Phish fans have a high appreciation for art. Some of them are just as passionate about the visual aspects of the band as they are about the music. In fact, there is an entire website discussion board dedicated to the art surrounding Phish (aptly named phishposters.com).
One member of the phishposters.com community has taken the experience out of the virtual realm to a full scale art and poster show in the real world. We sat down with Jason Kaczorowski, photographer, Phish fan and organizer of ‘Da Mock Show to ask him about the event which will take place on Tuesday, August 16th at noon just two blocks from the Phish concert at UIC Pavilion.
How will Mock Show: UIC (Da Mock Show) differ from Mock Shows of the past?
The biggest difference between ‘Da Mock Show’ and Mock Shows of the past is that this event will be the first free exhibition we’ve ever hosted which will take place in a nearly 3,000 square foot art gallery approximately 500 feet from UIC Pavilion.
This is not the first Mock Show. Tell us a little about the history and philosophy of the event.
Over a decade ago I began a friendship with Phish poster artist Jim Pollock photographing his labor intensive process of creating hand-carved, hand-pressed linoleum block prints. From 2003-2009 I acted as both his collectors service department and organized all his exhibitions such as Pitchfork, 10,000 Lakes and Bonnaroo. I was working with the 101/exhibit gallery (Miami, FL) to curate the largest exhibition of Pollock’s art surrounding the 2009 Langerado Music Festival which was set to occur in Bicentennial Park in Miami in early March. In the middle of preparation for the exhibition, Phish announced it would reunite in Hampton, VA nearly 5 years after calling it quits. By February 2009, Langerado abruptly canceled their festival in Miami due to sluggish ticket sales. I immediately began preparing to host an exhibition of Pollock’s work surrounding the bands reunion in Virginia. I tapped a local event coordinator from the Norfolk–Virginia Beach metropolitan area and utilized his resources to unite Pollock with fan artists for an expo on Saturday, March 9th . This wasn’t Pollock’s first time inviting fan artists to exhibit beside his catalog. In 2002 I lobbied Pollock to include AJ Masthay, Ryan Kerrigan, Jennifer Anzalone and myself at his “Phirst” show in Burlington, Vermont. Pollock’s exhibition marked the first time an established Phish poster artist held a poster art show in conjunction with fan artists. Immediately following the success of the Hampton poster expo, I began brainstorming for ways to make these exhibitions beneficial beyond just the artists involved. The afternoon following the Hampton expo I met with the Mockingbird Foundation – a fan-based 501C3 non-profit that raises money for music education – to discuss the prospect of benefiting from the first official “Mock Show” – a name conjured in parody to Mike Gordon’s song “Mock Song” which is featured on Phish’s 2002 Round Room album. I began spearheading the first Mock Show surrounding the band’s rumored performance at the Red Rocks Amphitheater later that summer.
From the band’s official non-profit The Waterwheel Foundation to fan-based organizations such The Mockingbird Foundation, the Phish community has always rallied to raise money for charity. I set out with these inspirational models in mind to form an exhibition that raised money for charitable contributions.
Red Rocks marked the very first official Mock Show and included a whopping 33 exhibitors, a live performance by the Heavy Pets, a screening of “American Artifact: the Rise of American Rock Poster Art” (complete with a Q&A following from director Merle Becker and artist appearing in the film Jim Pollock and Lindsey Kuhn) and raised nearly $10,000 for various local and nationwide charities.
The following Mock Show was held in Miami for Phish’s NYE 2009 run. The planning for that show was a bit rockier – the original venue was shut down at the last minute due to an outbreak of Legionnaires Disease! What took 6 months of planning had to be changed in less than 2 weeks. Miami Mock Show was a great success in the end with nearly 30 exhibitors, “mock elections” for the best posters and artists of the year (sponsored by HeadCount), complimentary 2010 calendars given at the door and an abundance of money raised for non-profit organizations in the community.
Mock Show bridges the gap between fan (homage) art and official (licensed) art, providing the ability for collectors to connect with renowned artists from around the world. Mock Show has always been about providing a platform for artists to exhibit and sell their art while offering a service to the community by giving back to non-profits and local charity.
Why is there such enthusiasm for and around poster art in general and specifically in the Phish community?
