Eva Knott 6:29 a.m., May 23
American Artifact Documentary Celebrates Concert Poster Art
American Artifact chronicles the rise of American rock poster art since its birth in the '60s.
Director Merle Becker crossed the country interviewing rock poster artists from the different eras, He says he discover that "America is currently in the midst of a 21st century rock poster art movement, where thousands of artists around the country are doing silk screened rock poster art inspired by their local scene, the music of our time, and the spirit of our era."
The film explores the history and rise of the current rock poster movement in America, and features a cast of quirky, interesting, and extremely talented rock poster artists, talking about their work and telling the story of their underground art movement.
Beginning in the 1960s in San Francisco with the birth of the dance concert, a rock poster accompanied almost every show that was put on during that era. Soon, people began pulling the posters off of the telephone poles, almost as quickly as they were put up, and promoters such as Bill Graham started to give them out at the end of his shows to advertise the next week's show.
The art, both beautiful and edgy, closely parallels the changes in American culture throughout the decades.
"Posters in the '80s were actually flyers done for punk shows on Xerox machines in local libraries, or at Kinko's," says Becker. "They were glued to buildings and phone poles surreptitiously at night by kids in the scene. In this pre-computer era, the flyers were, for lack of a better comparison the MySpace of the '80s."
Today, America is seeing a resurgence in this art form brought upon by the popularity of websites like GigPosters.com, and the ease of screenprinting. Artists like EMEK, Tara McPherson, and Jay Ryan are creating beautiful works of art for contemporary groups like The Decemberists and Death Cab For Cutie.
The film includes interviews with over thirty artists, including Stanley Mouse, Frank Kozik, Art Chantry, EMEK, COOP, Derek Hess, Mark Arminski, Tara McPherson, Justin Hampton, Victor Moscoso, Jermaine Rogers, Jay Ryan, Chuck Sperry, Ron Donovan, Lindsey Kuhn, Leia Bell, Jim Pollock, Randy Tuten, Jim Sherraden & Hatch Show Print, Scrojo, Winston Smith, Print Mafia, Paul Imagine, Kevin Bradley, Julie Belcher, Jeff Wood, Steve Walters, Mat Daly, Stainboy, David Singer, Dennis Loren, Mike Martin, Gary Grimshaw, and Chris Shaw.
The film's soundtrack includes music by the local on-again-off-again punk band Homeless Sexuals.
“The band was breaking up,” says singer Davit Buck. “The other four members wanted to do other projects and, as usual, I overreacted and tried to replace everyone with MySpace bulletins and Craigslist ads. I would get replies back saying ‘Great band, but you guys need a new singer, that guy sucks.’”
“Then I got an email from Freakfilms, saying they want to use our song ‘Chicken Milk Alien Babies’ in a documentary film about concert poster art, American Artifact…At first, I thought it was fake, because I’ve dealt with others who say they have a film and want to use our music, and then the guy says he needs $500 to represent us.”
The movie’s producer/director, Merle Becker, worked on Beavis and Butthead, Daria, and Cartoon Sushi, before leaving MTV in 2000 to start Freakfilms.
“Getting the film offer made me stop trying to rebuild the band,” says Buck, a poster artist himself (he draws all the band flyers and record sleeves). “The song was written about a painting I did called Chicken Milk, with alien babies in flying saucers and wearing dunce hats.”
As for money, Buck says “I don’t think we’ll get a lot. We get a percentage of the music budget, which is split between ten bands.” The film also includes music by Phish and Jello Biafra.
A few years ago, the Homeless Sexuals practically had a residency at the Brass Rail, a gay bar in Hillcrest where Buck was booking bands, but that ended up being shortlived. “My original plan was to include a dominatrix or a burlesque troupe,” he says.
Buck says he's been mistaken for a homosexual before, which doesn't bother him.
"I performed in San Francisco in pink little girl's underwear and white stripper gloves, and a guy called me a fag and wanted to fight me. It made me laugh to be called a fag in San Francisco.... Yeah, I perform in diapers and pajamas and do things that the average person might consider gay, but if you're not a fag, then seeing the Homeless Sexuals play at a gay bar in Hillcrest ain't gonna change you one bit. And, if it does, then you should thank us for setting you free."
