This Show Flyer Could Be Your Life
The show flyer isn't quite a dead medium yet.
You still see some flyers taped to the bases of streetlights around town, and piled inside the Black Cat. But you could hardly call the flyer the dominant method for spreading the word about underground rock shows these days. That'd be Facebook.
Local author and journalist Willona Sloan aims to recapture the cut-and-pasted, photocopied past in a new ebook, Come to Our Show: Punk Show Flyers From D.C. to Down Under.
Sloan became a fan of punk in the early '90s while growing up in Herndon, and she developed an adoration for show flyers. "At the time you only heard about shows through the flyer, so I would save them," she says. Sloan became pretty involved in the punk scene and wanted to find a way to get her own voice out there. She wrote a letter to Al Quint, the editor of the zine Suburban Voice, who suggested she start her own fanzine.
In the late '90s, Sloan launched the zine Scorpion. "It was punk, it was feminist, it was anti-racist," she says. Sloan published everything from record reviews to collections of art—typical punk zine fare on the surface, but all of it channeled through the perspective of a young, African-American female. "Being an African-American, I wanted to represent people of color," she says. "So I started asking people in other countries to send me their flyers and to send me their fanzines too." Sloan used Book Your Own Fuckin' Life—Maximum Rock 'N' Roll's DIY directory—to reach out to like-minded punks around the world.
Sloan published Scorpion when she could, but she wanted to do something bigger with some of the mail she received. "I had this idea I wanted to do this huge flyer book," she says. But she stopped making Scorpion in 2001 and put the flyer book on hold to focus on writing a novel. (The finished, unsold manuscript is still under her bed.) But she'd collected flyers and letters from Peru, Israel, Singapore, New Zealand, South Africa, and Chile, and eventually revisited them. "I really wanted to do something with them and I started scanning them a few months ago," she says.
On Saturday, Sloan released Come to Our Show as a free download from on blog, DC Scorpion Girl. The 87-page ebook includes flyers from the last several decades, and has a large selection highlighting D.C. punk gigs and benefit shows. (Positive Force's Mark Andersen gave Sloan a large number of flyers.) Following a short intro from Sloan, there's hardly any text in the book—one reason is Sloan didn't want to misidentify some of the more specific locations on the flyers. She says she also wanted them to stand on their own as works of art. It's easy to see the meticulous work, love, and care that went into making the flyers, whatever their backstories are. (Los Crudos singer Martin Sorrondeguy shared some of his collection to Sloan, but asked she not copy the back sides of the flyers, as some them contained personal letters.)
Come to Our Show has caught on in the short amount of time it's been online, thanks to coverage in places like Maximum Rock 'N' Roll and The Daily Swarm: Sloan says that 600 people downloaded the book on Tuesday night alone, and that she hopes it plants the idea in other's heads. "I'm not trying to own punk flyers," she says. "We all have scanners and we all have Internet. I want people to share them."