The last weekend of August in Telluride was filled with good times, beautiful scenes and phenomenal jams
Article and Photos provided by Michael Hobson – ML Hobby Photo
The San Juan mountain range is home to the largest and most beautiful peaks in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Nestled in a box canyon, surrounded by 14ers is a small mining town reminiscent of the Gold Rush era in the late 1800’s. Fun fact, Quentin Tarantino’s movie “The Hateful Eight” was filmed here. We found this out when we went for lunch to Esperanza’s! Getting to Telluride takes a little bit of effort, but it ends in what is arguably the most picturesque spot of the entire state. This was the perfect setting for the second year of Pretty Lights Telluride, a 2-day festival at the Town Park Amphitheater in Telluride, Colorado.
When you enter the town you are instantly flashed back to the Wild West, but with a twist. Surrounded by waterfalls, mining ruins and fields of wild flowers, Telluride resembles the backdrop to a fantasy movie, not just a western.
I had the good fortune of being invited by Chris Karns to capture the moments as they took over the weekend. I shot Chris’s opener (and the group) for Episode 2 at Red Rocks two weeks before, but this was Telluride, this was a different beast. The drive to Telluride can be just as breath taking as the destination itself. I had Magalie and Valerie with me in the car, my girlfriend/partner in crime and Chris’s girlfriend, who also happens to be a musician. Add the ambiance of the best route for any road trip; we had an adventure, not just a long time spent in the car. Plus, sometimes it’s the journey not solely the destination, right?
The second installment of the Pretty Lights experience was way more then your everyday mountain gathering. Positive energy consumed the little mountain town and you could feel it through every interaction. Townsfolk or attendee, it didn’t matter, everyone had smile from ear to ear. Theresa, who worked at The Victorian (where we stayed Saturday) put it best, “Pretty lights is happy music so it brings happy people; we like that, and are excited for this festival again.” You know its solid when the people who have to deal with all the tourists are actually excited for the event themselves!
When it was show time, we walked into the back area to say hello and grab some pictures from the pit. Instantly you could tell that this wasn’t an ordinary festival. It was like getting to be an observer at someone else’s family reunion. First, there were no handshakes, only hugs. Second, you were offered refreshments before you were even asked your name. Doesn’t get much better then that! Smiles, stories and memories shared, every song was somebodies favorite. If you were lucky enough to be there you were treated like a relative. To see such an awesome, loving gathering was really special, it was truly a family affair.
As for the music, the boys threw down two of the greatest sets that I have ever heard Pretty Lights play. Fast sharp beats with samples from Pink Floyd, Rage Against the Machine and Public Enemy kept the crowd bouncing. New remixes of old classics and intermittent solo’s from the insanely talented group kept every person begging for more. They played hard for 3 hours straight Saturday night. The entire time they were cheering each other on to give the crowd everything they had. This group doesn’t just play together; they are serious fans of one another too. You could see them taking phone videos of each other during the solo performances. Or laughing hysterically at something said into the mic by one another.
During the show we were treated to piano solos from both Borahm Lee and Brian Coogan. Each one so unique to their style, you heard it and felt it. Alvin Ford Jr smashed out an intense D&B like drum solo leading right into Chris Karns’ scratch sesh. I’m amazed he didn’t break his cross fader as he showed us why he’s one of the best DJ’s on the planet. All of this was to set up what became one of the most memorable Pretty Lights memories I will ever have.
Derek Vincent Smith got caught up in the moment. Feeling the palpable energy and love from his home state, he gave an absolutely on point freestyle rap. As if being the greatest electronic composer in the industry wasn’t enough, add gifted lyricist to his resume. The crowd was going borderline insane. Myself included, screaming for him to keep going. This wasn’t just any PL show; this was on a whole other level. What we got to witness at Pretty Lights Telluride was 5 guys pushing each other to reach new heights in musical expression. I find myself asking after every show, “How the hell can they top this?”
After 3 hours of going H.A.M for a hyped Telluride crowd, like all good things, it came to an end. The guys came off stage and were met by family members, significant others, old friends and anyone lucky enough to be back stage at that moment, i.e. Magalie and I. Being a photographer, these are the hidden moments that I live for. The festivities continued long into the early AM but this Photographer had to tap out during the after party at the Sheridan Opera House. Friday night people got to witness Phantom lights (that’s all the boys but Derek). Saturday night’s after party was opened up by Mikey Thunder and closed down by Chris and Borahm and drummer Colby Buckler. Honestly, this festival couldn’t stop getting better if it tried.
From the cascading waterfalls, the 14,000 foot snow capped mountains, the welcoming generosity of the towns folk, the experimentation and trippy-ness of Pretty Lights Telluride … This was the perfect way to end the summer. If you missed this year’s event, don’t worry… I hope the pictures help. But next year this is a must see event, don’t miss out on another legendary weekend to see Pretty Lights Telluride.