Jake Kelly's latest release is an artful and nostalgic trip through the last 25 years of concerts in Cleveland.
"Fliers Volume 2: 1995-2020" features hundreds of posters from the last quarter century including myriad deranged characters and oddities of every ilk — monsters, freaks, aliens and mutants — seeping onto the page from the recesses of Kelly’s vast imagination.
The first volume, “FLIERS: 2000-2015,” was published in 2015 but Kelly stresses that this new second volume collection is all completely different flier art from the past 25 years distilled down from the three-foot-tall stack of archived fliers currently wintering in his eastside studio. He estimates he’s made nearly 1,500 over the years leading up the pandemic.
Kelly started working for the Grog Shop and The Beachland Ballroom and Tavern in 2000. When Kelly was in his early 20s, he was receiving $20 per flier from these local venues and sometimes he’d get into shows for free and maybe get a free drink. It was enough, and it gave Kelly a chance to develop his style.
“The biggest influence in Cleveland and really one of the biggest influences period was Clay Parker,” says Kelly. “He was a huge influence on me, I had his fliers from the early Grog Shop days hanging up on my bedroom wall when I was in high school. Also the big '90s guys, Frank Kozik, Art Chantry and Coop were also influences”
Kelly says that the three elements which make a great music flier are interesting illustration, a strong narrative element and cool hand-written text.
“I’ve always tried to make my posters feel like they are one panel of some kind of ongoing saga that you’re never going to see the either sides of,” says Kelly.
Kelly cites dreams, books, weird things, drugs/acid from 20 years ago, '50s pornography, '70s yearbooks among the many reference materials from which he has been drawing. After 25 years of cranking out outrageous posters which have offered a trademark aesthetic to the Cleveland music scene, Kelly says that it has been like releasing a “public sketch book.”
“After getting a little distance from it, it can be kind of a relief because it wasn’t always easy to come up with these ideas, especially during those busy show months where I was doing like five fliers a month so I got that mental stress off, “ says Kelly. “It’s nice to put a capstone on it and it’s a nice even number. I can keep saying “quarter of a century” to make it sound even more grandiose than it should.”
Flier art for rock shows gained prominence in 1964, with Bill Graham and The Family Dog being of some of the trailblazers of this art form. These early examples have been considered sought-after collector’s items and have had an impact on corporate advertising and showcased so many otherwise unknown artists. Flier art is an intrinsically beautiful, hilarious, shocking, bedazzling, exciting, thought-provoking and at times politically-driven form of expression that has entered into our everyday psyche for many years and especially in a city like Cleveland.
“You used to see these telephone poles covered in posters and they would be from six months ago, eight months ago and shows that were coming up and the pink one would be bleeding into the green one and they created these sort of unnatural formations of art but it was also trash and there was something that was really cool about that,” says Kelly. “There was a female poster artist (Shawn Kerri) in the Los Angeles punk scene, in the late '70s, early '80s…she was this brilliant artist and I’m paraphrasing but she said, 'The first time I saw one of my posters crumpled up and lying in the gutter, I knew I had arrived,' and I understand fully what she’s talking about. These things can live beyond their intended purpose, which is this really pretty immediate advertisement for a show so maybe there’s something profound to say about, here’s this book about these ephemeral transient things that you can have as a permanent record to look back on.”
For this second volume of Kelly’s works he, with the help of the Grog Shop, will be doing a three-week presale accepting orders for a limited run of this second volume for $50. You can score both books for $85. Orders can be made at GrogShop.gs
A portion of the proceeds will go towards both the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern as well as the Grog Shop in efforts to help support these clubs during the pandemic.
“The Grog and the Beachland have both always been really great and very patient with me when I was probably the least deserving of it,” says Kelly. “Kathy (Kathy Blackman, owner of the Grog Shop) gave me my first job doing fliers, she gave me my first mural and so much has come from that and likewise The Beachland has given me a lot of opportunities, so I owe both of them greatly. Part of me giving a chunk of money from the book sales to them is because I know they’re struggling. I’d be really bummed if they died the unnatural death from being locked down for a whole year and not able to have shows, because I’d like to see them make it through this, come back and I want to go to some shows again.”
“I hope that when people pick it up they are able to take a cool walk down memory lane and remember some good shows, remember some fun nights, remember some great performances,” says Kelly.