Where are light shows like the Electric Collage today?
Light shows continued to prosper during the late 60's and early 70's. There are many stories about what constituted their demise. Some people though it was simply a fad and the fad died out like hippies. The visual music artists have another story. Admittedly they worked mostly at rock concerts and were part of the counter culture, but for the most part they were visual artists simply working with their art of visual music.
We were artists and had many friends in the art and music community. The hippies were on the fringes of the community but we were not extremely involved in hippie culture. In reality, the hippie part of the 60's revolution was a small segment of Atlanta small but diverse alternative culture population. It also included many intellectuals, artists, musicians, and similar professionals.
While it was obvious that some light shows were hippie fads, others were serious visual music production companies. Artistic groups that could produce a diverse variety of visual music art. In the real world, companies need cash flow to operate. In the art world that cash flow can be very delicate and dependent on fads.
The "alternative culture and youth movement" lost it's momentum when the Vietnam war ended. The other issues got shuffled to the background. The beginning of the Seventies started the "Yuppie" generation and Disco music. Flashing lights on the dance floor and stuff like that. Cocaine replaced LSD as the drug of choice so the part of society that does those sort of things changed from hippie dropout to yuppie businessman. Then there was the Nixon era that diverted the nation's attention. Nixon had to resign because of all the scandals he orchestrated.
Next there was the big gas price increase that changed many people's priorities. When the annual salary was about $10,000 gas prices went from about .35 a gallon to 1.50 a gallon. People planted vegetable gardens so they could eat. They did without a lot of luxuries. And music is a luxury.
According to many reports of the era visual music light shows ended at the same time of the automobile gas price increase in the early 70's. People simply could not afford to go to concerts. Promoters at different parts of the country told the visual music artists of the era that there was no more money to pay them. This has been confirmed by reports from several light show artists of the era. Light shows were cut from the budget and the people's money went to fuel their cars.
Other than being "a fad" or "the economy went bad" there was one more thing that happened. This was a fundamental change and it sealed the fate of visual music artists. In the 1960's era concerts and pop festivals light and sound would be provided by the promoter at each venue. It made economic and artistic sense. Sound and lighting equipment were expensive and fragile to move around and each venue required skill to amplify and light. The people who worked the venue over and over (the locals usually) were much more skilled at amplifying and lighting the local venue than roadies who had never seen it.
During that era the visual music light show was added to the show by the promoter after consulting with the musicians. The band endorsed the idea and we had a concert. The visual music artists were independent from the band and made their own content just as the musicians wrote the music. The band knew our reputation and trusted us to create appropriate art to compliment their art.
Most well know bands now days are very "packaged" and have sound and lights. Lighting has become very automated with flashy lasers and so forth. They are set up and turned on by the roadie. Those bands usually do not have or want to pay for a visual music artist. And they do not allow visual music artists to join them at concerts. That is not saying all bands do this all the time. It is just that visual music artists are not thought of the same way they were in the sixties.
Concerning the end of the visual music light show era of the 60's Steve said, "We had maxed out the technology and producing it was expensive with all the film and so forth. We had produced so many shows that we were burned out and needed a break so we could come up with some new stuff, but we were in high demand and couldn't take a break. Then the gas thing happened. It seemed that due to the economy the concert promoters selected light shows as the obvious thing to cut out of the budget since the concert could go on without it. It was that simple."
The sudden lack of visual stimulation at music concerts opened the door for less expensive, automated options. Like flashing swirling lasers or automated stage lighting systems. Visual music was no longer considered an option and the people attending the concerts were starting to be younger and had never seen a visual music show. They did not even know what they were missing. Then Disco started and dominated popular music for several years.
Perhaps visual music light shows had attached themselves too closely to the counter cultural movements of the era. But some of the bands survived. They wrote different music, changed their style and adapted with the times just like any artist tends to do. Many visual music artists from the sixties era confirm that they too were read for a change, but the opportunities simply did not present themselves.
As of 2005 there are a few new visual music artists showing up at art and music schools who are beginning to show some interest in the art form. The Center for Visual Music is providing a gathering place on the Internet.
The Allman Brothers and the new Doors have revived the old style projected light show style in the new millennia. The shows are not like the Electric Collage style shows but they have some of the same special effects.
It probably won't be long before the new digital production and delivery technologies make the art form commercially viable again. Considering what is available in the new technology visual music light shows will soon evolve in something involving a lot more than a few liquid projectors. The new visual artists will be able to put together complex images like the Electric Collage produced. And they will be able to take it a few steps further.
I am seeing more and more evidence the era of the new digital visual music artist is well underway. The Center for Visual Music is a center of all Visual Music artist and keeping up with the visual musinc community world wide.