Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sounds of the City

Looking back on an era of acid jazz and the posters that set the scene.

Things have been rather hectic around the OW headquarters and I haven't had much time to sit back and contemplate or even muster enough energy to write about something. So the blog has suffered as you can see...sorry. It has been a busy year. I thought I would spend some time looking back (while cleaning the flat files looking for something) and post some old graphic design work, some rock posters, some DJ flyers and some of the fun things I have completed over the years.

Going back to 1997, when the DJ scene in Buffalo had worn out it's post-rave vibe, all seemed lost on the club scene. Rock & hip-hop ruled the bars and DJs were regulated to the typical Friday and Saturday night slots. A friend of mine opened the Kingsnake Lounge at 112 Chippewa street and a new groove was born for the end of the '90s. DJ Scotty and I took our love of electronic music, early drum and bass, abstrakt hip hop, and a new groove called acid jazz, and created what we called 'deja blu.' We spun records (yes kids, vinyl records...) at the end of the bar on a Tuesday night and created a scene for the chilled out, imported beer and martini drinking set.

The posters and flyers I did for our nights were always changing in order to keep it fresh. Born of the distressed, grunge of the era (late '90s), the posters were often built directly in Photoshop to take advantage of the layers, filters and accidents that made cool & unplanned things happen. A signature look was born to promote a signature DJ night than moved from the weekday stint to the monthly, full house Saturday nights. Often with images of sax players and manipulated jazz icons, I borrowed strongly from the Blue Note graphics of the 1950s and turned it on it's head. Printed after hours at my job at the time, I was limited to one-color on white stock. When my day job bought a color printer, I still worked in a limited color range to keep it simple and stark.

The official deja blu logo is probably the only logo that I have ever designed that doesn't exist in vector format. A layered Photoshop file, the DB logo was a misaligned ghost of an identity, a vibrating, floating logomark that represents the music, the scene and the blurry consumption of too much alcohol. With unnecessary accent marks on the logo, I always wanted us to appear strange and foreign.

Here we have three examples of deja blu flyers, typical of the era. The first one was a 1/2 page, black and white and may have been one of the 1st flyer to promote the deja blu Tuesdays. The official 'deja blu' logo had not been created yet, but the visual aesthetics can be seen in it's infancy.

The other two are from specific Saturday nights at the Kingsnake Lounge and represent the deja blu look at it's top form. The first one from November 28, 1998 includes fuzzy typefaces, fake halftone dots, and a limited color palette (always in blue). The second poster is from a night in 1998 (2-days before x-mas), and it broke away from the norm with a much more balanced, less grunge look. Printed again in a limited palette but on blue paper stock, the yellow glowing deja blu logo hangs on the half-toned, manipulated clip art building like a flag. Other deja blu posters often included Europeans enjoying cigarettes and cocktails or urban landscapes, as with this one. This was a memorable night on the Buffalo club scene with duel slide shows, flashing lights, over-capacity crowds (screw the fire marshall) and people dancing their asses off and flipping up the walls, drinking like it was the end of the world, all over a pumping, jazzy groove that was acid jazz in it's prime. Great flyer, great night!

There will be more to follow, including some early '90s rave/party flyers and some ICON concert posters (where I was the official poster designer in it's heyday). I have to organize them and scan them, so pencil that in as 'coming soon.'

CREDITS: (1) original deja blu logo, (2) deja blu 'The Original" flyer from 1997, (3) "November Twenty Eight Saturday" poster for Kingsnake gig 11/98, and (4) "Sound of the City" poster for Kingsnake gig on Dec. 26th 1998. All designed by Mark Wisz, Wizard Graphics.