Poster art, those designs combining graphics or drawings with a band or concert advertisement, began, as did most exciting things in modern popular culture, during the 1960s counterculture revolution. In fact, just last night I saw one from mid-sixties San Francisco describing a Grateful Dead/Blue Cheer show complete with light show explanation (all white light, acid, and jamrock–it’s amazing people made it to the seventies). Back then, the poster had more to do with function than form, often having a single graphic (if any) with psychedelic fonts and bright colors advertising the bands, the venue, the promotor and (in the days before Ticketmaster) from what local stores one could purchase tickets. In fact, there’s an entire website dedicated to Bill Graham (of the infamous Fillmore venues) related show posters. They run anywhere from $50 to several thousand dollars.
On hearing the news that this year’s Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival is partnering with The American Poster Institute to do an exhibit of modern music poster makers, concentrating on acts who have either played or will this year play the festival, I got excited to check out who our foremost music promotor considers to be the cream of the poster crop in 2011. Of course, posters today are made more for souvenier purposes than for true marketing (as the internet can do that for free/cheap.) Still, after having seen these artists online, I can’t wait to hear them speak on their craft next month. It’s nice to see such a vintage tradition survive in today’s mp3-filled scenes. As the announcement explains, poster art bridges “the gap between music and art in a stunning display of craft, technique, and skill.”
Here are some of the artists they’ll be showing:
Methane Studios has worked with Fleet Foxes, Gregg Allman, Iron & Wine and a ton with Dave Matthews Band. There are posters anywhere from $15 to $100 for sale directly from their site. Their use of color, font, and characters varies to the extent that they’re hard to label as having a specific look. However, there’s no doubt each piece is thought out and very detailed.
Lil Tuffy makes gig posters for bands like Yo La Tengo, New Pornographers, and extensively with Pavement. Her work is for sale here and often features a dominant color with black or white as the main opposition (though, as seen above, this is not always the case.)
Furturtle is the name reprsenting work by artist Travis Bone. He has recently worked with Mogwai and She & Him and sells all his prints (which are awesomely organized by year and band name) here on his website. I count seven years and 145 killer bands. His images often depict a mythic, pronounced yesteryear involving hunting, fishing, or trekking and often featuring animals.
Status Sterigraph‘s work harkens back to poster art’s psychedelic forefathers, often including intricate shapes, swirls and angles in a variety of bright colors. They also have a thing for random creatures. They work with Avett Brothers, Phish, Wilco, Yeasayer and more. You can buy their art here for $20-$50.
Powerhouse Factories has a wide variety of styles, all with a definitive modern pop leaning. Depending on the work, you can see elements of Banksy, Roy Lichtenstein, or the dudes responsible for all those trippy early-80s MTV commercials. Buy their work here.
Dan Grzeca stands out from the crowd of computer-dependent millennials throwing their poster art into the market. His work seems much more organic and often looks completely hand drawn. He’s done a lot of work for The Black Keys, as well as work for The National, Bloodsucker, and The Melvins. Buy his stuff here.
Boss Construction, on the other hand, seems born with a stylus in its hand. Their use of graphic and intricate layering is often stark and keeps the viewer staring at much more beyond what band is being advertised. Check out more of their work here. You can purchase some for a reasonable $15-$20.
And, if you happen to be in Manchester, TN June 9-12 at America’s most awesome music festival, don’t forget to stop by and chat with the artists. You never know at which concert venue you may next see their work.