If you have spent any time walking around any city in the country you have certainly seen a punk rock concert flyer. They typically appear posted together in groups on a board outside the local record store or a bulletin board on a college campus or cafe somewhere. These brightly colored xeroxed handbills typically feature an eye-catching image and cut out letters glued and pasted with masterfully crude hand. They stand out on bright pink, highlighter yellow, and white copy paper. Screaming for your attention with the fury and fuzzy distortion of a punk vocalist. The imagery they use reflects the music they are advertising, loud, fast, and in your face. And they are awesome. See below for Mass marketing on a small scale.
Punk Rock DIY
It’s hard to imagine today, but there WAS a time before the internet. In order to get the word out for the next gig punk bands across the country turned to the photocopier. They cut, pasted, and xeroxed their bands onto flyers like a deranged author of a ransom note, and handed them out around town. They posted them on bulletin boards and handed them out after concerts. The hasty nature of these flyers was a key component in the development of the style. The look of the black and white xeroxed flyer matched perfectly with the punk aesthetic of 3 chord chaos. The band, the venue, and the date. These handmade flyers stand in stark contrast to the limited edition, carefully screen printed on specialty paper gig posters we see today.
Dadaism and Punk Rock.
The designers of these handbills used this medium as a way to announce the next show and sometimes as a way of expressing their political beliefs. Comparisons have been drawn between this form of artistic expression and Dada art. The avant-garde intellectual movement started around World War 1 and blended seamlessly with the punk ethos that can be intentionally disrespectful and rejecting of capitalist culture. The dadaist celebrated luck in place of logic and irrationality instead of calculated intent. Some see the message of Dadaism and punk rock as quite similar because both movements were born of social outburst.
Some may see these handbills and flyers as a crude form of marketing material. They may walk by and not even notice them plastered outside the local venue, jockeying for attention. They are handmade and they are important. Once live music comes back. Once this is all over, stop and take a look next time you see a crowded bulletin board, because it’s been awhile, and because they are directions for a good time. A good time we all need.