Anyone involved in the Milwaukee music scene in the last 30 years likely remembers postering. Despite mags like Express and The Crazy Shepherd and Loose and the rest, the best way to get the word out about your gig was with a poster stapled up around the East Side.
After all, the East Siders were likely your crowd and slathering Brady Street and North Avenue with your posters was just the ticket.
Everyone did it, from the clubs themselves (like The Palms, for example, which featured multiple shows on a single poster) to the bands. Postering was as much a part of playing a gig as booking, sound check, performance and load out.
After putting together the master, there was the trip to Clark Graphics -- in my day -- loading up the staple gun and, finally, hitting the streets. It was ritualistic, it was fun and there was an unspoken etiquette (please don't poster over another band's poster if the show isn't yet over; although if they over-posted the neighborhood leaving no space for anyone else, one could feel justified in covering a few).
There were also poster collectors like Lars Kvam, whose stash must have numbered in the thousands. And there was a certain thrill in adding your poster atop the layers of previous posters melded into the light posts of the East Side.
The examples were wide ranging, from Eric Blowtorch's expressionistic posters drawn in marker or pen or painted in water colors to the more typical clip art style. Attentive fans could spot a specific band's posters from down the street, since many bands had a favorite font or image or style.
At least until the cops decided to enforce an anti-poster ordinance that killed the subculture. Before that, the only was risk was having the then-owner of Vitucci's catch you postering the pole in front of his tavern's entrance.
Local musician and videographer Ron Faiola has launched the Milwaukee Rock Posters Web site with examples dating back to to the halcyon days of Cream City punk.
There are examples from venues like Yano's, The Starship, The Palms and Lincoln Arcade and bands like Violent Femmes, The Oil Tasters and The Laytons as well as out of town bands like Gang of Four, Flipper and Sonic Youth.
Poster Boy said: Nice article. I wonder if Lars still has his stash? The site can be found here, btw: www.milwaukeerockposters.com
Julie said: I was a poster puter-upper back in '80-'81 for the Metropole, YSL Film Society (UWM) and the occasional Starship gig. Trudging for miles through knee deep snow, wielding my trusty staple gun and satchel full of posters, all the while dodging cops and charming store owners--now THERE was a job a girl could love! Plenty of fresh air, excitement and oftentimes, damn good art. Kudos to Ron on a job well done.
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