When Steve Monistere was first approached about promoting a laser show built to the music of Pink Floyd, he had no idea what either one was all about.
That was in 1986, and while laser light displays, as they’re officially known, had been entertaining niche audiences since the ’60s, it was still a relatively new concept. And even though Monistere had grown up playing music, Pink Floyd was a band that never crossed his radar, he told The Daily Times.
“I was a professional musician, but even though I didn’t do anything else throughout the 1970s or ’80s, I didn’t play progressive rock or anything like that,” he said. “But once they were on my radar, and I started doing shows and listening to their music all of the time, I became a huge fan.”
Monistere is the producer of the Pink Floyd Laser Spectacular, which comes to the Clayton Center for the Arts on Friday night. It’s a relatively simple concept on the surface: Audience members buy special glasses, and a multi-colored laser display is choreographed to the music of Pink Floyd (primarily the albums “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall”). It is, he said, a next-level form of engagement with music that’s an integral part of popular culture.
“You’re always going to get someone who goes, ‘What’s the big deal? I can do that in my bedroom!’ But, no. No you can’t. Not even close, because this is an experience you’re not going to get anywhere else,” he said. “It’s not a live band experience; it’s storytelling with modern computers and lasers and video. It’s a theatrical presentation. We don’t necessarily relate every song you see to a live band model of presentation, because we follow the beat of our own drum.
“If you’re a fun-loving person who wants to sit back and absorb this thing and feel it, that’s what our fans do. They feel the show: They watch and listen to it, but they come out having felt it, and 99% of the people who come to see our show leave and say, ‘I thought it was just going to be lights and Pink Floyd music!’ And that’s exactly what it was — but it’s also so much more.”
For one thing, it’s built on some of the most influential and successful music in the history of rock ’n’ roll. Combining elements of progressive and psychedelic rock, the band built on exploratory concepts established by bands of the late 1960s and created what’s regarded as some of the most brilliant compositions of the 1970s.“Dark Side of the Moon,” released in 1973, and “The Wall,” which followed six years later, are two of the best-selling albums of all time.
“I would put Pink Floyd up there with artists like Bach and Beethoven that will be remembered into the coming centuries,” Monistere said. “They’re that good of musicians, and their music is as original as it comes. The true test of quality music at any level is that no matter what style it is, whether you can listen to it over and over and over again and not get tired of it.
“I’ve got to tell you, the 36 years I’ve been doing this show, never once have I heard a Pink Floyd song during the show, or while producing the show, or in my studio, or even on the radio, and said, ‘I’m so sick of that.’ That’s the true measure of the music: It breathes, and it’s very visual.”
Monistere was promoting jazz and rock shows at a San Antonio theater in 1986 when an acquaintance first brought the idea of promoting a Pink Floyd laser show to him. It did modestly well, enough to motivate Monistere to get involved, make some improvements and try it out in other Texas markets. As it became more successful, his old partner bowed out, Monistere assumed control of the operation and began slowly building out an array of equipment that marries vintage sound with modern special effects.
“It’s got a lot of space to the music, so you’re able to be dramatic with the lighting and the lasers,” he said. “If you take Led Zeppelin or another rock band and try to do the same thing, you don’t get the same effect, because the music doesn’t lend itself to it. That’s what makes Pink Floyd’s music ideal.
“‘Dark Side of the Moon’ is, hands down, a masterpiece, and it’s fun to program a show to it. It has a certain feel to it, and the way our show looks and feels corresponds to the music. It’s very surreal and very wide open, and there’s not really any rock or pop music on there, unless you want to count the song ‘Money.’ ‘The Wall,’ on the other hand, is more rock oriented, so it becomes more alive, or exciting, if you will. That’s what you’ll see in the second half.
“The first half is really cool, and it sets you up to see what the lasers do and lets you melt into them,” he added. “The second half is a blowout rock ’n’ roll show, and both are perfect for fans of all ages.”