koi and swan, sepia

Monday, September 23, 2013

Single Wing Turquoise Bird

Having been on at least the back lines of the psychedelic revolution, I was privileged to see some wonderful light shows in my time, even at the tail end. Most of the metropolitan areas had people that were creating these visual masterpieces, in the early days in New York you had Joshua White, San Francisco was known for Glen McKay and Jerry Abrams HeadLights and Bill Ham's Light Sound Dimension. Fillmores, Avalon, Carousel, Winterland, Electric Circus all had light shows of some kind.

I was privileged to see Bill Ham's work at the Tribal Stomp in Berkeley and I have never before or since seen such such sublime mastery. Zen sutras morphed into indian chiefs that exploded in the dawn of creation... Of course I may have had a serious buzz on at the time that some would say calls everything I experienced into question. You can trust me or not. Your choice. It's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I mean under the right circumstances, mixed in the proper chemical alembic, I suppose your belly button lint could like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel but that is a topic for another day. We must take some things on faith. These were symphonies of the single moment, a momentary synaptic flash that has now flickered into the eternal void, never to be recaptured. Talk about multitasking...Everything lined up perfect once and I ain't going to hold my breath waiting for it to happen again. But as a very visual guy I have to take my hat off to these lysergic pioneers and admit to pining for that kind of truly magic experience that a few of us once shared.

Later on Candace Brightman did some very marvelous things with the Dead, they were a touch more formulaic than the earlier work that I was privileged to catch but still quite wonderful. The moment had changed.

I lived in Texas mid sixties when the local flower was at the height of its psychedelic power and people were making some strange contraptions called zots. You wound plastic dry cleaner bags tightly around wire hangers, suspended them from the ceiling, placed a pie tin on the floor and lit the thing up under an industrial strobe. My sister Liz was quite good at this. The rushing whoosh was fairly protean and definitely mind expanding. Anybody else ever play with these?

Pinnacle - John Van Hammersfeld
Los Angeles had a concert promoter named Pinnacle that my bud Rick Griffin and John Van Hamersveld did a lot of work for. They produced shows at the Shrine and elsewhere in the LA area. Single Wing Turquoise Bird did the lights. I never saw their shows live, I am sure that many of you have, lucky people, but the work that you can now find on Youtube gives you a taste of what many of us largely missed.

Rick Griffin - Who
When the mtv video thing broke, whenever that was, seventies I guess, I had high hopes for it but I think it has largely been a big let down and waste. Enya and Peter Gabriel, XTC did some neat stuff early on  but it quickly became the lowest common denominator medium - big hair head banger gets the blonde with the big rack, lives happily ever after, ho-hum...We enter the big sleep.

It could have been so much more, something rotten must have happened to consciousness somewhere along the way. I don't know. Burroughs and Gysin were trailblazers. Give this acid test record a little listen, Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were way out front.

My sister hung out with Nam Jun Paik in New York in the early days, the Dead were doing those far out things with Morton Subotnik, people had a respect for the visual circus back then that seems pretty lacking these days. Honestly, people have become very boring.

It took a microdot to make a microchip and we had to trip before we could hyperlink. Maybe in 50 or 100 years things can start vibrating again. whooosh!


Anonymous said...

I was there at the Jimi Hendrix concert at the Shrine. Had great seats and what a fantastic show.
John Van Hamersveld produced the Pinnacle Concerts, a good LA concert promoter, always had good shows that rivaled San Francisco. Single Wing Turquoise Bird did most of his light shows, one of the best light shows anywhere. Incredible time to grow up in LA.
I ran into him at a Las Vegas art show a few years ago. He was selling Pinnacle posters. I told about attending the Hendrix concert and also about sneaking into his Shrine Exhibition Hall concerts. He gave me a real sour lemon face but signed the Hendrix/Shrine poster and a calendar for me, a really nice guy and a great artist.

NYSTAN said...

Happy to say Joshua Light Show is alive and well. This past summer they did shows with Warren Hayes and the Boston Pops in an evening of the music of Jerry Garcia. They also did shows in Sacramento with Modeski Martin and Wood and in November will be performing at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn with MGMT. Joshua reformed the light show with a troupe of fascinating artists, including painter/illustrator etc. Gary Panter, when he's available. They are still using old school techniques but now mix it up with all sorts of modern computer apps and state of the art digital projectors. I don't know if any of the other light shows you mentioned are still performing. I'll send you a dvd of the JLS called Liquid Loops.