The Save Our Stages virtual music festival happening on YouTube this weekend may not include any musical performances at DC venues, but its series of very cool posters does have local origins. Jordan Grobe, a communications coordinator with I.M.P.—the company behind 9:30 Club and The Anthem—commissioned the 35 designs, highlighting performers such as the Foo Fighters, Phoebe Bridgers, Gus Dapperton, and Dave Matthews. (The 9:30 Club is featured in a festival segment on activism).
As stages sit empty, with the Covid-19 pandemic keeping concertgoers and touring acts at home, the National Independent Venue Association created the online festival as a way to raise money for struggling venues. The $40 posters, which you can buy here, also support the cause.
“When you think of a traditional concert poster, some of those designs are incredible. But they’re pretty random, or they have a lot to do with the artist and a little to do with the venue,” says Grobe, of the posters. “So we wanted to kind of flip that model a little, and place the emphasis squarely on the venues.”
Recruiting 30 artists to create the four-color designs was a month-long endeavor. Grobe reached out to venues to see if they had pre-existing relationships with any artists, and tried to be intentional with the artist pairings, like ensuring a Latinx artist worked on the Sebastián Yatra poster. (Grobe himself created the Lumineers design).
Look closely and you’ll find Easter eggs of venue history scattered throughout the artwork. The Jason Mraz poster may seem like an odd choice for the “I’m Yours” singer, but Belly Up Tavern in San Diego is known as the “queen of clubs” — hence the deck-of-cards motif.
Grobe hopes the spirit of the festival extends to supporting DC’s homegrown venues, especially as Washingtonians mourn the loss of stages at 18th Street Lounge, Twins Jazz, and U Street Music Hall. “When we talk about these small, independent venues, it’s not just where small local artists hone their craft,” says Grobe. “It’s also just a home to all of these people in the community.”
This article has been updated to include 9:30 Club’s festival video.