Feature Friday: How Pretty Lights Changed My Life

Riley Loula tells the story of his journey to finding inner peace through electronic music.

We sometimes look back on the past and notice self transformation in our lives.  Oftentimes, though, we can’t remember the starting line for our new ‘selves’ and rather regard self transformation as natural personal growth.

We age, we live, we mature, we make new friends and we grow out of old ones. It’s a standard of life, really, that we grow of sound body and mind with other individuals.

Fortunately for me, I know my starting line. This is a story of my personal growth, and more specifically, self transformation, brought on by electronic music.

My starting line begins on a cold night at the Tower Theater on November 4th, 2012. Before we get to that night, I have to provide a little background on myself so you can understand why this evening was so important to me.

I came to Philadelphia in August 2009 to attend Temple University.  I am the oldest of three siblings, and had a somewhat tumultuous time grasping that responsibility while living at home in Lancaster with my parents.

Couple that with a temper problem that I therapeutically controlled with ice hockey, and you can say I was somewhat of a brute. “You’re so angry,” my friends would always joke with me.

Therefore, Temple was a huge breath of fresh air. I had escaped the confines of the white upper-middle class bubble, so you would think my hardening attitude from high school would subside.

Interestingly enough, it didn’t. I was still just a bitter ass hole. In retrospect, quitting hockey after my Freshman year didn’t help.

But imagine for me if you will, waking up in the morning and progressively becoming frustrated with anything and everything, big or little.

Furthermore, imagine suffering from chronic anger at the same time. Chronic in the sense that I was constantly negative to the point where there became no reason for it. Just hollowness.

I acted this way for two and a half years before my girlfriend, Morgan, broke up with me. “I can’t be responsible for making you happy, you have to be able to be happy on your own,” I’ll always remember her saying to me (we are still together after 4 insane years in North Philadelphia.)

Naturally, I took this as her admitting that I wasn’t good enough.  Not a good enough boyfriend, not a good enough friend, not a good enough person. See the spiral?

So I spent the better part of the Spring 2011 semester, Summer and Fall 2012 semester contemplating what this meant. I should note that we were on-again, off-again that entire time. So I didn’t have room to grow.

Then one of my best friends, Zach, moved into my off-campus apartment for my senior year at Temple.

Zach had attended EDC Vegas 2012 (and ran into a pretty lady himself there, named Sarah), so he was pretty entrenched in the scene when he moved in.

Zach embraces the “give-no-fucks” attitude that I so desperately needed. Life was life, and negativity was a waste of time to him.

So the transition to him living with me was important. He got me to let go of negative things simply by not caring about them himself.

(Pretty Lights 2012)

And Zach was the one who essentially told me to go with him to see Pretty Lights on November 4th, 2012. He didn’t have anyone to go with, and I had actually heard of Pretty Lights before, having his ‘Unreleased 2010 Remixes’ on my iPod somehow.

“Just go with me, dude, I will guarantee you’ll have a good time.”

(shrugs) “Alright, why the hell not?”

What ensued on that evening was one of the greatest spiritual, emotional and mental releases I have ever experienced.

We stood dead-center on the balcony and danced. Just danced.

I geeked out during Hot Like Sauce before I even knew the name of the song. I grooved so hard to I Know The Truth that I almost elbowed Zach in the ribs.

In the middle of Derek’s set I looked around, saw everyone doing the same thing in their own world, and felt the unforgettable sensation of the balcony bobbing up and down to everyone’s dancing. The entire building was literally moving to the music. The Vibes, man.

I never once felt like an outsider. I left the venue that night feeling like I had just discovered exactly what I needed to find. Pure bliss.

From that moment forward, I vowed to look at life differently. “Positive” became an everyday vocabulary word. I curbed my stubbornness to hapless adversity. I stopped caring about things that were out of my control and just let life be.

I am happy to report that I am happy today. Not everyday, mind you. Occasionally, the ‘old’ Riley creeps back, but always for a short time. I now view myself as a positive and happy person, and have the combination of a good friend, stellar timing and a great experience to thank for it.

So when I attended the Pretty Lights show in Camden two weeks ago (with my still-girlfriend, God Bless her soul), I felt like I had come full-circle in my race to self transformation.

(Pretty Lights 2013)

It wasn’t a speedy race by any means, but I finally feel as though I’ve crossed the finish line with that struggle in my life.

And the best part is, now everyday feels like a starting line.

(from left to right): Zach, Sarah, Morgan and myself at DJ Carnage in Ocean City, MD this past Summer.