People have always identified with rock art and music illustration. Originally rock posters were used to promote and advertise the performance. The more appealing the image and colors on the poster, the likelier it was that people would notice the poster and come to the gig.
In the 90’s Phish fans became interested in the art put forth by their favorite band. The top of the mark was posters produced by Pollock, whose work on the secondary market would routinely sell for hundreds to often thousands of dollars. This demand was fueled by the generally scarce nature of the prints. As eBay.com started to swell with listings for Pollock’s limited edition hand-pressed concert posters, collecting communities spawned from collectors such as Terry Weadock who formed the Phish Poster Archive – the first authoritative site on the net for Phish poster art. Doug “Lawnboy” Loeb started the first official Yahoo Forum Group for collectors called Posterpeople, followed by Todd Levy’s robotwent.com and finally came the definitive home for Phish poster collectors, www.phishposters.com in 2003.
There is a resurgence in handmade items in America. A perfect example of this phenomenon is the e-commerce website Etsy.com which breeds independent artisans creating everything from handmade clothing to quilts and artwork to jewelry. From 2005-20010 Etsy artisans created over $500 million dollars in sales – $314M in 2010 alone! When you look at our economy and so many unemployed and underemployed youth in this country, it’s no wonder so many are turning to their artistic awareness to earn extra income. When it comes to the Phish community, fans have been creating artwork to fund their travels to continue seeing shows for nearly two decades.
There are many reasons people are enthusiastic for poster art. You could cite the financial aspects – it’s no secret that collecting and selling art has always made people money – but, I think that in the end, people just want a physical and visual connection to their favorite band. It’s a reminder of a good time.
With a poster at every Phish show and the prices having been raised to $50 across the board and higher edition numbers, are collectors turned off to purchasing new posters because of the expense, the quality or the availability? Does this increase demand for fan art in the poster collecting community?
It does seem that since Phish’s first Hiatus return in 2003, and more notably in 2009 after the reunion, that the posters have been converted from more of a novelty at certain shows, to a become cliché and commonplace at every concert. The question is no longer “Is there going to be a poster tonight?” but rather, “Who’s doing the poster tonight and will it be any good?” There was no longer a chase for collectability from fans. There was no longer an iconic lore behind these concerts. It had become merely merchandise; dismissible next to pennants and badges. Posters sales have become the merciless merchandising juggernaut with new releases available in editions as high as 1,000 every night.
Poster collectors have noticed that having a poster at every show and tapping commercial design houses to create the posters rather than fans of the music have resulted in a more mass produced feel and less connection to the band and the fans. That’s why some fan artists have been embraced by the collector community. They have a passion for the music, and therefore, the images they create are from the heart and connect with other fans even though the poster itself might only say a city name and a date. And every band could only dream of having such a devoted following of audience members who not only take the time and talent to create this universal allegiance but also proudly tout their glory through a network of underground imagery and language seen on t-shirts, bumper stickers and posters.
How did you get involved with the Mock Show and why do you continue to do it despite the time commitment?
Mock Show is that catalyst that brings together our community of creators and collectors. I am fueled by the positive support and contributions of this community. I’m passionate about providing a stage for the appreciation of both music and art. Mock Show features artists passionate about providing an interpretation of their appreciation of music through their art.
Mock Show is a special place for artists and attendees to get together and bond, network and commune over an appreciation of art, music and friendships formed from our devotion to music and art over the years. If I wasn’t organizing these exhibitions, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to get together with so many familiar faces with similar interests in one location. It’s a very rewarding experience to organize, promote and attend these events.
How has the Mock Show benefited the Phish community? The Artists involved? The non-profits?
The Mock Show stands for benefiting everyone involved. We have raised nearly $15,000 for various charities and non-profits which service both the Phish community and the local communities where the band performs. The artists benefit by having a safe, organized location to exhibit, promote and exchange their art with fans. Da Mock Show: UIC will benefit Phish’s official non-profit charity, the Waterwheel Foundation.
“Da Mock Show”, an art exhibition staged in homage to the rock band Phish featuring 20 established artists from across the county, will take place just 2 blocks from Chicago’s UIC Pavilion on Tuesday, August 16 from 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm. The event is free, family-friendly and open to the public.
For more information visit: http://www.amockshow.com/