Rock & roll and letterpress. In its heyday, letterpress was the medium of choice for band fliers and posters, for venues like the Fillmore East and West, the Avalon Ballroom and L.A.'s Whiskey-a-Go-Go. One of the most famous printers was Hatch Show Print, in Nashville, now inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and still the master of rock & roll ephemera. You can see more of Hatch's work at the Ryman Auditorium gallery.
Now, Reba Rakstad of rar rar press is embarking on a great project that follows in this tradition with its own cool twist. The Fireside Bowl Project comes in three parts: an exhibition consisting of stories about punk and underground bands people have seen at the Fireside when it was still hosting music events (1994-2004) as well as photos and ephemera, followed by a book, and a web archive of the exhibition. The kicker is that Reba is letterpress printing the stories, condensed to a couple of short sentences, into posters reminiscent of show posters. Just not your grandma's rock posters.
The designs are almost all purely typographic but her use of color and wood type is reminiscent of Hatch's work, without slavishly duplicating it. In fact, the overprinting she does, sometimes in several colors makes them throb off the paper in a completely different way. You don't need graphics with these. They're graphic enough in themselves, visually and verbally, as electric and exciting as the shows. They mark crucial rites of passage, missed opportunities, passing craziness, injury, and that indescribable experience of being in a crowd of people listening and dancing to great music. Check out her Flickr set, too, which includes process photos as well as finished posters.
The exhibition is part of the Columbia College Interdisciplinary Arts Department's 2008 Thesis Exhibit and Performance May 2-23 at the Hokin Center Gallery, 623 S. Wabash in Chicago. Go. I'll have to settle for the photos. To me, this is one of the most exciting things I've seen done in letterpress in a long time. Thanks for the heads-up from Timothy B. Buckwalter, who thinks so too.