The first liquid light shows appeared in the late 1960s. Those images had never been seen by anyone before by anyone anywhere. Pop groups like Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane and Iron Butterfly used to have their own light shows. It's not unlikely that their light shows contributed to the legendary status of those bands.
Light shows on both sides of the Atlantic shared the same objective. They were meant to entertain and make the music even more impressive. Music performed in front of a wall of liquid light gave the audience a very special and new kind of experience; call it psychedelic.
There were also some notable differences. Overhead projectors were used at American shows where the liquids were placed between two concave glasses. An operator had to move the glasses manually to get the liquids react to the rhythm of the music. Each projector needed its own operator, which easily resulted in a large crew.
Shows in Europe used modified slide projectors with the liquids between slide glasses. The heat of the projection lamp creates bubbles in the liquids. And those bubbles with their whimsical shapes and movements were shown on the screen. In both cases and enhanced by colour filters and other accessories, they were quite spectacular sights.
Many people mentioned the appealing visual interpretation of the music and the sense of rhythm of the liquids (!). On both continents there was a choreography that made the liquids dance to the music. In America it was manpower to give the fluids a good rhythm, in Europe it was often synesthesia, a kind of benevolent illusion of the mind.
In the early years, well-known Amsterdam clubs like Paradiso and Melkweg, responded to developments in music, art, culture, emancipation and expansion of mind. These clubs organized their own psychedelic light shows.
It must have been 1969 when we were inspired by everything that was going on. So we founded LIGHTSHOW SPHINX, adding another light show to the Amsterdam scene.”You have seen the liquid light of Paradiso? Well, we can accomplish that too, only a bit smaller”, we said to the nearby club Famos.
And that gave us a smooth permanent place in the programming of the Saturday evenings for a number of years.
Light shows lost their reason for existence in the late 1970s. The music of that time created a different atmosphere that didn’t fit with 'psychedelic projection of liquids'. Time to pull the plug...
After a break we took the projectors out again around 2010. We were still fascinated by the beauty of liquid projection. Younger generations were also impressed by our old school projections; they had never seen anything like it.
Light shows have evolved over time. All kinds of digital techniques are now in use. We have challenged ourselves to harmoniously unite old school and new style. In our latest versions, we combine analogue live images and digital visuals.
Today, light shows are no longer as visible and widespread as they used to be. Still, about ten of them are (still or again) working in the Netherlands. Worldwide, the estimated number is about a thousand. Light shows share their ideas on the Facebook group "Psychedelic Light Show Preservation Society".