About Us + Faq

A family owned and operated business

The History of Performance Lighting Chicago

Bob Seger Tour 1986
Bob Seger Tour 1986
At a Christmas party in 1984, brothers Douglas and Bob Peterson were complaining about their bosses in the kitchen of Bob’s house. Douglas, a CPA small business consultant at the time, suddenly blurted out, “How much equipment does it take to do shows?” Bob, who was already working in the fledgling stage lighting industry, looked up at the ceiling and thought for a moment . . . “Oh, about $350 grand.” The two brothers looked at each other, and a light bulb started glowing, probably a 1000 watt Par. Bob got out his screamin-fast 512k Mac+ desktop computer, with its 7 inch black and white built-in screen, and began making an equipment list. Douglas got to work preparing a business plan. He was a photo-journalist stringer for the Daily Illini in college, and he loved the impact of lighting captured on film. Douglas put $1,000 of his own money into a bank account and gave the checkbook to Bob to buy their first equipment, some lamps to rent to another company. The next day, he checked up on how much the lamps cost. “Well,” Bob explained, “I also wrote some checks to buy us a bit of other equipment.”

“What? How much?”

“Well . . . uh . . . around $19,000 worth.”

“Holy smokes, where am I gonna get the money?” wondered Douglas as he remembered his Marine Corps basic training- no guts, no glory. “No turning back now,” he thought.

Performance Lighting officially incorporated in the windy city area on July 1st of 1985. Our first assignments as a theatrical stage lighting company were tours with George Thorogood, George Benson and REO Speedwagon.
Within a matter of months, Bob Seger hired us for his upcoming 9 month Like a Rock tour. The rig was big. The company was small. By coincidence, a banker had just invited Douglas to a Chicago Bull’s playoff game for schmoozing. Upon arrival at the old Chicago Stadium, the banker escorted him to the bank’s season ticket seats directly behind the Bulls bench.

“This is so cool to be next to these powerful huge athletes,” he thought, staring up at 6’ 11” Dave Corzine. Rookie Michael Jordan was also on the team. But within moments, an Andy Frain usher arrived and asked to see their tickets. He politely explained that the “K Game” tickets were for the next playoff game. As they walked out with the banker apologizing profusely, Douglas teased him, “You know, Ron, there’s something you could do to make it up to me.” And he went to get a copy of the business plan from his car.

Start up funding was secured from the bank along with the help of “angel” investor, Roland Wu, who knew Douglas well and trusted him to be a man of his word. Bob led the design work while Douglas used the “prepare for engagement” skills he’d learned in the Marines- pack your gear with hyper attention to detail before you hit the beach. Marine Corps Leadership Principle #4 also came in handy- “Know your men and look out for their welfare.” Bob Seger headed out on tour with a brand new $450,000 custom stage lighting system in the Spring of ’86. The national reputation of the new Performance Lighting Chicago was quickly established.

Within a number of years, we noticed that corporations were beginning to use stage lighting effects for meetings. Douglas loved working with corporate event planners and helped to grow this exciting new market in which the theatrical lighting ideas of concerts were modified for use at special events, fundraisers, corporate meetings, trade shows, private parties, ice shows, sports events . . . just about everywhere.

Russell Armentrout, President | Douglas Peterson, Founder and CEO1989 brought to us a young long-haired drummer named Russ, whose band had recently been “runner-up” in the national Star Search competition. (This was way before American Idol.) His friendly demeanor and obvious intelligence got him hired on the spot, and he quickly learned the ropes as a creative LD and Senior Crew Chief. Two decades passed, and while Performance Lighting was gaining huge amounts of experience creating happy clients at thousands of corporate events and concerts, we witnessed the arrival of fax machines and pagers, Motorola "brick" and "flip" phones, Windows, AOL and the World Wide Web, lap-tops and net-books, digital 100,000 lumen automated moving lights with micro-step motorized dichroic color-polarizing filters; and last but not least, the all important YouTube. Bob Peterson's creative passions have gained him a nationally-recognized reputation for television special event lighting design. His engagements take him all over the world.

Douglas Peterson has obtained a Masters Degree in Education and loves to volunteer tutor middle schoolers in math while he guides daily operations with his passionate devotion to client service and organization of detail. President Russ Armentrout keeps his classic drum kit in the shop while he continues his uniquely friendly way of producing events with focused attention on our client's needs.

Now with a multi-million dollar base of state of the art equipment and decades of experience, Performance Lighting Chicago continues serving clients the way the two brothers envisioned back in 1984 — be friendly, be knowledgeable, be straightforward, be passionate, and always appreciate your blessings in life, every single day.