Written By: Chris Young
“Sunday School” started right on time and I wasn’t late. But as the beat dropped and the drum kicked, this sabbath day gathering was not about praising a ritual deity but rather about reviving musical lore.
The instantly recognizable drone from Biggie coupled with the raging, harsh lyrics “Fuck Him, I didn’t wanna go to Heaven anyways” let everyone know what kind of church we were in.
This Sunday’s best included short skirts, sparkly face paint, and fanny packs congregated in the nave of the Crystal Ballroom under impish frescoes and colonnades topped by cackling jokers all to exalt the Pretty Lights.
Derek Vincent Smith of Pretty Lights beamed life back into old vinyl cuts but not just by spinning and sampling. Hunched over the glowing lights on his Monome 128, he organically mixed and meshed delicate sounds with deft accuracy.
Complemented by live drummer Cory Eberhard, the pair resurrected hammered beats while forging new material and playing with osmotic precision as Smith manipulated the electronics and Eberhard the sticks. The duo simultaneously, continuously changed tempos and transformed rhythms fueled by the bouncing crowd.
Backed by a multimedia show teeming with acidic oscilloscope visualizations, blinding strobes, and yes, a rainbow of pretty lights. He took the audience for a zooming joy ride strapped to the fender of the big red PL bus cruising through the city lights of Chicago, NYC or maybe even Denver—showing us the companioning cityscapes to his immense soundscapes.
The west coast was not neglected as the kids grinded to snippets of “Shake, shake it baby” from “California Love” buzzing to afros and disco hustle above.
Stating there’d be no encore, Pretty Lights continued to smash through cut after cut of tantalizing dance anthems with the crowd sweating along and the Crystal’s windows clouded by a moist haze like after a steamy shower.
Absorbed in the keypad before him, a Rubik’s Cube of color and rectangles blipped behind the band, and a classic Jordan finessed his way along the baseline and onto the screen for a flash on “More Important Than Michael Jordan.”
At the close, Smith humbly thanked Portland for coming out and asked the people to buy a t-shirt or hat to support the free music.
Check out all of Pretty Light’s tracks for free on his website.