The electronic dance music scene of the 1990s saw a boom of underground dance parties and raves and was a bountiful source of just such promotional material. Check out some of the awesome flyers from 90s raves and House music parties long gone down below!
There is something special about holding a freshly printed, brightly colored flyer in your hand. The glossy yardstick. The brief escape from the doldrums of daily life it offers. The promise of spectacle for you and your friends to look forward to. Scanning through the details with excitement. The artist expected to perform, the venue, the date and time, and whether or not your schedule will allow it.
The release of the design software program Photoshop in 1990 synced perfectly with the blossoming electronic music scene. This new design tool gave artists a new platform to explore in efforts to promote these new underground raves. The designs for these 90s raves saw wide margins of variations from simple hand-drawn flyers, and black and white photocopies, to elaborate full-color computer fractal illustrations. These designs often reflected the music with a blend of psychedelia and a cyberpunk/digital aesthetic. This occurred simultaneously with the Cyberdelic counterculture art movement in the late 1980s and ’90s. The mediums shared an undeniable influence on one another.
The early house parties and underground raves featured electronic dance music that became known as “House” music. DJs from the underground club scene in Chicago began augmenting disco songs by altering the time signatures and giving them more industrial, repetitive beats. This music spawned other subgenera like Acid House and was pioneered by artists like Phuture, and Ron Hardy.
Acid house typically featured basslines from the Roland TB-303 electronic bass synthesizer. And it soon expanded to other major cities like New York and London. House music eventually made its mark on pop music as well when major artists like Madonna and Janet Jackson began incorporating it into their production.
Once house music and techno emerged large-scale raves became commonplace. The venues changed from small free parties to large warehouses and super clubs. So rave promoters called for top-notch design as a way to advertise their events. This demand saw the emergence of artists like Pez and Junior Tomlinson. These artists were tasked with creating colorful, eye-catching images to promote these events. They began using the new digital design software to create dynamic blends of surreal, sci-fi imagery and typography that perfectly complimented the music at the dawn of the digital age.
The Dali of 90s Raves.
One of the most prolific rave poster artists of the 1990s was Junior Tomlin. His work with rave promoters like Dreamscape, Telepathy, and record labels like React, ZTT, and Mute set the benchmark for promotional material in the electronic dance scene. The UK-based artist is known for the surreal imagery used in his designs and became known as the “Salvador Dali” of raves. Tomlin’s blend of sci-fi, fantasy, and surrealism combined perfectly to form the visual component for thousands of ravers in the 1990s. His work has become extremely collectible and has inspired a whole new generation of poster artists.
The Future of Rave Art.
The rise of the digital age and promotion on social media has spelled doom for the physical flyer. Still, it’s important to collect and document them because they are essentially the artistic history of an entire subculture. However, there is a new generation of artists designing posters and merchandise in the electronic music space. Artists like CM-DP FLOATING_BSTRDand Ben Arfur continue to push the boundaries of design in new and exciting directions. So this integral part of the culture is in capable hands that will carry it well into the future, and beyond.