It feels strange to write a “review” of my weekend seeing Pretty Lights at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, as if it were just another show that I went to in New York and it wasn’t that big of a deal.
It was that big of a deal.
This past weekend in Denver was more than just a show (or two) – it was a pilgrimage. I had planned on trekking to Colorado for this show for over a year, and much like any major festival like Forest or Bisco, it wasn’t just a concert – it was an experience. And now that I’m home, I am immensely jealous of anyone who lives close enough to the Red Rocks to be able to see shows there on a regular basis.
So you hang out with your people and have your pre-show beers and marvel at the majesty of it all. And then it’s time to go inside.
If you were lucky enough to park your car in the northernmost parking lot, congratulations! You now have a nice easy walk into the amphitheater. If you parked further south, however, the workout begins. You walk up a pretty brutal hill. And then you walk up a lot of stairs. And then you walk up some more stairs. You probably have to catch your breath at some point. Red Rocks is not for the weak.
It’s totally worth it though, because then you make it to wherever your seat is and there’s this:
If you go up high enough, you can see the city behind the stage, which was particularly amazing on night 2 because there was a storm in Denver that illuminated the far away sky with pink lightning.
I know my generation tends to overuse this word, but the Red Rocks is truly an epic venue. It’s worth flying out to Colorado for and I can’t imagine ever seeing a show there and having it not feel special.
That’s all fine and well, but I haven’t even mentioned the real reason why I was in Colorado. Of course I wanted to see a Red Rocks show, but I specifically wanted to see Pretty Lights there. And let me tell you – I’m having a hard time trying to think of what to say here. I’m so overwhelmed by the experience that I’m almost – but not quite – speechless, and I don’t know if this post will even truly do it justice.
To be brutally honest, I had my doubts. As I mentioned in my Electric Adventure recap, I liked, but did not love, Derek’s set in Atlantic City. I had fun, but I was a little worried that I had signed up for 6 hours of PL just one week after EA and I wondered if I really needed that much Pretty Lights such a short time later.
But I was a fool. I did need that much PL. I needed more, in fact. If there was a 3rd night of his Red Rocks shows, I would have been there.
It’s pretty widely known that Derek is going through some rough patches in his life right now, and as much as this is heartbreaking for his fans, his live shows have become so much more emotional and moving as a result. He isn’t someone who speaks a ton when he performs, but the words he does choose are so intense that you really get a glimpse into his struggles. He uses his music to tell a story, and while it’s easy to just get caught up in the beat and dance and have fun, if you pay attention to the mood of his shows you’ll go on his emotional journey right along with him. I’m really torn about how I feel after seeing these 2 Red Rocks shows, because I loved this newer, more cerebral element to his performances, but I know that it comes from a place of so much pain and my heart just kind of goes out to him. Even though great art tends to come from personal suffering, I think many of his fans would agree that we really hope his life turns around.
Probably the most moving moment for me was during the 2nd night when he started freestyling during this “Lost and Found” remix, and even though he came from a rap background, I had never heard him rap before and I think this blew the minds of basically everyone there.
Are you happy?
I’m fuckin happy
Nah, I’m just pretendin
But I’m tryin
Half the time I’m lyin
But I promise I’m a good person
But I’m not fuckin certain
I just want to cry watching this video. Those lyrics are so simple yet so loaded and I really felt honored just being there to witness this.
Another major highlight was getting to hear my favorite song, “I Know the Truth.”
I’m glad someone else recorded it because there was no way I was going to do anything during that song except focus 100% of my attention on it. I get chills whenever I hear the deep voice go, “NO MERCY!” (54 second mark) right before the drop. I hadn’t heard PL play the original version of this song since Voodoo in November because he didn’t play it at EA and he played a remix at Camp Bisco, so this made me insanely happy.
Visually, Pretty Lights lived up to his name and provided us with the expanded lighting setup we never knew we needed. I certainly never thought to myself, “This PL show would be way better if he performed on an LED platform,” but there he was performing on an LED platform and it was crazy. You can kind of, sort of see it in this crappy photo I took:
But that’s sort of the wonder of PL live. Your subpar photos still look awesome, his occasional mess-ups don’t negatively impact your experience (at least not mine), and it’s sort of impossible to not enjoy yourself. Derek is a genius in that way.
Overall, I’m pretty elated with the 2 shows, the venue, and the awesome people I met or met up with. This was truly a memorable experience and I can’t wait for PL Red Rocks 2016!