Every December die-hard Pretty Lights and Bassnectar fans make their pilgrimage to Hampton, Virginia for the most magical event of the year – BassLights. To call this two-day event a “concert” is completely misguided. Basslights is an experience; a gathering of people, energy, love, understanding and appreciation. Basslights is held in the massive Hampton Coliseum, which is affectionately called “The Mothership” by all who attend not only for its UFO-like shape, but also for the transportation that happens inside.
For these two days, the entire coastline town of Hampton is overtaken by Bassheads and Pretty Lights Family – every hotel fully booked, and fans donned in trippy-patterned hats, pants, jackets, shoes, shirts and whatever else you can imagine can be seen everywhere, from the Waffle House, to the Target across the street, and virtually everywhere in-between. These fans are not only distinguishable by their clothing, but also by their bright, cheery attitudes, kind-natures, and accepting spirits. There are never any fights or disgruntles at Basslights – everyone cares too much about the music and loving one another (which cannot be said of nearly any other event these days).
Pretty Lights and Bassnectar take turns headlining each night (Bassnectar closed night one while Pretty Lights closed night two) while diverse and talented acts Exmag & Beats Antique opened night one and Eliot Lipp & Chromeo opened night two. While many people arrived early enough to catch these acts both nights, The Mothership became fully stocked right before the main acts came on both nights, met by deafening screams and beaming smiles from the whole crowd.
Night one Pretty Lights opened with the dazzling “Always All Ways”, followed by the heart-wrenching “Where I’m Trying to Go”. He later played a remix off his latest album, “The Hidden Shades” – Odesza’s rendition of “Lost and Found”. In a climax of the night, he busted out one of his funkiest and most recognizable tracks, “I Can See It In Your Face”, which the crowd absorbed like warm sunshine in the middle of winter. Derek closed out night one with “Cold Feeling”, noting he no longer feels this way – and neither did anyone else in the Coliseum that night.
Bassnectar came out swinging with his hit “Colorstorm” aided by mind-bending visuals. The energy was a feasible presence in the Coliseum, an inarguable forced pulsating between fans and friends – new and old. Huge cheers rose from the audience as he played his massive track – “Ping Pong” accompanied by images of Lorin himself playing Ping-Pong, with his infamous hair tied back in a bun. He closed out the night on an apex of energy with Hitchhiker Music’s “Eleven” with the music video playing behind. You have to check it out for yourself to imagine how crazy it was.
My night two began with Chromeo’s confused opening set. It started with super house-y tracks, then soon melded into trap like TNGHT’s “Higher”, which then melded into hip-hop (Hot N*gga by Bobby Shmurda), which then transformed back into house with Duke Dumont’s “I Got U”. While the set was by no means terrible, it just didn’t have a firm grasp on what it wanted to be – which I can’t blame the duo for because the audience had such a diverse and wide range of taste (aside from the two headlining acts, that is).
Soon Lorin took the stage and Bassnectar night two was a go, starting with the intro to his “Freestyle Mixtape”. He later mixed in his track “What”, which send inhuman amounts of bass pulsing through the crowds, blowing the minds of even those sitting down in the very top sections of the stadium. In what I consider one of the highlights of both his sets, Nectar mixed in Mr. Carmack’s “Rock Dem” which actually left my jaw hanging open. He closed out his final performance of the weekend with Deckscar’s “Face Off” – the perfect end to a powerhouse set.
Pretty Lights began the final set of the weekend with the emotional “Change is Gonna Come”, starting the set off on the right note. He progressed through track after track, captivating the audience more and more with each note until we were all in the palm of his hands. All sense of my surroundings disappeared, and I wasn’t at a concert in Virginia anymore – none of us were. Songs like “So Much in the Dark” and “My Other Love” transported the entire audience to another world. The second half of Pretty Lights’ set was truly magical, from the ultra-heavy and bass driven “I Know the Truth” which converted the truest Bassheads into Pretty Lights fans, to the soulful “Who Loves Me”. In a wonderful moment, Derek came on the mic to joke about Avicii stealing the famous “Finally Moving” but it was clear it didn’t bother him at all. Later, in an incredibly emotional moment, Derek called for us to all sing along as he lowered the music. Pretty Lights closed out the night by first dedicating “Yellow Bird” to the one he loves, then following it up with the timeless “Hot Like Sauce”. This was definitely my favorite performance by Pretty Lights to date.
Basslights is impossibly to truly capture in words, pictures, videos, and even memories. The only way to fully understand this magical weekend is to experience it for yourself. Although the next Basslights is a year away, I’ll be counting down the days.