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The Dead Summer Getaway Diaries

Published: 2003/06/28
by Dean Budnick

The Brotherhood of Light’s ‘Liquid Pete’ Rabinowitz on Holmdel, 6/24 & 25

"Liquid Pete" Rabinowitz is now on tour with the Dead, adding visual touches with his Brotherhood of Light. As for the nature of his art he laughs, "I’m very unsecret about what we do. It’s not proprietary. Mineral oil, food coloring, a couple plates, an overhead and some cool visuals mixed in. It was invented by tripping people on the Stanford campus in 1966 so how hard can it be? Although the actual invention of it is credited to Bill Ham who made it rock savvy. What we now do is old school meets new school."
Here are Pete’s thoughts on the Holmdel shows. The tour now continues with Willie Nelson steeping in as opener…
First off how did you become involved with the Brotherhood of Light?
I’ve been doing this since 1984. I started out doing my own little light show with an overhead projector I borrowed from the computer company where I was working. My father manufactures dye chemicals so I called my old man and said, "Send me out some of those colors I used to work with over the summer in the laboratory." Then I hooked up with a band called Buffalo Roam in the Bay Area. Not so long after that the Brotherhood of Light guys, the old guys, saw what I was doing and asked me to come join them. Plus they’d never seen colors like I had so I had an in [Laughs].
I started working with Chris [Samardizch] in 1988 and picked up gigs like the Jefferson Airplane reunion at the Fillmore and Blues Traveler because I was hanging out with David Graham and that whole crew. We were Blues Traveler’s light show and they opened up for the Allman Brothers. The Brothers had been looking for a liquid light show so I think Popper told Dickey. By then one of the old guys, Brother Ed, had given me and Chris the light show so pretty much it was in our hands. We started with the Allman Brothers in 90 and we’ve been with them ever since. Last year the whole Alpine thing came together and we started working with the Dead. Chris is now doing the Allman Brothers leg I’m doing the Dead leg and we’ve been doing the Doors in between too.
When you’re working a show how many of you are creating the images?
Two. One person’s on video and one person’s doing liquids. I would typically be on liquids and Chris typically would be doing video. So now my friend Shawn is on video, he’s a video whiz and Chris is working with one of other employees, Brooks, with the Allman Brothers .
Do the bands give you a lot of guidance on what you should do?
As far as hard images and video yes. The Doors typically want political and their kind of stuff on cue. The Allman Brothers images generally go with the song. With the Dead the images have to be amorphous, even the video images have to be like liquids.
Mickey mentioned that you have some of Billy’s art in the system?
Billy has given us some artwork and we have Mickey’s artwork as well. We also have a MIDI set up allowing Mickey and Billy to play the visuals like playing their drum solos. It’s totally new, we’re making it up as we go along, we’re inventing it. They’re smiling and it looks really good. It’s not quite where we want it yet but it’s getting there.
When you’re working with liquids do you have colors in mind for specific songs?
Absolutely. Each song talks to me in color. "Cassidy" was red tonight. "Stella Blue" is obviously a dark blue. "China Cat" is reds and yellows similar to Scarlet">"Fire." For the "Other One" I like a dark blue and fuchsia combo. A Dark Star" is very dark and blue, very purpley and velvety.
I like to stick to the slower songs because in my old age I like to paint more. When I was younger and doing light shows I wanted to do the beat exactly and I wanted to do stuff fast but now I’m mellowing out and I want to paint more and have the bubbles slowly do their thing as opposed to always being on time. Also the music of the dead is very flowy and very rhythmic. Amorphous works best with the dead.
That’s true in many contexts. What was your musical highlight from the Holmdel run?
I liked "Dark Star" and "The Other One." The second night was better for me. Chris actually thought the first night was better. But of course perception is everything
That’s the beauty of the game. What song do you most look forward to hearing and working on?
I love "Weather Report Suite but "Dark Star" is my favorite, it just is. It’s the song I look forward to the most.

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