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Andy MacDougall

Gig Poster Artists Get Ready for Flatstock 77 at SXSW

This is where art and ad meet.

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Dan uses his own photos, which are deconstructed, band and gig text added, and then printed in multiple layers of ink. A bit like posterization, a bit like an index sep, no process separations or halftones, and 100 percent unique.

Dan uses his own photos, which are deconstructed, band and gig text added, and then printed in multiple layers of ink. A bit like posterization, a bit like an index sep, no process separations or halftones, and 100 percent unique.

ALONG WITH ALL the print shows that have been canceled, you may have noticed the sound of silence coming out of most anything to do with live music over the last two years. Concerts. Festivals. Tours. Even at the local bar or theatre. The venues and their staff suffered, the musicians, the audiences, and yes, my friends, screen printers, too. Tour merch orders dried up, and any companies who printed for event-oriented clients had to scramble to find work. It’s been two grim years, but things are changing. With spring in the air and hopefully less COVID, SXSW is back in Austin, and a determined group of rock poster artists are going on with their show. Flatstock 77 sticks its pointed little head above ground March 17-19. This month, Episode 8 of “Art, Ad, or Alchemy?” gives us an opportunity to reach out and connect with a couple of the artists and printers who will be there. Nothing unites Art and Advertising like a gig poster. We’ll let the Alchemy simmer on the back burner with the screen printing ink.

My two guests this episode are Billy Perkins, an Austin-based artist, and Dan MacAdam, an artist/printer from Chicago. They have distinct styles as you can see from the poster selection accompanying this article. Billy is a classic illustrator, inspired by comic book artists from his youth. Dan uses his own photographs of decrepit post-industrial buildings and machines scattered around Chicago as the basis of his unique work. They look gritty, but the technique he has evolved is anything but; it incorporates a mix of digital manipulation in prepress to separate colors and add elements like type and band names that fit the overall vibe. Both design posters for a variety of bands and performers, many you might recognize.

In Episode 6 we explored the nexus of music and screen printing; Episode 8 just brings it home. These guys are players, and in Dan’s case, it was the need to make posters for his own band that brought him into screen printing. Billy came to it a bit later, but as he explains, he was always the guy playing air guitar on a tennis racket at parties – he just kept going and eventually got a real guitar. And the bands he grew up loving are now the ones he gets to do posters for. How cool is that?

The Austin Flatstock is the big daddy of the rock poster shows put on by the American Poster Institute (API), which was formed 20 years ago to unite and promote the people and their art devoted to music. You can read about the formation and first shows in an old cover story in the Screen Printing magazine archives. As well as Austin, API has shows in Chicago, Mexico City, Barcelona, and Hamburg. The cities reflect the international scope of the art movement that has – until COVID – visually defined the bands and their live shows that literally millions of fans, young and old, keep alive in an event poster on their wall.

Billy is very much an illustrator and his work reflects this. From images to custom lettering, his clients are also his musical heroes, ranging from Judas Priest to Fleetwood Mac. Plus, he’s been doing posters for Cheech and Chong since the early 2000s. Here we are together in Barcelona [bottom right].

Billy is very much an illustrator and his work reflects this. From images to custom lettering, his clients are also his musical heroes, ranging from Judas Priest to Fleetwood Mac. Plus, he’s been doing posters for Cheech and Chong since the early 2000s. Here we are together in Barcelona [bottom right].

After two years of canceled events, the musicians, the fans, and the gig poster artists are all eager to get back to the business of rock and roll. It’s no secret that most musicians make their money touring. And part of that income is merch. Typically, T-shirts and CDs, but posters caught on over the years and turned into a big part of the mix. A stack of 500 or 5000 posters for a tour date took up a lot less space than an equivalent number of shirts, and in many cases sold for more. One of the cool things about Austin’s SXSW is the attraction of music industry people – bands and management – which many of the gig poster artists use to their advantage, making deals for posters or album cover designs for future projects. Poster collectors also make a visit to the Flatstock events, with certain shows, bands, or artists selling prints that might have cost $30 or $40, now selling in the hundreds or even thousands. The unique thing about Flatstock is the artist is running the booth. No dealers or middlemen. You get to talk to the boss.

Regardless of any deals that might be happening, Dan and Billy and most of the 50 or more artists attending Flatstock 77 are excited to hang with their besties. In the interviews on the podcast, they share their excitement, and a few stories about past hijinks that seem to happen when you throw a bunch of creative wackos together, add a few adult beverages, and crank the rock and roll music to 11.

Welcome back, Flatstock! Enjoy!

PHOTO GALLERY (9 IMAGES)

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Andy MacDougall is a screen printing trainer and consultant based on Vancouver Island in Canada, and a member of the Academy of Screen & Digital Printing Technology. If you have production problems you’d like to see him address in “Shop Talk,” email your comments and questions to [email protected]

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