Local blogger Rosey Bystrak at www.sddialedin.com says "Anytime the Homeless Sexuals play is pretty nuts, but the first time I saw them at the Zombie Lounge, a chick in the opening band peed on Dave Buck. Allegedly. I was at the bar getting a drink, and I kicked myself because I always miss the good stuff."
"[Paint]Brushes with Fame" -- profiling three album cover and concert poster painters; Mike Clift (Psychotic Waltz, Tipper Gore's Comics & Stories), Geo (Fairfield Fats Band, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes), and Ken Meyer, Jr. (Marvel's Ghost Rider, Alternative Comics). http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/bands/2008/jun/04/local-album-cover-artists-clift-geo-plus-rock96d0b/
"RIP Alton Kelley: King of Collage, Prince of Prints" - my previously unpublished 1999 interview with the late album cover and poster legend who, with Stanley Mouse, created the very look of an entire era. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...
"Pacific Comics: The Inside Story -- The Rocketeer and Other Famous Comics From San Diego" -- Here's a detailed history of local Pacific Comics, who recruited comic superstars like Jack Kirby to create one of the first successful indie comic book lines. Pioneers in the fight for comic creators' rights and royalties, former employees and operators reveal how they did it, and what went so terribly wrong... http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/bands/2007/sep/08/pacific-comics-the-inside-story-jay-allen-sanford
"Komplete Kiss Komix: The Inside Story" -- Comprehensive collection of stuff I’ve done about working with Kiss on a comic book series in San Diego, along with a bunch of never-before-seen artifacts from the Kiss Komix archives AND an article by Kiss comic author Spike Steffenhagen, offering his own very-different take, ala Rashomon, on the same events I describe in my essay. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/bands/2007/sep/12/komplete-kiss-komix-kronicles
"Rock 'N' Roll Comics - The Inside Story" -- In 1989, San Diego's Revolutionary Comics ("Unauthorized And Proud Of It") launched Rock 'N' Roll Comics, featuring unlicensed biographies of rock stars, most of which I wrote. Some performers, like Frank Zappa and Kiss, were supportive, while others like New Kids On The Block considered our comics akin to bootlegs and sued. In June 1992, publisher Todd Loren was found dead in his San Diego condo, brutally murdered... http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/bands/2007/sep/12/rock-n-roll-comics-the-inside-story
"Field Of Screens" -- Cover story 7-6-06: Complete theater-by-theater history of San Diego drive-ins thru the years, including interviews with operators and attendees, dozens of rare and unpublished photos, vintage local theater ads, and more. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...
"Before It Was The Gaslamp: Balboa's Last Stand" -- Cover story 6-21-07: In the late 70s/early 80s, I worked at downtown San Diego's grindhouse all-night movie theaters. This detailed feature recalls those dayz, the death of the Balboa Theatre, etc., including interviews with operators, vintage local movie ads, and more. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...
"Pussycat Theaters: When 'Cathouses Ruled California" -- for the first time, the inside story of the west coast Pussycat Theater chain of adult moviehouses, which peaked in the '70s but later died out. Company head Vince Miranda owned and lived part time at the Hotel San Diego, operating several other local theaters downtown and in Oceanside, Escondido, etc. Told by those who actually ran the theaters, with a complete theater-by-theater encyclopedia covering every Pussycat that ever screened in CA -- http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...
Like this blog? Here are some other related links:
OVERHEARD IN SAN DIEGO - Several years' worth of this comic strip, which debuted in the Reader in 1996: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/overheard-san-diego/
FAMOUS FORMER NEIGHBORS - Over 100 comic strips online, with mini-bios of famous San Diegans: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/photos/galleries/famous-former-neighbors/
SAN DIEGO READER MUSIC MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/sandiegoreadermusic
JAY ALLEN SANFORD MySpace page: href="http://www.myspace.com/jayallensanford">http://www.myspace.com