SCREENADELICA, in case you don’t know, is the travelling gig-poster show that brings the best music-inspired artwork, by the most talented artists, to the people.
The exhibition has rolled up at music festivals as far afield as Poland, Spain, Portugal, the USA, and Canada, but did you know that Screenadelica made its debut in this very city in 2010, at a little festival called Sound City?
The man behind Screenadelica is designer and screen printer Gary McGarvey, better known under his artist name, Horse. He is candid about how the exhibition first came to be: “Well, I’d never done an exhibition before and there were loads of artists I knew who were getting exhibitions all over the place, and I was jealous, I guess. I thought, ‘No one’s gonna spoon feed me, I’m gonna feed myself!’”
He approached Sound City with the idea of curating a space that would combine the celebration of screen-printed posters with live music, and they went for it. After nailing down a venue – at the corner where Bold Street and Renshaw Street meet Berry Street, currently housing Sainsbury’s and the Four Season Chinese restaurant – it was all systems go. With six artists from Ireland, England, Spain and France travelling to Liverpool to display their work, and a slew of bands playing – including Married To The Sea and Pete Bentham And The Dinner Ladies – the first Screenadelica experiment paid off.
Horse says: “It was successful overall, and every artist has since come back at one stage or another. We decided to come back the next year and make it bigger and better.” And so he has, with Screenadelica returning each subsequent year at Sound City with an ever-more impressive roster of bands and artists. The exhibition has been held in four different locations so far, and attendees will attest to some of the craziest festival moments happening within those spaces: Future Of The Left threatening to capsize the Academy Of Arts in 2013 with sheer force of numbers was one of those moments; another was when Marmozets got crazy at The Black-E last year and at one point the drummer was crowd-surfing with his drum kit. Not to mention anytime JazzHands show up.
Originally from North-West Ireland, Horse’s journey to Screenadelica over his decade-long stint in Liverpool started with years of designing Liverpool gig posters for shows put on by city-based promoters (and Sound City artist bookers) EVOL. Over the years Horse’s designs have become a common sight around the city, and Screenadelica artists have since gone on to produce original artwork for Stevie Wonder, Brian Wilson, Björk, The Cure, Elton John and many more.
Although Horse is no longer based in Liverpool – he is currently operating out of Toronto, Canada – he stills considers the city a home, and Screenadelica will continue at Sound City in 2015. “I started something I believe in, and Liverpool has been such a receptive city,” Horse says with a fondness for his adopted home. “Screenadelica has really taken a foothold here and I believe that Liverpool can be the first city of gig posters in the UK. I’m more than happy to see someone else take the reins eventually, but, regardless of whether I’m based here or not in the future, for now I want to finish what I’ve started.”
Right now that means fitting in with the new direction of the festival, which this year welcomes set stages with big headliners on the banks of the river, as opposed to the city-wide sprawl of previous years. Screenadelica will still be there, albeit in a slightly stripped-back form. Says Horse, “This year I’m going to bring it back to basics to see where we can go with the new layout of the festival. It seems like this is the perfect year to do a retrospective of my work and display a whole bunch of commissioned posters from Screenadelica’s history.” This year will feature a ‘greatest hits’ of Horse’s and other artists’ work from Screenadelica’s past, as well as never-before-seen posters for some of the headliners at this year’s festival.
The Screenadelica exhibition will also feature the work of newer gig-poster artists: that of long-time Horse collaborator and über-talented screen printer That Girl, as well as local designer and illustrator extraordinaire Scott Duffey.
And, naturally, there will be a musical element. JazzHands are a Liverpool jazz/noise/crazy band that, if you’ve seen, you’ll remember, and if you haven’t seen – well, you’re in for a treat. Horse recalls the first time he saw them in 2011: “This bunch of lunatics turn up, one with a mask, and then a frontman who had enough energy to run a power station, all wearing orange. They started, the room filled, and people were coming in off the street to see this wave of orange and bastardised noise jazz being catapulted across the room. This was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”
JazzHands have gone on to play at every Screenadelica event in the UK since then, and even joined Horse in his poster booth in Barcelona last year at the Primavera Sound festival. They will appear in the Screenadelica section at Sound City this year, and you can expect it to be pretty special, as Horse attests: “They played Screenadelica in 2013 with eight drummers, and they played Screenadelica in 2014 with about fifteen drummers, banging everything from actual drums to kegs to rocks! It was, and always will be, nuts!”
Art, music, and mayhem – it’s come a long way since 2010, but at its core Screenadelica remains the same.