Frequent Flyers

disposable americaFrom left: posters by Dustin Joshua Smith Watson, Sophia Michael, Bryan Mastergeorge.

You’ve seen their work advertising shows around town. Now, meet three local designers who won’t let poster-making become a lost art.

Ah, the internet. It’s given us Netflix, a near-endless stream of memes (is “covfefe” still funny—and also, was it ever?) plus the ability to have everything from tacos to toilet paper delivered to the front door at midnight. It’s also made promoting an upcoming show as easy as slapping a date, time and location on a Facebook page, sending out a mass invite to 1,000 of your closest friends and waiting for those “interested” and “attending” notifications to start rolling in.

But isn’t that a little… sad? Impersonal? Think of the classic, colorful, block-lettered rock posters from the ’60s, or of the black-and-white, cut-and-pasted xeroxes that listed punk and hardcore lineups in the ’70s and ’80s. Those wheat-pasted prints are a part of music history—what happens when we don’t have them anymore?

Thankfully, not everyone is cool with Facebooking and forgetting it. Plenty of bands still want thoughtfully designed flyers for their shows; lots of illustrators are willing to use their art to compliment someone else’s. We caught up with three designers to learn about their distinct styles, what inspires their work and why they do it.

sophia michael

Sophia Michael

“I feel privileged to say that I’ve been asked to do every show poster I’ve done so far, and each one has been for a gig that I was excited to see myself. For me, creating a poster is a process of merging my ideas and style with that of the bands I’m promoting. Sometimes, as cheesy as it is, I’ll even listen to a band’s album while I’m creating the artwork.

Not every poster idea works for every show. Some ideas never come to fruition because they haven’t met the right match. Currently, the constant and overarching theme is the void figure. They have become the protagonist of this poster series. Each poster reveals a distant and isolated memory of their past, present and future. I hope to compile the work into a book so they can be experienced together; it will serve both as a narrative but also as a record of a corner of the DIY music scene here in Boston and Cambridge.

This work is really different from previous sculptural and printmaking work I’ve done in the past, and I’m excited to see where it takes me.”

disposable america

Dustin Joshua Smith Watson

“Most of my show posters have a common thread that ties them all together: a found image and some fairly clean, easily readable text. I mainly started doing flyers for bands on my label, Disposable America, or for shows I’d booked myself, but I’ve been making posters for friends and really anyone who asks me to lately. I’ve been trying to break my template and try new things, especially if I can design something that best reflects the lineup, but all of the base images just come from editing photos from my old books or magazines, and my knowledge of Photoshop is pretty surface level.

Why show posters? It just kind of bums me out to see a great and memorable show go by without a flyer, existing only as a Facebook event or something. No knock on promoters, but it seems like an often overlooked but totally crucial part of pulling off a successful or memorable show. Every good show deserves a good flyer, and it’s really as easy as just asking an artist for help or putting some words over an image yourself.”

bryan mastergeorge

Bryan Mastergeorge

“Making posters gives me a connection to who I was as a teenager, and I think that’s why I still like to make them now. I remember finding the artist Rob Dobi’s website and obsessing over everything he did. At that time, I didn’t really know that it meant to be a designer, but I knew that I wanted to make work like that.

Cambridge is an amazing city for music, and I’m grateful for all the positive experiences I’ve had there. The first show I ever played outside of my hometown was at the All Asia. There was no cover, but all our friends had to buy two sodas. When I turned 18, the most exciting part was that I could finally get into the Middle East to see Hot Rod Circuit. I’ve head-banged at the Elk’s Club, saw one of my heroes, J. Robbins, at the Lily Pad, and sweated through Tigers Jaw at the Democracy Center. The city has changed a lot in the last decade, but I’m happy that the music scene is expanding rather than getting kicked out.”

This story originally appeared in the July/August issue of Scout Cambridge, which is available for free at more than 200 locations throughout the city or by subscription.

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