Coby Schultz (co-founder of Ames Bros) and I grew up in rural Montana in the '80s and our only exposure was to the sun and an occasional harmful pesticide. Well, that's not totally true... we had Saturday morning cartoons and the back of our favorite cereal box to keep us entertained. My favorite activity as a youth was flipping through the posters rack at K-Mart or the local record store while my mom was at the fabric store. Motley Cure, Farrah Fawcett, an occasional Nagel print. I didn't discriminate, I loved all of it. That all changed when I started to take summer trips out to Seattle and was exposed to local gig poster art stapled to telephone poles, on the window of the teriyaki joint or at my favorite records stores, Cellophane Square and Easy Street. Shortly thereafter, Coby and I moved to Seattle with our sights set on what our favorite local poster artists were doing and figuring out how we could get in on the action. These are five of my favorites gig posters.
Art Chantry, Bumbershoot (1996)
Art is the Grand Poobah of posters and an undeniable force in Seattle, even though he moved south to Tacoma years ago. When I moved here in '92, his mark was everywhere. He was the art director at the Rocket, a local music rag, and designed most of the early Sub Pop stuff and arguably created the aesthetic of grunge through his album art and posters for local gigs. If you love Seattle and/or Seattle music... you love Chantry. We used to walk back from lunch and detour a few blocks out of the way to go by the Crocodile or other nearby clubs and see what Art had done that week, maybe try to talk the club owner out of a copy. Dude is prolific as hell. Art has a cut-and-paste punk-rock style that's doused in poetry and magic. He's a design genius, a mad-man and he lays it all out there. The Bumbershoot poster above was a collaborate with local greats, Ed Fotheringham and Hank Trotter—both of whom could easily be on this list and had a huge impact on our work.
Frank Kozik, Killdozer (1992)
Frank was one of our heroes. Certainly one of the three or four guys that got us into making posters back in the '90s. All the other guys were local and accessible, like real guys. Frank existed somewhere out in the ether… was he from Texas, SF, Mars? His art hit smack-dab, dead-center into the core of our aesthetic. Like a sugar-fueled, Saturday morning, punk-rock shotgun blast to the face that left your bill spinning. Rude, loud and obnoxious, everything we love. Frank (almost) single-handedly resurrected the pachouli-drenched, rock poster of your mom's favorite '70s hippie band and, in doing so, kept us busy for the last 30 years chasing his tail lights and choking on his dust.
Shawn Wolfe, Massive Attack (1998)
Another Seattle legend. Shawn was designing all of the posters for local promoters, Tasty Shows, in the late '90s. He has a flair for the absurd and his highly illustrated posters always have layer after layer of his dry wit. To me he's the perfect poster maker, and the designer I want to be when I grow up. The full package… crazy illustration skills clashing with weird color choices and always dead-on type treatment—the perfect storm each and every time. This poster for Massive Attack is so clean and simple, using only two colors, but packs a punch and leaves you begging for more.
Jeff Kleinsmith, The Afghan Whigs (1993)
Jeff's been the creative director at Sub Pop for the past several decades and certainly one of our design heroes. Looking over our list, we've gotten to know most of these guys and it's an unavoidable fact that their personalities come out in their posters. Maybe none so more than Jeff. I see him in his work. He's maybe the nicest guy you'll ever meet and sensitive to the world in the most positive way. I'm guessing he takes in stray dogs on a regular basis. I see beauty in all of his posters and it's more often than not, beauty in the disposable and the over-looked—trash with a new purpose. And I think that's just how Jeff sees the world, seeing the potential in everything. Good lord, he took a bloody Band-Aid and made what is maybe my favorite poster of all time. There's only one guy who could have pulled that off.
Your Cinema, Iggy Pop (2022)
Ryan Besch over at Your Cinema is running on all cylinders right now. He's my favorite of the (sort of) new batch of guys making posters. Gig posters have taken a turn over the last few years and in my old guy opinion, not for the better. It's kind of all about the detail, which in theory, I'm not opposed to, but in many cases it's at a disservice to the medium. A lot of them don't look like screen-printed posters to me. More like a lithographic in screen-printed clothing. Ryan satisfies both camps. He's detail oriented but in an innovative and fresh way. He's dipping his toe into the same pool of nostalgia that we do, so everything has a throw-back retro feel to it, but he's catapulted his work into the future. It's all fully pegged and weird as shit. He's got a deep tool bag and I can dork out all day on his cross-hatching and stippling techniques.