So how do you get started making gigposters?
I’ve been asked this question many times over the years by young designers and art students with a sparkle in their eyes like big money and fame is just around the corner.
The short answer is “you don’t, you’ll starve, get a ‘real’ job.”
When I started making gigposters back in the early 2000s I didn’t even realize it was really a thing people did like, for real. And, I had a “real” job. I was aware of Frank Kozik, Emek, Mark Arminski and Rick Griffin and had an awareness that psychedelic poster art was a big thing in the 60s but that was about it. I was more into comic books and skateboard graphics at the time and I wasn’t really paying attention to what was on the walls and cork boards around town right in front of my face.
Years before I ever got into doing poster work my friend Dan was in a band called Lumber and he was friends with a girl in a band called Dutch Oven both of which would play at the legendary Uptown Bar (R.I.P) in Uptown Minneapolis. We worked together at Fuddruckers in Edina and he lived near the bar so we would go see live music and get ripped there after work with some regularity then stumble to his house where I’d crash on couch mountain. It was a strange house he shared with his band, a bunch of MCAD students. They had a bunch of couches stacked in a room in such a way that you could sit or lay on any level like one of those cat palace things you can get for your feline friends. Then there were the dildos nailed to the wall. I’m not sure what that was about, I didn’t ask. There was a guy named Joe in the band who had a shaved head other than two dreadlocks growing out the front of his head like a bug’s antennae. Needless to say, he was strange but he was a good strange and sold me a 4-track recorder for $200 so he could avoid getting a job for a little bit longer. That was a total score. Point being, friends in bands…
Fast forward a handful of years and one of the original Squad19 members (also named Joe) had a friend in a band called Vulvox who regularly played at the Uptown Bar and he had started doing all their merch design and promo materials. They were to be one of the opening bands for a CD release show for another band called Casanatra. At that point, we were not yet screen-printing but I was itching to do more poster design so Joe tossed the promo poster my way. My main drive was to create. I wanted to get my artwork out into the world and seen and what better way than all over town in coffee shops and record stores? The city is a free gallery space so I put together the poster for the July 18, 2003 CD release show and had a stack of them printed on a color copier and posted them up around town.
The work was met with accolades both locally as well as from the poster scene on gigposters.com which was the beginning of some on and off work with Casanatra and their record label Blue Worm Records.
Local bands rarely have a budget for promoting shows they barely make any money from so I’d never really expected to make big money from local bands but because they’re local, poster sales are not something you can count on to get paid so you kind of have to get something from them for poster art. Cost of materials at the very least. I got paid in a few hundred dollars worth of gift certificates from Pizza Luce once and that actually turned out to be a pretty good deal in retrospect. Back then, however, my main interest was building a body of work separate from the corporate interactive design work I’ve always been entrenched in (and still am to this day) so, I was willing to work for little if anything just to build a local visual presence and a body of work that expressed an edgier visual capability than I was producing at my “real job.” This body of work would later land me a job at Carmichael Lynch working on the Harley-Davidson account so it worked out as planned.
Casanatra and their record label would later actually hire us to do some screen-printed posters for a few different shows and a logo for one of their albums so the money actually did materialize but at the outset, that was never really the driver of the creative activity.
I’ve been a little out of the local scene for the past few years. I’m older, not really into sweaty crowds, don’t drink much if at all anymore and have developed a bit of social anxiety so any live music I go check out has to be something I absolutely can not miss. I remember being pretty blown away by Casanatra the times I saw them back then though. I understand they go by the name of Goodnight Ritual now. Check them out and buy something from them, they’re good people. Here’s a clip of Casanatra playing the Uptown Bar back in 2003.
Sadly, the Uptown bar closed in November of 2009 after 80+ years of operation only to be replaced by an Apple store of all things. I had a lot of great memories there, some nights I only vaguely remember and one really horrible night I’ll never forget involving a miscalculation of substances that went horribly wrong and seared some images into my psyche forever. I’ll just leave it at that. I’m definitely glad I got to do some posters for shows that took place there. I think I was doing posters for shows there long before I got to do anything for First Avenue. I couldn’t possibly list all the great bands that played at the Uptown Bar but I’m sure some of you could fill in the blanks in the comments. I’d love to hear who you’d seen there.
Thanks for reading!