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“Today in Chicago on a tree in the park, I saw a yellow bird… it was… it seemed… relevant.”

A “yellow bird” is defined as a person’s true love, the one person they know they can’t live without. As Derek Vincent Smith (aka Pretty Lights) spoke those words, I found myself in awe of the amount of work that must have gone into making his touring festival a possibility. There is something exceptional about any moment that carries enough power to take your breath away. These are rare moments and any show that produces them should be regarded as truly special.

The Pretty Lights Live Episodic Festival tour sees the now full, live band making stops in five cities across the U.S. Each stop features two nights of world class talent, curated by Derek Vincent Smith himself. The idea is that every show will tell its own story. This concept gives each night its own sense of significance because the band is performing a unique piece of the “story” they want to tell.

The Chicago edition took place on Northerly Island, coinciding with Chance The Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring Day Festival. Located just south of renowned Millenium Park, the venue felt like the perfect place for such a monumental tour. The massive stage loomed over a vast concrete dance floor that was flanked by stands full of stadium-style seating. The top of the stands afforded a view of Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago as the sun set behind the city’s skyline.

There was an undeniable excitement in the air. It could be heard in the voices of all those who performed throughout the weekend. Statik and Sunsquabi kicked off the festival, with Manic Focus following them up. The artist and his band put forth a performance that perfectly bridged the gap between the pulsating basslines of electro-funk and the grooviness of traditional jam. Emancipator followed, delivering a set of powerful live violin over top of ethereal beats. The opening acts did an impeccable job of setting the tone for the Pretty Lights crew.

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The literal wall of lasers first flickered to life during the second track, a remix of the iconic Chicago Bulls’ theme song. Much of the rest of the set would be played from behind this field of light. It is difficult to paint a picture of just how stunning the stage production was…but I’ll simply say that the Pretty Lights team lived up to the name. The rest of the set was flawless, the lights moving perfectly in time with the funky, booming basslines. Towards the end of the night, “I Know The Truth” dropped on an unsuspecting crowd. The dubstep-influenced fan-favorite pushed the audience into a frenzy as a barrage of lights and lasers were unleashed into the open air. It was everything a Pretty Lights fan could ever want.

Pretty Lights 2

The second night saw cult favorite Tipper deliver a twilight set filled with mid-tempo beats. He was followed by G-Jones. The experimental producer tore the island to pieces with his glitchy, “freestyle” bass sound. The crowd erupted as the unmistakable first notes of his latest collaboration with Bassnectar trickled out from the speakers. Never one to hold back, he delivered a set that would have pleased even the most hardcore basshead. Rap duo The Grouch and Eligh brought the crowd back to reality while showcasing some seriously impressive rap skills. By the end of their performance, the mood was once again perfectly set for the band to take the stage.

Round two kicked off with a tidal wave of bass noise. As the subwoofers rocked the air around us, the back wall of the stage was ablaze with lasers that mirrored the frequency of the sound waves. It was a truly mesmerizing sight. Eventually, the band made their way onto the stage and Derek took to the mic. “Chicago we’re trying to get everyone on the same frequency, one time, don’t really matter what frequency that is… so long as that we on the same one.”

The band made their way through big tracks like “Total Fascination”, “One Day They’ll Know”, and “Hot Like Sauce”. Every so often, a new, not-yet-seen set of lights or lasers would be revealed. Many of them left me speechless. Towards the end of the night, we were graced with the always epic “Finally Moving”. The crowd sang the chorus in unison as bright white lights illuminated every face in attendance. Derek introduced the final song with, “…Yellow Bird, it’s slow and it’s pretty but it’s hard ’cause you can feel it.” It was a fitting end to a beautiful festival.

Pretty Lights 1

The final stop on the Episodic Tour is set to take place this weekend in Nashville. If you missed the opportunity to catch the band on one of the five festival stops, be sure to catch them at one of their upcoming solo shows. You will not be disappointed.

Visuals by: Distract Your Face Photography

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