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Published: 2015/12/24
by Olivia Schilder

Candace Brightman Returns

How did you first become involved with lighting for the Grateful Dead?

The Dead would rumble into the venue as if it was some kind of a circus, and the fact that I had to go backstage and ask them if they were aware that it was show time was sort of typical of how things went (laughs). It all started when a band I really wanted to see called Mahavishnu Orchestra was playing a gig in upstate New York. I knew the promoter and I wanted to light that gig so I could see the band, I said, “If you fly me up there I will do the gig for free.” The opening act for the band was Jerry Garcia and Howard Wales and after that show Jerry came back and asked if I would work for the Grateful Dead, way back in 72’ for the European Tour, which was the first tour I did. At first I was a little intimidated by them, I’m not sure why but that didn’t last long. The band would be at the venue for long periods of time and I got to know them pretty well. I spent hours and hours hanging out with Garcia and we got along great.

When lighting a show do you go off of how the energy is in the crowd? Is that how you incorporate different effects into a show?

No, it really is just random I just keep trying to invent new things, which is why right before a show I get to be kind of a sourpuss because people will be coming up and asking me questions and I’m actually trying to write something new. I think it happens to chefs and surgeons, once you get into something and it’s rolling you’re no longer in charge of it. It goes right to the stage from your hands, and that’s so glorious for all of us when it works like that. I wouldn’t want to appear to be pushing an audience reaction, so I just feel it out and I try to give myself as many things to work with in advance if I can.

Did the Grateful Dead ever give you any suggestions about lighting?

They didn’t give me suggestions; I think one of the reasons why they liked me there was because I kind of just took care of everything, in the initial days I even dealt with the union crews. I once asked Jerry if he had any recommendations or anything he would like to see in the lighting and he said, “Yes I do, I would like to see more brown lighting.” (Laughs) Of course there is no such thing as brown lighting, he was essentially saying “I don’t care” and I thought the idea and joke of brown lighting was really great!

Everyone is very excited to have you back at the Capitol Theater how are you feeling about coming back? Can you describe the Capitol Theater as you remember it back in the 70’s?

It’s going to be truly amazing for me the Cap was very funky when we got there; it will be very cool to have a lighting system and a video system like that; it’s going to be really fun. Things happened there that were so strange that it really is going to be a trip to be back. Back then they used to take out the back curtain, and you could go up to the third floor and second floor dressing rooms and you could have a rope thrown to you and you could swing across the stage!

There were some really terrific people there at an amazing time in their life, like Van Morrison…it was just insane. Before bands would go down and do the Fillmore, they would come to The Capitol and sometimes they were there for weeks. The Mad Dogs and Englishmen were there for at least two weeks and they weren’t necessarily doing shows, they were just putting their show together, because it was so huge. We would have long dinner tables spread across the stage with everybody, it was just a really nice place and there was no speediness to it at all. We had a very funny smart as hell crew we all got along just great, and the conversations on the headsets at times almost made it hard to pay attention to the shows because there were so many funny things being said.

Do you have anything special in store for returning back to The Capitol Theater?

Well I have it all laid out how I’m going to run it and it’s going to be fun, especially the idea of running the video myself. I did that back in the 90’s I’m not sure anyone else was doing that at the time but I used to run video off of the lighting controller and that’s something I have missed since then. Personally, I think a lighting designer needs video and it is nice to be able to have control and run it on your own. There will be a lot of wonderful toys to play with, and we have some new Garcia footage that I’m looking forward to using. I’ll leave it at that. (Laughs)

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