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Widespread Panic’s “Poster Children”

On November 25, 2013, in News, by Ben Marks

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On Friday November 29, 2013, Widespread Panic releases its much-anticipated new book, “Poster Children,” which chronicles 25 years of Panic posters, from the cheap photocopies created to get the word out about their latest gig at the Uptown Lounge in their hometown of Athens, Georgia, to the limited-edition screenprints produced for shows at Red Rocks, the Fox, and other storied venues. At 320 pages and with more than 400 images, the hardback book features artwork and artist statements by Jeff Wood (who did the book’s cover, shown above), Chuck Sperry, Marq Spusta, Emek, J.T. Lucchesi, and Chris Bilheimer, who also designed “Poster Children.”

For an article I wrote over at CollectorsWeekly.com, I was fortunate enough to speak to all six of these artists, each of whom gave me a peek behind the scenes at how the Panic poster program got started and how it’s evolved. I also got to speak with Panic bassist Dave Schools, who is a champion of rock posters in general and a big believer in giving Panic’s rock-poster artists the freedom to do their thing.

Below is an excerpt from my article. You can read the rest here:

Widespread Panic co-founder and bassist Dave Schools remembers well those ancient evenings when he used to create the artwork himself for many of his band’s early flyers, “obviously,” he says with a laugh, remarking on his artistic talents. “The mid-’80s was the height of the DIY era,” he recalls. “You went to Kinko’s in the middle of the night when your buddy was working and ran off 150 free handbills and stuck them up all over town, usually in the shadows, trying not to get caught.” Later, like other bands, Panic would rely on promoters to produce the posters to get the word out about their shows. “To see how far posters have come since then, and how celebrated they are now, has been quite a journey for me.”

Poster artist J.T. Lucchesi, whose work could be described as big-impact illustration, has shared much of that journey, beginning his almost 25-year relationship with the band as a fan. “My first Widespread Panic show was in Atlanta in 1990,” he recalls. “I had to get my dad to get me in because they were playing bars at the time and I was under age.” By 1992, when he and an equally enterprising friend were already running their own T-shirt print shop, Lucchesi began following the band around, selling unlicensed Widespread Panic-inspired shirts in the parking lot to fellow fans before and after the show. “We would give the band and their crew like two dozen of our shirts,” he says, “so we kind of got on good terms with them.”

Meanwhile, the band was noticing that its fans were increasingly interested in the posters created for its shows. “When we started playing shows at the Warfield in San Francisco,” says Schools of Panic’s shows there in 1996 and 1997, “Bill Graham’s people would pass out these posters for free to the crowd after the shows. We’d be like, ‘Why is everybody leaving so quickly at the end of the last song?’ And then we realized it was because that’s when they were giving away the posters in front of the theater.”

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