by Mabel Suen
Saint Louis University's student-run music venue, the Billiken Club, has had its fair share of memorable concerts (and intends to keep 'em coming). In an effort to maintain a visual history, the SLU library's special-collections department presents an exhibit of letterpress prints made specifically for the Billiken Club by the Firecracker Press called (please don't) STEAL THIS POSTER!, premiering this Thursday, September 12, at 4 p.m with a musical performance by Manual Feed on vintage presses.
The exhibit is named humorously after the fact that these posters, at the time, frequently got grabbed from public spaces by passersby as keepsakes after an average of only one to two weeks of hang time. It features more than 75 prints created to advertise the Billiken's Club's shows between 2006 to 2011, including touring and local acts such as Mountain Goats, Apples in Stereo, Times New Viking (named "best concert poster" in the RFT's Best of St. Louis in 2011), Bunnygrunt, So Many Dynamos and many more.
"We were initially taken by the design work on the prints. From a sheer aesthetic point of view, they were worth saving," says associate university archivist Tim Achee. "The artwork from the prints draws heavily from the performing bands in a collision of music and visual arts, providing some secondary narrative."
Manual Feed features Firecracker Press members including owner/founder Eric Woods running multiple presses at once to create a percussive cacophony and, of course, beautifully colorful prints. Woods says the presses in the studio weigh thousands of pounds, while the portable models used for demonstrations weigh 100 to 150 pounds each.
"If you're just sitting and listening, you can hear different things happening. Clicks and clacks overlap differently according to the timing of the printing process and it creates some sort of weird, interesting noise. That's what we're trying to capture in Manual Feed performances," says Woods.
Chris Grabau of Magnolia Summer will back up the printing-press soundtrack with a live instrument. Grabau, a former director of the Billiken Club, will also speak at the start of the opening reception, as will Woods and current KSLU director Grant Nikseresht.
"Posters sometimes have a very limited shelf life and we certainly go to a lot of trouble to make them, but we never have any preconceived notion that they're going to stick around forever," says Woods. "Now that the library is archiving them, at least a version of them will be around until we're all gone. That's very exciting to us."
The reception includes plenty of free print giveaways as well as refreshments from Black Bear Bakery. It is free and open to the public. (please don't) STEAL THIS POSTER! will be on display through December 31 on the second floor gallery of SLU's Pius XII Memorial Library (3650 Lindell Boulevard; 314-977-3103). The library's hours vary depending on the school's schedule. For more information, check out the exhibit's official website and Facebook page, as well as the Facebook page for SLU's Pius XII Memorial Library.
Click ahead to see examples of some of the work featured in the exhibit, as well as a poster for the exhibit itself. We encourage everyone to see the prints in person, of course, to fully do them justice!