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Swirling with Inspiration: Joshua Light Show

Swirling with Inspiration: Joshua Light Show

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Swirl prints and fluid textures have been showing up all over the runway. This exciting new trend is leading to some wild and innovative print design that everyone is scrambling to add to their fashion collections and closets. It’s enough to make a New York music fan of a certain age long for the days of the Fillmore East and the fabulous Joshua Light show. 

ic: Joshua Light Show with Mothers of Invention,1967

The Fillmore East was, for far too short a time, New York’s premier rock music venue, featuring some of the top bands of the time, such as The Allman Brothers, Band of Gypsies and Miles Davis. In addition, numerous live albums were recorded there, some truly legendary. Located in the East Village, near the northwest corner of Second Ave and Sixth Street, the theater started life as the Commodore Theater, featuring Yiddish films and vaudeville acts. Later, it became the Lowes Commodore, featuring more mainstream films. In March 1968 promoter Bill Graham sought to repeat the success of his Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco and began booking the best rock acts of the day. 

Present on opening day of the Fillmore East, March 8, 1968, was film and lighting director Joshua White, along with his nascent Joshua Light Show. In fact, he personally lettered the marquee for that first show, adding his own company’s name at the bottom. The ladder he used is seen in the background with Bill Graham in front. Graham allowed this billing arrangement to continue off and on, if marquee space was available. 


ic: The FIllmore East location in 1970 and 2022

Joshua had gathered a talented group of artists and lighting engineers who were headquartered in the basement of the old theater. They used a variety of equipment, including film and slide projectors, color wheels, motorized and hand operated reflectors, all moved to the music being played. The equipment was either heavily modified or designed and built from scratch and rear projected onto a screen hanging behind the band from a two-tiered platform at the far back of the stage. Out of respect for the musicians, Joshua always made sure the light show stopped when the music did. 

ic: Joshua White at work

Joshua’s signature effect is the liquid light show, now copied the world over. Colored oils and water are sandwiched between two curved glass clock crystals. The clock crystals are moved in various ways with the beat of the music, resulting in non-repeating pulsating shapes. 

The swirl design effect is a variant involving either injecting additional liquids from the side using squeeze bottles or blowing open dishes of oil and water colors using one or more hair dryers. 

ic: Joshua Light Show inks and materials

The Joshua Light Show is still in business today, designing and implementing stage lighting and providing visual accompaniment to shows the world over. They no longer enjoy the benefit of one fixed location for their shows, but now have numerous permanent and long-term installations in museums and other public spaces. The Fillmore East is, sadly, long gone but Joshua White and his crew continue to design and develop innovative visual effects.

Please enjoy some more examples of Joshua’s work, and consider a fluid swirl print for your next collection! ic: Joshua Light Show with Terry Reid at the Fillmore East, New York, 1969

ic: Joshua Light Show with Julia Holter and Linda Perhacs
ic: Joshua Light Show with Delaney & Bonnie, Fillmore East,1970


Plumager Fashion Textile Print Trend Blog

Bill MacIndoe

Bill MacIndoe is the Director of Operations for Plumager, Inc., a leading supplier of stock and custom surface designs for the textile and other printed goods industries. He worked his way through college by custom screen-printing tee shirts and uniforms for sports teams and businesses in the Worcester, MA, USA area.
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