Pretty Lights, The Mezzanine, San Francisco, CA – 4/15
Photos by Kelsey Winterkorn
Pretty Lights, the Electronica-Jam duo consisting of producer/DJ Derek Vincent Smith and live drummer Cory Eberhard are on fire. They have recently amassed for themselves an exploding reputation as one of the greatest live acts to see in within the realm of the electronic scene. Performing at San Francisco’s truly tight and and claustrophobic nightclub The Mezzanine, it sounded like a treat, but the music did not live up to the hype.
The Mezzanine is supposed to hold 980 people, and I’m sure that number was met if not exceeded. As the stage opened up, Eberhard’s drum kit was revealed and Smith’s hardware was positioned directly in front of a span of led lights. The room started to fill with thick smoke….anticipation built, and built until to the sound of deafening cheers the two came out on stage. After Smith did some brief talking, he dropped a beat on his turntable, and Eberhard found his place within the jam.
From the beginning to the end it was largely a monotonous set as Smith produced mixes that were more funk-heavy or flavored with hip-hop. The crowd, however, was wild and at times almost out of control. Dancing and swirling about, screaming and snapping hundreds of pictures, trying to catch Smith with his tell-tale large glasses and ball cap turned to the side. Around midnight the beats got a little more creative as he dropped into a very slow and spaced out sounding rendition of the Allman Brothers Band, “Midnight Rider.” It was a great choice and the least predictable of all Pretty Lights’ efforts. After this, Smith segued into another sample-heavy electronic mix, teasing dub-step but not quite getting there. The light show wasn’t horrible, it just wasn’t fantastic, although in such a small venue the limits were most likely due to lack of space and not artistic creativity. Eberhard was hard to hear the entire night, while his use of the crash symbols and high-hat was where his contributions were felt the most.
These two musicians are on the rise, they are energetic, and yes they have talent. The chemistry between Smith and Eberhard is hard to define, they are dialed into each other but share very different positions on stage. Their performance at Coachella, just days after this show received great reviews. So it might come down to catching them on the wrong night or perhaps just a matter of taste. I can say that they are well marketed and well publicized, and if you want to go out to a show and listen to fairly repetitive dance beats that are funky or jazzy then Pretty Lights is for you. If you prefer more unpredictable and moving beats that have multiple changes and unforeseen explosiveness, then maybe not. For me on this night the latter would be true.