Part 1: Eric Von Munz
The city of Milwaukee has long played host to musical groups of varied notoriety, from underground acts to famed Pop bands. Yet, according to Milwaukee Magazine’s Kevin Kosterman, “by the late 1990s, that scene had lost its momentum. Rock-wise, Milwaukee began to look dead,” (Kosterman, “Rock Revival”) an observation confirmed by the closing of multiple clubs and underground music venues during this period. A founding figure of Milwaukee’s gig-poster scene and a celebrated local artist, Eric Von Munz first began producing gig-posters in response to Milwaukee’s negative reputation among visiting bands:
“For a while, Milwaukee had a really bad rap. In the time period, we only had a couple of venues […] the guy that ran Shank Hall, and then Gus, that ran the Unicorn, and they weren’t really known for their ability to pay out rock and roll bands. So, the bands would come here, they’d get stiffed by the club owners, and then they’d never want to come back to Milwaukee. Right around this time Garage Rock was coming in […] and these bands started heading to Milwaukee, […] Galaxy Trio, the Melvins. John and I were like, well shit, if these bands are coming to Milwaukee we don’t want them to have a bad time, they’re going to deal with these club owners who are going to be less than honorable. We wanted these bands to come back, we definitely wanted these bands to come back.” (Von Munz, personal interview, April 17, 2011)
In an effort to counter the substandard ethics of Milwaukee’s limited music venues, Von Munz and fellow Milwaukee artist John Hill, began producing concert posters for bands scheduled to visit Milwaukee venues, proposing: “If we can make these guys good posters, and say ‘hey thanks for coming to Milwaukee, sorry for Gus…but we think you’re awesome,’ maybe they’ll come back.” Von Munz created his first gig-poster in 1996, his work emerging in company with the early work of infamous Rock poster artists such as Frank Kozik and Lindsey Kuhn. In fact, Von Munz credits Frank Kozik in supplying his first lessons in screen-printing, calling the artist up one night for advice, as Kozik used to “publish his telephone number on the back of Juxtapoz,”(Von Munz) an underground contemporary art magazine established in 1994. Although Von Munz has gained knowledge of screen-printing methods throughout his career, the artist’s early work followed in the footsteps of the Punk fliers of the late 1970s and 1980s. Von Munz’s flier for the 1998 performance of the Hard Rock band Clutch, at Milwaukee’s Modjeska Theatre, was created on a three-color copier at the local Kinko’s copy shop. The small flier, printed in two separations of blue and red, features cut-and-paste imagery and text applied using rubber cement, an early example of Von Munz’s dedication to the bands represented, and the Milwaukee music scene. With the help of Von Munz’s hand-printed concert posters, Milwaukee began to shed its negative stigma. With the honorable intention of expanding Milwaukee’s music scene, Von Munz distributed his screen-printed posters to bands and promoters for little or no charge, his sole intention to improve the experience of those visiting Milwaukee, and perhaps catch a free show. Von Munz’s first substantial triumph in transforming Milwaukee’s substandard musical standing, was marked by his production of posters for The Mistreaters and The White Stripes at The Cactus Club, November 13, 1999, printed on discarded vinyl record albums.
After printing the posters, at the prompting of Mistreaters vocalist, Christreater, Von Munz sent a copy to The White Stripes, the infamous band’s then unknown status allowing the printing of their home address on their first record. According to Von Munz:
“They were going to cancel the show, because they didn’t want to come to Milwaukee […] then they got the record in the mail, and Jack [White] opened it up, and he was like ah no, we gotta do this. So they packed up their Country Squire Station Wagon, and drove from Detroit to play at the Cactus Club […] They played and it was mind blowing, I met them, and they were like whenever we come back town, we want you to do our posters.” (Von Munz)
Von Munz happily fulfilled the band’s request, creating eight gig-posters for Jack White and his band-mates, before the disbandment of the group in 2011. Among these works are Von Munz’s ‘album poster,’ the first-ever silk-screened poster for The White Stripes, and the first silk-screened poster for a White Stripes headlining show in 2000. Von Munz’s 2000 poster for The White Stripes features striped peppermint candies cascading down across a vibrant green background, befitting their Saint Patrick’s Day performance at the Cactus Club in Milwaukee. The poster captures Von Munz’s characteristic use of vivid hues, reminiscent of 1960s concert posters, and sharply delineated forms, achieved through the use of Rubylith, a masking film which can be cut to create separation for various printing techniques, including screen-printing. Today the medium is rarely used, and difficult to obtain, made obsolete by current computer design technology, as Von Munz jokingly claims: “I’m the youngest, oldest Rubylith cutter you’ll ever meet.” Though abandoned by most designers, the medium allows Von Munz to create smooth curves within his gig-posters, unique amongst the digitally produced pixilated forms in many gig-posters today. With the help of Eric Von Munz, artists such as Jack White, ADULT, Eagles of Death Metal and the Queens Of The Stone Age, have returned to Milwaukee again and again, drawn to the city’s welcoming and enthusiastic community.
[Excerpt from The Gig-Poster Explosion: Artists and Collectors of Milwaukee, by Kelly Brown]
- The Gig Poster Explosion: Artists and Collectors of Milwaukee (goodoldmodern.com)
- The Gig-Poster Explosion Artists and Collectors of Milwaukee (goodoldmodern.com)