awesome light show?” one eager attendee inquired.

The actual etymology of the name Pretty Lights comes from an old Pink Floyd poster imploring fans to “come and watch the pretty lights.” Thus the name is a tribute, which tonight also included a bass-laden remix of the English group’s 1973 song “Time.”

The undeniable highlight of the evening, as determined by a random sample of seven Tufts students, was the opening song of the hour-and-a-half show. With the stage swathed in darkness, the first few notes of “I Know the Truth” rang out to raucous applause and cheers.

We were teased through what felt like 10 recurrences of the opening cadence, waiting anxiously for that first wave of delicious bass as the backdrop slowly grew brighter. The minute or so of maddening build up was finally resolved with the proverbial “drop,” a music snob term for when a dubstep-esque song stops blue-balling the listener. Thousands of glow-sticks were simultaneously launched into the air.

The main drawback to the show had little to do with the music, which was sublime from start to finish; it had everything to do with the venue.  Simply put, the Bank of America Pavilion is no place for a show like this one. Most fans of electronic music will agree that one of the best parts about these shows is being swallowed up by a sea of sweaty strangers, and inevitably finding yourself pressed up on some 30-year-old dude with a neck tattoo who smells like a mixture of bacon and dirty laundry. But the Pavilion offered no such experience, as the venue was defined by rows and rows of seats, none of which seemed particularly moved by the music.  So we were forced to stand in neat, preconceived patterns designed more for the afternoon octogenarian opera crowd than the ridiculously-dressed substance-abusing group of 20-somethings at this show.  I soon felt myself itching for that familiar crushing sensation and occasional bout of severe claustrophobia, rather than the awkwardly vacant three feet of space in front of me.

But the show went on despite the strange music venue configuration, and Derek Vincent Smith, the man behind the epithet, dropped beats like a greased-up Dwight from The Office.  Remix after wobbly remix engulfed the damp mess of an audience until Mr. Lights finally exited for the encore.  It was not until his return that we were blessed with the classic jazzy tune “Finally Moving,” which samples some silky vocals from Etta James. But the wait was well worth it and was a fitting closing act to nearly two hours of filthy music and that one indefinable dance move that remains the only way to dance to something at 70 bpm (you know exactly what I’m talking about).

The moment we were released back into the real world that is downtown Boston, our collective appearance became shockingly conspicuous. Scholars of social behavior would have had a field day studying the movement patterns of groups of neon-clad college kids speaking at decibel levels that could only be the result of the ringing in all of their ears.