Music » The Hum

Illuminating the Dark

Pretty Lights lights up Blue Lake, the difficult life of an HSU dorm dweller and this week in Jah!


Derek Smith, aka Pretty Lights
  • Derek Smith, aka Pretty Lights

For most of us there is that one artist that easily slides out of the iTunes quiver, loads itself into the Bose and fires you straight into the night. Reaching for it is as thoughtless as picking out socks. You know the music; you hear it in your sleep and hum it while walking down the street.

For me that music comes from Derek Smith, better known as Pretty Lights. Smith brings elegance to his arrangements of electronic sounds and samples. From Filling Up the City Skies (2008) to Spilling Over the Side (2010) Smith makes music listening as easy as hitting shuffle.

Each track tells a specific story and instills a sense of wonder. Some are like wind blowing through an open window making curtains dance and sway. Others are like a walk down an alley in early morning fog with hushed sounds that cause you to stare into dark places. At times the music is so familiar that it feels like Smith reaches in and plucks the strings of your memory. That sense of the familiar is not an accident. Smith mixes in everyone from Nirvana to Run DMC in what he calls his Electro Hip-Hop Soul style. He even remixed John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads” in 2011.

In high school he wrote and produced hip-hop in Fort Collins, Colo., and was soon opening for STS9, The Disco Biscuits and Widespread Panic. In 2009 Smith and his musical partner at the time, Cory Eberhard, started playing on the festival circuit. Over the next year they played at Bonnaroo, Rothbury, Electric Daisy Carnival and Camp Bisco.

In 2010 Pretty Lights replaced Eberhard with drummer Adam Deitch and made their debut appearance at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. In January 2011 Pretty Lights released two albums on the newly formed Pretty Lights music label. That label gives away all of its music for free, which makes it easy to get some new blood pumping through your mp3 player.

World Famous Productions will be presenting Pretty Lights at the Blue Lake Casino on Sunday, along with special guests Stephan Jacobs and Paul Basic. The show starts at 7 p.m. and will be outdoors, so bring a jacket or be prepared to dance like a crazy person. Tickets are available at Lotus Café or Peoples Records in Arcata, The Works in Eureka or online.

--Travis Turner

Those Spoiled Students

Isn’t college supposed to prepare you for the soul-starving real world? If that’s the case, HSU is mega-failing. Dorm dwellers can hardly roll out of their bunks without landing on some hip-reeking soundsmith spoon-fed to them by AS Presents.

Just take this week’s four nights of awesome as proof -- three of them school nights, btw. Tuesday sees the Depot return of antique American music revivalists Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three, playing with local string manipulators the Striped Pig Band. Wrapping up a solid summer of exposure opening for Jack White and Old Crow Medicine Show, the group doles out early ragtime and country blues passionately performed live. How authentic is their stuff? Lafarge’s duet with Vince Giordano on “Lovesick Blues” will be featured on the Sept. 23 episode of HBO’s Prohibition-era Buscemi-feast Boardwalk Empire. The Home Box Office doesn’t mess around. So, ya.

On Sunday, the Depot will be bouncin’ when the cross-dressing “Queen Diva of Bounce Music” Big Freedia drops a visual and aural assault on student senses. Joined by local beat vendor DJ Anya, the androgynous New Orleans performer is making good on a promise to return after having to cancel a show back in February -- commendable! Not everyone does! To be clear, this is high-energy party music. Lyric snobs can stay home and play the Dance Dance Revolution-style “Booty Battle” game on Big Freedia’s website. (Actually, everyone should check that out).

More conscious rhymes may be absorbed Wednesday when underground hip-hop heavy Aesop Rock takes the stage at the Van Duzer Theatre. (Man, is this the first time a strict hip-hop artist has rocked the JVD? Bob would know. He’ll be back next week.) The San Francisco MC is touring in support of his very personal and latest album Skelethon.

Finally, passionate alt punk band Joyce Manor will bring a garage-y, screamed Weezer-ish sound to the Depot on Friday. The band will be joined by local noisemakers Aleister Christ and The Small Axe. As with all these shows, the rest of Humboldt is encouraged to join in on the good times, but without those student ID cards you’re paying a tad bit more. Lucky students.

Dig Out Your Combat Boots

Things were looking just a little too normal around the Arcata Plaza for, well, at least the people who are bringing you the first ever Club Deliverance this Saturday at Jambalaya. Goths in search of a place to belong will be whelmed by an evening of Industrial delights -- name drops like KMFDM, Joy Division, Nine Inch Nails -- courtesy of DJ Zephyr. Black eyeliner, velvet and lace are not required, but if the door person deems that you’re “dressed for the occasion” you get in cheaper. Which is good.

And, Of Course, Reggae

Is this not Humboldt? Do we not require reggae at least once a week? We do.

This week’s off-beat rhythmic diversions can be found first on Friday at Mazzotti’s in Arcata, where roots reggae road warriors Midnite will make with the island sounds -- well, not Jamaica. They're from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Across the pond at Nocturnum on the same night Dutch reggae singer Ziggi Recado and the 7th Street Band will be joined by tireless local performer Ishi Dube. And finally, Wednesday, HumBrews has Jamaican reggae elder statesmen Black Uhuru -- they won the first ever Grammy Award for “Best Reggae Album” back in 1985, kids.

Now, while not reggae, we will mention one more time that Yogoman Burning Band is waaay fun and they have a few reggae-ish songs and -- and! -- Humboldt has three chances to see them this week. First chance: Saturday at the Humboldt Pride Festival at Eureka’s Halverson Park. Second chance: Saturnight at HumBrews along with Missing Link’s Matt and Adam. Third chance: Sunday at Mad River Brewery in Blue Lake. I recommend you Yogoman up, and get to at least one of those.

-Andrew Goff


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