A History of the Laser in Dance Music

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From disco parties in the 70s to Daft Punk’s carnival-of-lights show at Coachella 2006, here’s how lasers became a big part of what defines a rave.

Lasers were a visual analogue to the air-raid sirens festooning early house tracks like Todd Terry’s “Can You Party.” In fact, British police busting early raves were hesitant to use their squad cars’ sirens because “the dayglo freaks started jumping up and down and shouting, ‘Can you feel it?’,” Matthew Collin reported in Altered State.

Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 11.36.48 AMWhen raves went stateside, Laserium naturally got involved: On September 7, 1990, seventeen years after its Observatory debut, the venerable company would erect an installation at Stranger Than Fiction at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, which featured New Yorkers Frankie Bones and Vandal (AKA Peter and Vanessa Daou) and Londoners Baby Ford and Trevor Fung. In an era when most raves were dubbed “undergrounds,” the show was heavily advertised instead of relying on word-of-mouth, and took place in an above-board venue rather than a janky warehouse—making it one of Los Angeles’ most visible parties at the time.

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