I was picked out of the blue to book the bands for my high school’s dances when I was a Senior, and partway through the year (1969) a Sophomore named (John) Mark Allen started telling me about light shows and his light show, and that I should hire his, JMA’s Light Flight.
I eventually agreed, and he asked if I wanted to help with it. I don’t remember what I did at that first one, but it may have been the oils and I pursued it after graduation, specializing in oils. (That would have made sense, since Mark and his partner Jim Detwiler did slides and movies).
Mark was an influence, but I had been going to shows at Eagles Auditorium in Seattle for a year or so before that, and saw the Retina Circus there.
The summer after my HS graduation, I volunteered in the office of the presenter of The Seattle Pops Festival, and then was a stage guard at Eagles when they decided to stop letting anyone who wanted to sit on the stage do so.
So I saw the Retina Circus a lot and was heavily influenced by them, especially after Mark’s partner when I joined, Jim Detwiler, and I got fed up with Mark’s disorganization and started our own light show, which was Trillium Lights in the Summer or Fall of 1969 (maybe as late as winter of 1970).
We were a pretty no-budget entity, all self-financed, so we used whatever we had. I found a WWII surplus 16mm movie projector with no name that I remember, for $50, so we used that.
Jim had some kind of 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 single slide projector, and as soon as I could I bought a couple of Kodak Ektagraphic projectors, and found a couple of 3M 600 watt overhead projectors, mismatched of course.
I put dimmers on the Kodak and 3M projectors, and Jim used his hand over the lens of the other slide projector, and that was about it.
That’s about it then later I added 6” Electro Controls 500 watt fresnel lights to light up the musicians.
I honestly don’t remember many of the bands we worked with. I was more focused on our part, but I’m pretty sure that all of them were local or regional bands of one sort or another.
I’m pretty sure my first light show, though, was for a school function with the band White Heart, which went on to become Heart.
The light show pretty much stopped in about 1971 (I think Jim and I split around late 1971 or early 1972), but I started adding stage lighting a little before that and that kept going till COVID, although I started doing Live Sound in 1973 and that gradually became my focus, with lighting as a small part of the business.
An early show with JMA’s Light Flight was at another high school 10 miles or so North of Seattle.
Couple of interesting stories...
We went to school in a fairly wealthy area (although I’d say neither Mark nor I were in that category, although we were certainly comfortable enough), and he knew a guy whose father owned a chain of travel agencies. Since we didn’t have a truck or even a vehicle between us,
Mark asked the guy to help us and we put all the gear into his father’s late model Lincoln Continental 4 door, which looked a lot like the one Kennedy was killed in, but not a convertible. So we showed up at our gig in a Lincoln Continental !!
Later, with Trillium Lights, I talked a guy at a local small college into hiring us to do the pre-show opening act for a showing of the new movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”.
We were to do our thing as kind of a spacey warmup for the movie, accompanying the playback of “Also Spake Zarathustra". We had a series of slides and pans worked out for the length of the song, and somehow we got off kilter and did some stupid things accompanying the most dramatic part. The audience was laughing more than being impressed, which may have been a good thing. I was too close to tell and felt stupid.
I still have the gear that we had at the end, I just stopped doing shows.
When I see the gear that Joshua Light Show had I really feel like I didn’t know what I was doing, but we did shows.
Dan Mortensen - December 2020