Many live music enthusiasts would argue that concert posters are an art form unto themselves. A good one serves as an enticing visual entreaty to enjoy a night of music while emphasizing the singularity of the acts filling the bill; a great one, however, is a must-own piece of memorabilia on par with a classic album or favorite t-shirt.
A few faculty members at the University of Denver, including Associate Professor of Art History Scott Montgomery, are among those enthusiasts. The University's Victoria H. Myhren Gallery is currently featuring "Visual Trips: The Psychedelic Poster Movement in San Francisco," an exhibit curated by Montgomery that aims to "thoroughly explore the artistic technique of iconic concert posters and flyers."
Featuring over 200 posters, drawings and photographs, "Visual Trips" showcases the work of visual artists who helped define the psychedelic rock scene centered in San Francisco in the late 1960s, an era often referred to as rock's "golden age."
In addition to providing a preview of some of the works featured in the exhibit (you can see them via the slideshow above), we asked Montgomery to provide a playlist of essential psychedelic music from this era that includes Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe & the Fish and, of course, the Grateful Dead.
Stream individual tracks and read Montgomery's take on the music below.
"Visual Trips" runs now through Nov. 16. The exhibit is free and open to the public.
The bands represented here constitute a significant number of the “major bands” of the San Francisco scene. All bands are from San Francisco or the San Francisco Bay area. All feature frequently on the posters in the "Visual Trips" exhibition.
Some are studio recordings intended as singles, but much of the “real” San Francisco sound was heard in a live concert experience, complete with liquid light show and sundry visuals. A number of these songs are from live albums recorded at concerts advertised in posters in the exhibit.
For anyone not in the San Francisco area at the time, these records were those which were commercially available from this musical scene. It is not surprising that many of the more representative releases of the San Francisco musical scene were live albums.
The final song, "Donovan's Reef Jam," gives a sense of the musical community, as members of Country Joe & the Fish, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and the Steve Miller Band are involved. It comes from a concert recording in which Country Joe & the Fish were the headline act over Led Zeppelin and Taj Mahal.
A long jam to close the night was a relatively frequent phenomenon, but this case is interesting because neither the Grateful Dead nor Jefferson Airplane nor Steve Miller were on the concert billing that night, yet they all came to jam. This was the real time San Francisco sound. This recording was only made officially available in 1994.