How Pretty Lights Started Collaborating With the Colorado Symphony

Categories: Concert Reviews

Aaron Thackeray
Pretty Lights over the weekend at Red Rocks

Although Derek Vincent Smith, also known as Pretty Lights has played Red Rocks five times before, this weekend's show was different. The unique set up, featuring not only live band but also thirteen members of the Colorado Symphony, was the first time Smith has included a full string section in a show.

Anthony Pierce, Vice President of Artistic Administration for the Colorado Symphony says he wants to see the collaboration continue past this weekend, "I would love to see Derek do something in Boettcher Concert Hall with the whole ensemble, all eighty players. I mean, I would like to see what his ideas are more than anything else. I can't wait to talk about what the next step is."

See also: On a Previous Pretty Lights Show at Red Rocks

The members of the symphony included nine violinist, three cellist and one bassist. The group sat in a raised up stage behind the full band, which includes a trombone, trumpets, organ, drums, keyboard, synth, effects, guitar and turntable. In the front was Derek, leading the show.

"At one point we thought about using a section twice that size, this being our initial collaboration, but we wanted to keep it a little controlled for the first time," Pierce says, explaining that thirteen member ensemble is a "good, organic size, with a strong balance."

Aaron Thackeray

The group practiced last week, starting on Wednesday at the 1STBANK Center. The Symphony players, live band, Smith, and Greg Ellis (also known as Lazer Shark -- the mastermind behind the visual show) spread out to practice the full performance. But the collaboration has been in the works for a year, since Smith's Red Rocks show in 2013. "Derek led everything, he was in charge, it was his gig. It's not like we came together and had a free form jam session, it was something was controlled. I mean, we had to mange our risk and make sure things went well, but Derek's the guy who managed the creation"

At Red Rocks, the Symphony only came out for the last of three sets Smith played: His first was solo, then with a live band and ending with the whole band and symphony. But that final set lasted over two hours. The string section brought un-precedented depth, filling out the spaces in-between harmonies and melodies.

The musicians who joined Smith for the night were already familiar with his work, which helped the collaboration process, Pierce says. "[This concert] was really the start of solidifying the relationship between us. We want to give Derek access to resources that he hasn't in the past. What he does musically is interesting and on the edge, in terms of composition. If you think about it, its a long-form composition."

"How unique is it that we have an orchestra in Denver that is willing to try this, and we also have Derek in Denver who is probably the most celebrated electronic musician in the world in many ways. It is such a fortunate combination for the community, we just need to take advantage of it," Pierce says. "I mean, the stars have aligned."

Aaron Thackeray

- The fifty best rap lyrics of all time
- The ten biggest concert buzzkills
- Five more concert buzzkills
- From Phish to Floyd, the ten best light shows

Location Info


Red Rocks Amphitheatre

18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, CO

Category: General

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
Jonah Menzies
Jonah Menzies

This hipster-douche is as much "musical genius" as Keeping Up with the Kardashians is the embodiment of excellence in television.


CSO sends musicians to play at pot shops then acts like they care about kids in Denver. You are sending the wrong message with your pot concerts

Emilia Brunch
Emilia Brunch

Beautiful article. Pretty lights is truly a musical genius and seeing him with the orchestra was incredible. The rest of the industry has large shoes to fill now. Good job Derek and crew. Your fans are very proud \U0001f497

Jessica Petree
Jessica Petree

Lauren Hendee did you get to perform with pretty lights?

Mariah Lehnert
Mariah Lehnert

what an amazing show it was on Saturday night! great idea - loved the collabo and would totally see a show like this again!

Now Trending

Denver Concert Tickets

From the Vault