Liquid Light Show

the joshua light show

Liquid light shows or psychedelic light shows surfaced in the mid 1960s and early 1970s in America and Europe. They were an integral part of the Progressive music scene well into the seventies. Shows could be as simple as a single operator and two or three modified slide or overhead projectors and a couple of color wheels or as complex as shows with ten or more operators, 70 plus projectors (including liquid slide, liquid overhead, movie and still image models plus a vast array of highly advanced (for the time) special effects equipment).

The style and content of each show was unique but the object of most was to create a tapestry of multimedia that were seamlessly interwoven, in a constant state of flux and above all, reflected the music the show was attempting to depict in emotional visual terms. Groups that are associated with light shows include Jefferson Airplane (who used Glen McKay’s Headlights) and Pink Floyd (who used light artist Mike Leonard).

Glenn McKay’s Headlights staged ‘An Evening with Glenn McKay’s Headlights’ at the Whitney Museum in New York in 1968, after a curator saw his show at the Fillmore East. Headlights was one of the largest and most complex light shows and is remembered for the countless shows it performed with Jefferson Airplane.

The Joshua Light Show (also known as Joe’s Lights and Sensefex) located in New York was founded by a film maker called Joshua White. The show was the ‘house lightshow’ at Bill Graham (promoter)’s Fillmore East for almost its entire existence.

Brotherhood Of Light was formed in 1968 in San Francisco as a collective group of lighting and multimedia specialists. Brian Eppes, Brother Ed Langdon, Marcus Maximist and Bob Pullum gathered for the purpose of visually enhancing and augmenting the psychedelic music of the day. Unlike standard stage lighting, which was generally static and non-interactive, Brotherhood Of Light utilized liquid dyes, overhead projectors, color wheels, slide projection and 16mm film to produce not just a light show, but a live multi-sensory musical experience.

The show performed at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom and Fillmore West with such classic acts as The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Traffic, Ike and Tina Turner, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Santana, and the Allman Brothers Band.

In 1966, Mark Boyle’s, ‘the Son et Lumeniere for Earth, Air, Fire and Water’ ran at the Cochrane Theatre, London, closely followed by the ‘Son et Lumeniere for Insects, Reptiles and Water Creatures’ and the ‘Son et Lumeniere for Bodily Fluids and Functions.’ These events were groundbreaking uses of projected lighting and consisted of chemical and physical reactions projected onto a screen whilst being surrounded by various taped sounds.

Elements of this lightshow evolved and performances were made at the legendary UFO Club in London’s Tottenham Court Road. Later that year he formed the Sensual Laboratory with Joan Hills, who would later become his wife. In 1967 the first of many collaborations started with The Soft Machine, with shows at the Edinburgh Festival and also in Holland and France.

In 1968, the Sensual Laboratory toured in the USA and Canada with The Soft Machine and Jimi Hendrix as well as staging a controversial production at London’s Roundhouse ‘Bodily Fluids and Functions.’ This consisted of a couple copulating on stage whilst being wired up to ECG and EEG which were projected from closed circuit TV onto a huge screen. With heartbeats and brainwaves on display, every second of the experience was shared by the audience.

‘The Pig Light Show’ was started by Marc L. Rubinstein in 1965 as ‘Saint Elmo’s Fire.’ The name changed after ‘a strange episode having to do with a Mothers of Invention concert at the Garrick Theatre in the Village,’ which resulted in Marc being given the local nickname ‘Pig.’

‘The Single Wing Turquoise Bird’ lightshow troupe worked in Los Angeles and Venice, California. Famous for their wide screen lightshows at the Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles in 1967 and 1968. They did lightshows for Velvet Underground, Grateful Dead, Big Brother and The Holding Company, Steve Miller Band, Taj Mahal, Dr. John, BB King, and The Yardbirds.

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