Pretty Lights performing at Mission Ballroom in 2023

MP3 TAKES: Pretty Lights Night 1 at Mission Ballroom

Introducing MP3 TAKES, our event review series where we dive deep into the exhilarating world of music festivals and live performances. In an era teeming with music events worldwide, our aim is to help you navigate through the noise and uncover the most captivating experiences. Join us on this adventure to highlight the backstage stories, memorable moments, and unique elements that make each event one-of-a-kind.


In the music world, prolonged absences often fuel a raging fire of rumors, hope, and conspiracies, with the true reason being merely a small spark. Not only Colorado but the entire dance music community has been eagerly anticipating the return of Pretty Lights to the stage since his last performance at Red Rocks in 2018.

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As a cornerstone of the dance music scene and one of its most prolific touring acts, Pretty Lights’ hiatus left a massive void for his dedicated fanbase and the festival scene at large. A testament to his influence, fans helped sell out tour stops in mere minutes and began lining up outside the Mission Ballroom at noon on Friday, August 4.

Embodying a unique blend of retro and hippie fashion, Pretty Lights fans set the concert aglow before the doors even opened. By 8:30 P.M., the venue was filled to its sprawling floor and GA rafters, kicking off with a PL Live in Dub set, featuring the full live ensemble: Michal Menert, Borahm Lee, Chris Karns, Alvin Ford Jr., and naturally, Derek Vincent Smith.

Following a five-year hiatus, one might expect some signs of rust. However, Smith quickly proved the opposite, firing up the crowd with a brand-new track that rocked the venue from the very beginning and visibly rubbing his hands together as if ready to go to work.


The band comprised longtime PL collaborator Michal Menert, who flexed his skills on various instruments, Borahm Lee, a celebrated keyboardist and founding member of Break Science, Alvin Ford Jr., the recent director of Juvenile’s viral Tiny Desk Concert, on drums, and Chris Karns lending his expertise in production and scratching.

Smith, ever the maestro, effortlessly directed the group throughout the set. Despite his low-key ensemble of a hoodie, greyed out Golden State hat, and shaggy beard, his beaming smile lit up the venue. The musicians communicated and adjusted on the fly throughout the three-hour plus set, highlighting their shared chemistry and passion.


The Mission Ballroom, capable of housing just under five thousand, pulsed with an energy that only the return of Pretty Lights could incite. The fans, known for their fervor, marked their territory hours in advance. By 8:27, the venue was practically bursting with anticipation.

The crowd responded to every track, every production moment, every breakdown with uncontained enthusiasm. Their palpable excitement and joy made it clear that everyone recognized they were part of a special moment in Pretty Lights’ history.


Renowned for its purist light and laser setup, the Pretty Lights live show is a much sought-after experience in the dance music sphere.

Back at the helm of lasers and lights is Lazer Shark, who recently spearheaded production for Daily Bread’s The Invisible Cinema Tour.

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The band performed within a rectangle of shimmering LED light pillars, providing a radiant backdrop throughout. More lights in corner spires perfectly coordinated with each track, while the large LED behind the band streamed footage of the band in action, presenting them in a dreamy light.

Combined with the unrivaled use of laser cannons, the stunning visuals and lighting elements created an immersive production environment that seamlessly mirrored the band’s fluid, prolonged jam sessions.


Though we don’t have the complete setlist for Night 1, we can confirm the three-plus hours covered the spectrum of the Pretty Lights catalog.

As mentioned, the live band opened up with new music, playing from 8:30 P.M. to 9:45 P.M. After a 15-minute intermission, the band resumed at 10:00 P.M., launching into back-to-back jams of “Hot Like Sauce” and “Rainbows & Waterfalls,” offering 10-minute long electronica renditions of each.

The PL Live band cruised through the scheduled hour-plus set time and carried on past midnight. Amidst prolonged cheers, outstretched hands, and a few possible tears, the group wrapped up just before 12:30 P.M.


Simply put, this run of shows is a must-see. The return of Pretty Lights, as showcased on Night 1, is even better than expected after such a hiatus and will undoubtedly create an indelible moment in festival community history.

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The return of Derek Vincent Smith has spurred a wave of nostalgia and positivity. Each stop will become a legend and be fondly remembered across the festival community as a cherished moment for music and community.


Franz Hilberath is a writer, publicist, artist manager, and editor/founder of MP3 MAG. Franz's passion for telling creative's stories began as a journalist with local and national newspapers (Creative Loafing, USA Today), magazines (Marquee, Man of the Hour), and blogs (, CULTR). His byline spans live event coverage, music reviews and interviews with innovators such as ODESZA, Marc Rebillet, RUFUS DU SOL, Lee “Scratch” Perry, GRiZ, & SOFI TUKKER. Today, as an independent publicist (Franz.mp3), Franz has represented true creatives and esteemed labels such as Zeds Dead (Deadbeats), Gravitas Recordings, Mersiv (MorFlo Records), Night Tales (Ultra Records), Of The Trees (Memory Palace), Justin Jay (Fantastic Voyage), Meduso, KHIVA, RaeCola, THRASHA and more.