Basslights 2.0, Day One
With Pretty Lights, Bassnectar, Panty Raid, and SuperVision
Kliptsch Ampitheater at Bayfront Park
Friday, October 18, 2013
Better Than: Pretty Lights without full live percussion, a horn section, and keys, duh.
Walking south on Biscayne Boulevard toward thumping bass and flashing lights at Bayfront Park was giving us serious flashbacks.
"It's like a mini-Ultra," my roommate quipped as we made our way. She was sick and I was exhausted from a week of straight partying, but Basslights soothed our aches.
Sure, we could have taken a bunch of drugs and lost our marbles to the hard drops and wonky basslines, but it was also a perfect night for burning down a blunt and just groovin'.
We chose the latter (weed and relaxation), but we were in the minority.
We knew it was going to be a helluva party when we got a text from our buddy at 9 p.m. about how he'd "just took some liquid [acid] from a stranger, here we goooooo!"
Unfortunately, we missed SuperVision's set. Doors to the event opened at 7 p.m., and we're sure all the high schoolers got there bright and early. (Underage kids have the worst case of FOMO.) We, however, are older and much more hung over in general, so we miss openers. Sorry, bros.
We did catch the last half of PantyRaid, and they brought the trap as expected.
Roaming through the crowd and listening to the duo's anthemic booms, we happened upon our fave raver, Lady Casa. She was hugging PLUR friends and done up in so much glitter that you'd think Tinker Bell had used her for a twerk wall.
And from the seats to the lawn, the place was packed. Rage totems swung above the pookie heads. But mostly, it was just a bunch of baby-faced frat boys sharing Vicks and trading notes about what colleges they went to.
We still think it's strange waiting around between sets for DJs. But in the case of Basslights, it made a bit more sense. When it comes to acts like Bassnectar and Pretty Lights, in the words of James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, "you've got to set them up."
Bassnectar bangs out in the middle of seemingly endless LED screens -- one behind, two on either side, and one covering the front of his booth -- mostly working in tandem to create whole landscapes or trippy patterns. The visuals purposefully match the music, escorting the listener through a true sonic journey.
The long-haired friend of hippies brought the house down, shaking his mane to all manner of deep bass, including dubstep (foundational and bro varieties), some trap styles, d'n'b, hip-hop -- anything, really, that might contain a brown note.
He intro-ed his set with this deep track all about the foundation of sound system culture, and how important it is to play "songs with a message." Honestly, though, we're not sure what message we got from his set, other than bass is awesome.
Our favorite thing about Bassnectar's style is the hip-hop influence. It's rowdy and bossy, just the way we like it. He worked through swaggy hits, including "Freestyle," "Wait for the Drop," and a remix of Miami's own "Hustlin'."
"It's a full moon tonight," the DJ shouted to applause. (He also kept letting us know that it truly was "hot as fuck out here.") He played with the dynamics and tempo range, slowing down and speeding up tracks to meld them together with grace.
After about an hour of raging, the end of Bassnectar's time was coming up.
"I'm not used to these short sets, I only have a few seconds left," he said. "This song is about perhaps where we all come from. I don't know, it's just a theory." Then he dropped a song full of frog ribbits. It was kind of confusing, but it was dope.
He'd played for about an hour, then there was a 30 minute break during which Bessnectar's screens came down and the insanity of the full-on Pretty Lights band was assembled.
The whole stage cleared and filled back up with five raised podiums. Lasers were positioned around the structures to shoot their beams in every direction. And the whole setup topped off by a disco ball, which reflected space bubbles around the crowd like nothing we've ever seen before.
The band took the stage at about 10:30 p.m. when the night sky erupted with ecstatic noise. Pretty Lights main man Derek Vincent Smith stood on the central podium, flanked to the left by his percussion team, Brian Coogan on percussion and Adam Deitch on drums, while to his right stood Borahm Lee on keys, Scott Flynn on trombone, and Eric Bloom on trumpet.
Let us just tell you: Pretty Lights has never sounded so good.
In a way, Pretty Lights has always been a band.
When we first saw him in 2010, he was still touring with drums, a role Deitch had filled before. And in the studio, Pretty Lights gets together with his talented buddies to lay down real licks. This full-band incarnation is not really a surprise, but the moment Derek and his friends have been working toward for years.
"Analog future," he said. "That's what this is."
And it seems the young beat freaks are ready for this jump from turntables to live instrumentation.
All of us were caught up in the trance of the music, swaying our bodies, throwing our hands in the sky, letting it all hang out. The band was tight, weaving in and out of songs and sounds, taking cues from the leader. And instead of mixing in and out like a DJ would, Derek and crew would sometimes come together and warp into a new song, as if they'd touched a record and cut a track off, jumping straight into the next.
Of course, it wouldn't be Pretty Lights without some of the best visual work in the business. The images helped transport the crowd into each new soundscape, through cities and space, natural wonderlands and the inner workings of the human mind. More than once we found ourselves internalizing the music, getting lost in thought and remembering people and places that have brought us joy or sorrow through the years.
There was a lot of swing influence coming through with the full-band experience, with heaping piles of soul and funk on the side. Deitch really deserves a shout out for providing constant, thumping rhythm for an hour and a half, he's relentlessly brilliant with those beats.
In the end, Derek gave props to everyone in the band, even the light guy working the crazy visuals, The Lazer Shark. He led the crowd in cheers for Bassnectar, SuperVision, PantyRaid, and the love of his life, to whom he dedicated the last song of the night. It was aww-dorable.
He asked everyone to put their lighters in the sky, and they complied, surprisingly without any pesky phone lights mucking up the old-school feel. As Derek and crew let the last few notes of their closer die out in a slow burn, Derek grabbed the mic once more and sang his praises.
"Fuck yeah, Miami," he shouted, "We'd rock all night if we could. For ourselves, for the love, for the music, one time, get loud! Peace!"
It was exactly 12 a.m., and it'd been good to the last drop. And what made the goodbye even sweeter was knowing there was a whole 'nother day of Basslights waiting tomorrow.
Bassnectar's Partial Setlist:
-"Wait For the Drop"
-"You Know You Like It" (Tchami Remix)
-"Some Sing" (Remix)
Pretty Lights' Partial Setlist:
-"Hot Like Sauce"
-"Total Fast Nation"
-"I Know The Truth"
-"Easy Way Out"
-"I Can See If In Your Face"
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.