The Lost Art of the Concert Poster
By Martin Cizmar
So, hey there, I’m Martin, the new Music Editor here at New Times.
It’s Thursday, when Niki usually does her Flier of the Week but, I gotta say, I’m not feeling a lot of the local fliers I’ve been seeing on MySpace this week. I feel like we should be in a Golden Age of concert posters – what with a computer on every desk and Photoshop Elements retailing for a modest $90 – yet the craftsmanship on display is hardly inspiring.
By way of illustration, I’m gonna pick on a band we’re planning to give some inky love in the near future, Antique Scream.
What the fuck, guys? An electric chair in a white room? I don’t like electric chairs, I don’t like white rooms… I do enjoy fonts appearing sideways with the help of a text-wrap tool but, I dunno man, I don’t see myself at this show.
So, yeah. First day on the job and I’ve already got an ASU graphic design student plotting my death… Sigh. Really, though, the problem is not just Antique Scream, or even local bands — concert posters have been on a long slow decline for a while now, as I am prepared to now demonstrate.
This afternoon I did some googling and came up with a fairly random assortment of concert posters from years past, featuring bands typical of the time.
So how badass is this Summer of Love era poster. Without a few minutes of studying you can’t even tell who’s playing (Cream? Country Joe and the Fish? The Byrds?) and unless you drop a tab or two you’ll never have a prayer of guessing what time the show starts. But, you know what, it’s still inarguably awesome. Why? Because I want so desperately to know, and I want to go see this show, no matter who’s playing.
By the '70s, rock was big business and people wanted to know a little more about where to go and how to buy tickets. They also, apparently, wanted their posters to look good under blacklights. Hence we have this gem advertising the performance services of Mr. John Paul Jones and three other dudes.
The '80s weren’t great, but at least this poster catches your eye and makes you maybe want to hear what this grizzled little fella has to say. There’s also all the information you could possibly need.
By the '90s retro was in and details were out, but at least the art work was compelling. Compare this – a poster for one of the biggest concert events of the '90s – to the random '60s and '70s posters, though, and it’s obvious shit is on a downhill slide.
And so here we now sit: in an electric chair, in a white room. Depressing. Well, folks, it’s time to turn this trend around. I want to see what you guys can get done. In the next two weeks, post your best concert posters for local shows to the comments section of the New Times MySpace page. I’ll pick a winner, give you some love here, and show up at the advertised concert no matter how much your band sucks.
That’s right: The new New Times music editor is gonna pimp your band based solely on style with absolutely no regard for musical substance. Ready, set, go.
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