Larger, well-known rock bands take on their own specific styles that are as unique to them as each of the band members’ personas. An image, symbol, or more generally, an aesthetic, can be viewed and immediately conjure up images of the band onstage, rocking out.
For Pearl Jam, one of these iconic traits is their concert posters, which have been designed exclusively for the past 13 years by the Ames Bros. - Coby Schultz and Barry Ament, who is Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament’s younger brother. The rock n’ roll designing duo met while in school at Montana State, and eventually went on to design school together. Since then, their handiwork has been strongly sought out, and their client list includes a grouping of impressive companies such as Nike, MTV, Amazon.com, K2 and Ride Snowboards.
The Ames Bros. recently released their book “Ames Bros. vs. Pearl Jam: 13 Years of Tour Posters,” which highlights every single poster that was made during that time. The Tacoma Public Library’s Handforth Gallery has the distinct privilege of exhibiting 82 of these posters, each combining the Ames Bros.’ design sensibilities with Pearl Jam’s visual tastes.
On the Summer Tour (2008) wall of the exhibit, there hangs a poster from a show in West Palm Beach, Fla. that took place on June 11, and the entire expanse and main focus of the poster is a crocodile. The fonts and wording all are written along the crocodile’s back in a very block-like style, which seems to play off of the cartoon-esque image of the reptile. Huge orange eyes, dramatically sharp and pointy teeth, and rocks scattered across the scene round out the whole of the caricature.
For a show in Charlotte, N.C. that took place on April 16, 2003 and in which Olympia band Sleater-Kinney opened for Pearl Jam, the Ames Bros. made a 1950s design throwback with an orange background, and an airline pilot front and center. The man is holding a martini in one hand and is grinning widely at the viewer, revealing a signature gap between his two front teeth. A luxury liner is flying through the skies in the background, while the pilot in pea green begs attendants to enjoy themselves at the show.
In a poster for a Montreal show on the Tour of the Americas in September 2005, Pearl Jam’s not-so-quiet political views are placed on display. A young boy uses a manual lawnmower while wearing a T-shirt with a singular AK-47 assault rifle in the center. The patch where the boy is mowing has the band name and year on it. The piece gives off a very screen printed look, and the colors of the piece, primarily reds, browns, and yellows, give it a 1980s vintage worn T-shirt feel. The design of this particular poster also feels very three-dimensional, as the boy and text seem to be jumping off the wall.
Anyone with an affinity for excellent design work and rock concerts, Pearl Jam fan or not, can find many visually stimulating and appealing pieces up right now at the “Ames Bros. vs. Pearl Jam” art show.
“Ames Bros. vs. Pearl Jam: 13 Years of Tour Posters,” is on exhibit until Jan. 31 at the Handforth Gallery in the Tacoma Public Library, located at 1102 Tacoma Ave. S. Gallery viewing hours are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Admission is free.
For more information, visit the Tacoma Public Library website at www.tpl.lib.wa.us or call (253) 591-5666.