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Ron Faiola's Rock Posters: Remembering the Real Alternative

Nov. 15, 2011
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Back in the days before texting, when a staple gun and a telephone poll were the cheapest ways of getting the word out, posters were a popular medium for promoting bands. Some excellent poster art (as well as some interesting dreck) was inspired by Milwaukee's flourishing alternative rock scene of the '70s and '80s. Many examples can be seen in the online galleries of milwaukeerockposters.com, the brainchild of veteran musician and filmmaker Ron Faiola. Milwaukeerockposters also sponsors an hour of vintage local music on WMSE (5-6 p.m. Saturdays), with Paul Host and Tim Noble at the controls.

Ron, where did the idea come from?

I had several big boxes of posters and thought it would be fun to share them. Later, I added video, photos and music from Milwaukee bands.

What was special about the posters?

There were some amazing artists in Milwaukee, like Bob Solem and Guy Hoffman. The posters were mostly done by hand. I remember going to the Palette Shop and buying rub-on Letraset. You'd crinkle the letters so they'd look jagged on the poster. I have a poster [DJ] Dan Hansen's kid did for the Ama-Dots. It was supposed to be two people upside-down vomiting, but it doesn't look like that. I just thought it was someone with wild hair! I still have a huge number of posters and photos that haven't made it to the site.

Have you ever exhibited the posters in a brick-and-mortar setting?

The Eisner Museum had an exhibition in the middle of the last decade. We also showed videos from my collection at the exhibit and served 75-cent cans of beer from the day—Schlitz, Pabst, Old Style. We sold out of beer real fast! Afterward, interest in the site increased. I'm getting responses from people all over the world who used to live here or are familiar with the bands from here. Someone emailed me a photo and said, “Who is this?” It turned out to be the Tense Experts at the Starship.

What about the music on your site? Did you clear it with the bands?

I just put it on MP3. People are just happy to have their music out there. It's not like I'm making money off it.

What about the CDs you sell in your store. You have a live recording of Liquid Pink from 1987 and '88…

They told me, “If you sell 10 copies, don't worry about it. If you sell 100, cut us in.” With The Crusties and the Appliances, I have an arrangement for taking a percentage.

Why is there such interest in the '70s-'80s Milwaukee scene?

It was the last time for original music. People are interested in bands from Milwaukee or Minneapolis because everything wasn't homogenized yet by MTV, iTunes or the Internet. Today, the bands that play here sound like the bands that play there. It's gotten to be all the same.


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