The problem with Outside Lands this year was that I couldn't decide which artists I was supposed to be excited for. Virtually all the acts have hit the festival circuit hard this year, or were no-brainer local picks. The biggest headliners didn't pique my interest for a second, and I wasn't sure what other portion of the bill could be worth the money to see. But I went, and the acts, while not cohesive, dramatic, or unique, were gripping enough to make sure nobody felt totally ripped off (easy for me to say, I didn't have to pay the $75 per day plus fees or $8 for beers).
My must-see performer was dreadfully early in the festival: the Sutro stage's second act on the first day. Despite the early kickoff time my expectations were high, and Derek Vincent Smith easily cleared bar. Even through Pretty Lights had a lot working against him that day he pulled off his set of infectious jams with aplomb. His groovy, hip-hop and soul infused electro is clearly meant for after the sun goes down, as was the light show on stage, which I'm sure would have been cool had it not been the middle of the afternoon.
Pretty Lights easily got the daytime crowd boogying down as he dropped track after track of breaks and basslines with a sound similar to older Glitch Mob or RJD2 remixes. It wasn't long ago I was sure very people knew who Pretty Lights was, but either I was mistaken or he's caught a lot of people's attention lately. It seemed like most of the crowd was experiencing Pretty Lights for the first time, but many seemed to have passing knowledge of the artist, and a small contingent had clearly arrived specifically for him. Apparently aggressively tackling the festival circuit and getting a little bit of blog love goes a long way these days, and Pretty Lights has certainly done that. If Pretty Lights pulls off sets as excellent as his Outside Lands everywhere he goes then he is well on his way to superstardom. And he certainly deserves it considering he's been giving away his unbelievably high quality material for free for quite some time now (here's his site, and I'm sure donations are appreciated).
Honestly, Pretty Lights was better than what Outside Lands had to offer him. Playing to a fully ready-to-party crowd just before midnight could have been epic, but instead he did the most he could with a crowd of dead heads and squares lazily waiting for The Strokes and Further. The music was clearly something that should have been blowing the minds of raver bros as they warmed up for MSTRKRFT and Deadmau5, so why didn't the promoters save him for Treasure Island? New fans should check out his latest EP, Spilling Over Every Side, the second of three EPs he will be dropping this year. All three previous full lengths are highly recommended.
Streaming source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdXpUOjMN54