Saint Elmo’s Fire,
Pig Light Show
In July of 1967 I was a 15 year-old singer/guitarist in a band and at the time there was no such thing as “Concert Lighting” and most venues provided the lowest cost, effort, form of visibility possible.
After a very short period I was getting far more work from other bands than my own band was getting. I had also, in May, been to Expo 67 and seen an impressive production designed by Josef Svoboda, the Diapolyekran, which utilized over a hundred moving screens with many projections of slides and film.
From those West Coast Light Show pictures, and the few video cuts on some news footage of concerts, I got a hankering for figuring out how to do the liquids.
By the time school had started in the Fall I was taking separate bookings for my lighting and light show, doing with as much as I could under the name Saint Elmo’s Fire. Eventually I figured out I could use dyes for refillable Magic Marker type pens as a dye for the oil.
Influences? Not sure how to answer!.
They and two other acts were backed by what I found out later was a recently formed Joshua Light Show. Stage lighting was done by, I think, Chip Monck and was very colorful (unusual in those days) and very well focused off the rear projection screen, which in and of itself was a wonder. No projectors visible. A more magical presentation than anything else I’d seen.
And the Light Show, unlike the norm at the time, was highly theatrical, starting and stopping with the music, using slides and liquids in a way which was less the random collages I’d seen before and more cohesive and compositional, a lot like Heraldic art. It WAS theatre, but in close synchronization with the music.
So I guess you could say that early Joshua Light Show was my biggest influence…or perhaps catalyst.
I have worked with pretty much all the bands that were popular at the time minus The Beatles, The Stones, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix (and a number of others) but between 1968 and 1973 there were about 250-300.
Other than “jamming” with Joshua and Glen McKay and doing a little pick-up work with Joshua on some few “Industrial” shows, the only other light show I worked with was a couple of friends’ show called London Lights which eventually was absorbed into Pig Light Show.
Saint Elmo’s Fire was the first name for the light show (Mid-July 1967), referring to an atmospheric effect that had always fascinated me since seeing the movie version of “Moby Dick” as the book version never instilled that strong a visual image and I used a single OHP.
In early October of 1967 a few months after starting the show I went with a couple of high school friends to a very intimate concert at The Garrick Theatre on Bleecker Street in NYC to see The Mothers of Invention a few months after their “Freak Out” album came out.
It ran with me as it’s founder/leader till 1973 then intermittently until about 1993. In December of 2006 I restarted it as a one man operation running off a computer using effects created with my original slides, liquids and such which I still do today in 2021.
There have been a number of personnel changes over the early years. The original crew of myself, Larry Wieder (now Berger), Patrick Waters, and Mark Miller changed through arrivals and departures to include at various times Joe Lipton, Marvin Chanes, Robert Cohen, Sandy Frank, Iris Strauss, Lisa Cherry, Jeff Taffer, and Michael Strauss.
In spring 1973 Joe, Marvin, Robert Cohen, Sandy Frank and Lisa Cherry (originally from London Lights) left and for a while they were the house Light Show at The Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey.
I started out with a few home made strip lights, two fresnel spots with color wheels, a Buhl overhead projector, my parents’s Keystone 16mm silent film projector and a couple of Kodak 600 Carousel slide projectors.
Non-standard stuff was 35mm movie flanges (wheels from a reel) turned into strangely shaped color and interference wheels, perforated or punched grating for steam heater enclosures, hair dryers, and who can remember what else passed across lights and projectors over 54 years?
We finished up with 46-50+ projectors but we usually only ever took 42 on the road with regularity.
Marc L. Rubinstein - 2015 (Updated January 2021)
Reconstructing The Fillmore East - Insanely detailed site by Keith Mueller