What is a gig poster? It’s an advertisement for a gig. After the show, you have this poster as a memory of the show, the band, and a historical artifact. You’ve probably seen posters in a Hard Rock Café or similarly themed restaurant for Stones or Hendrix gigs. Those are usually pretty functional, but in the early 1990’s a group of awkward rock nerds used their artistic proclivities to make a different kind of gig poster. Using screen printing, they could design and reproduce stylized posters that would, they hoped, reflect the band and their music. Just Like Being There (2012) is a documentary interviewing these craftsmen/artists and their place in the rock scene (backed by a number of alternative bands like Spoon, Mogwai, Nada Surf, Ted Leo, and others).
For something as new as this is, producing these gig posters and art prints is surprisingly advanced. They came up, basically, along with the internet and used sites like gigposters.com and email to contact bands and either get commissions or sell on spec. Flatstock, a convention growing out of gigposters.com and the American Poster Institute, then brought these people together to share and sell their work while learning the craft from other friendly, awkward people. It didn’t take too long, though, before a little bit of dogma grew up with the distinction of gig posters and art prints. Some think that Flatstock is really for indie rock gig posters, not for art prints. But hip-hop prints, which aren’t really as popular, are also allowed, but that might be because it’s such a small niche. What about Mondo?
Mondo is a company that creates limited edition prints and t-shirts based upon films, typically the minutia of those films. It’s roughly in the same style as these gig posters, but differs as to subject. Apparently, one guy got together with another guy and had the great idea of getting licenses from these studios so that they could make legitimate money out of these posters. And they did. But not everybody is coin-operated. There’s a really funny segment where these gig printers lament the fact that some people get these posters and flip them on eBay for $2,000. The obvious response is, “Then why don’t you sell them for more money?” They don’t like that these things are just commodities for people who won’t enjoy it. Welcome to success in the art world.
Just Like Being There has good production values on the DVD, which makes up for it not being that hard hitting. This isn’t so much an exposé or definitive document of the movement as it is a neat side note with access. There is no driving voice to create a context and understand the world. It’s all just talking about the cool stuff they do and showing us a little bit of how they do it and who enjoys it. But it’s still early in the medium and this is really just a short, vague primer to perk our interest.
“Merch” is a funny word.
It’s weird for a documentary to have bonus features, but there are a number of “deleted scenes” and then segments from bands they couldn’t put into the movie, and “A Day in the Life of Daniel Danger”. But aren’t those latter two also segments they didn’t put into the documentary and, therefore, deleted scenes. Though the latter feature is pretty odd.