I suppose I shouldn't be surprised the only references to light show
would be in connection with raves
The light show was a creation of the 60's, an outgrowth of the so-called hippe movement, particularly as recounted in Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
As an exercise in what could be called practical guerilla ontology, the lights were not simply a means to pleasurable distraction, but a way of testing one's possession of one's own sensory apparatus; that is, whether one possessed one's own senses, or whether they were what possessed.
My experience with a light show took place in late 1967, or early 1968 at the Shrine Auditorium, in Los Angeles. This young Canadian boy was being shown the sights of southern California by his cousin from Pasendena, and on this occasion, her closest girlfriend.
The band that I remember playing that night was Country Joe and the Fish, singing One, two, three, what are we fightin' for..., and probably, giving the famous fish salute--though I can't remember that.
The music was loud, the sound was intended to be overpowering and, of course, prevent conversation. The light show was what became standard for such events: silent movies running continuously on several walls, a strobe light searing retinas in bursts in one corner--a big boxy, primitive kind of thing--and the cornerstone of such a production, the colored, dancing lights:
As simple as pouring water and oil and food coloring together in clear plastic dishes, and placing the whole apparent mess in a vertical reflector, the whole procedure became quite a complicated operation: groups formed who, as rock concerts with light shows developed a following, were in demand for their customized psychedelia; they went by interesting names, the only one I remember was Lights by god, and they would be advertised on the same, psychedelic posters, and just as important as the bands.
I didn't do acid, or LSD that night; I didn't even know what it was, and I think it wasn't even illegal then, not quite yet. But I got a taste of what Wolfe was describing in Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test: the lights and sounds were overwhelming enough to challenge anyone's mastery of their own senses. It is not surprising that these very elements were used by the CIA in Project Ultra in brainwashing experiments (with surprising, to me, connections to Canada).
Sadly, but, as I suppose as all things in the U.S. must, eventually be, they were commercialized, first, with the entrepreneur Bill Graham in his The Fillmore in San Francisco and later to the world. I suppose the rave phenomenon can be compared with the beginnings of this, but I wonder how long before it becomes big business.
At the time, however, the only thing which really disturbed me, was the ride to and from the dance: we were driven by the parents of my cousin. I remember her mother sitting in the front of their big car, knitting, telling this incredulous Canadian teen about the evils of social security and welfare, and how Franklin D. Roosevelt had been such an evil man. I was quite shocked, really.
My cousin's father was an employee of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, they were neither poor, nor stupid; his was the first time I was exposed to the libertarian attitude that has culminated in, among other things, the end, in the United States, of welfare, as we know it
An interesting sidelight to all of this, as I only recently discovered: my cousin Paulina Borsook, has published a book, Cyberselfish, that describes this attitude among those who have benefited most from the thing they complain about--big government. (Do a web search on either her name, or the book title, you'll be surprised, as I was, by the number of hits.)
A slight quibble I have with her analysis though: she says the generation of our parents--her friend's parents, too--were New Dealers, and supporters of the Roosevelt Coalition, obviously, in this case, they were not.
In general, and in most details, I completely concur with what Paulina has written, and applaud her work.