Portland, Oregon, boasts a rich and expansive music and cultural scene, home to a myriad of quirky, trendy, and historic music and social venues, and musicians and musical groups. University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives has recently acquired the Musical and Cultural Posters of the Portland Night Scene. A collection of over 1,700 individual posters compiled by Glenn LaFontaine, gathered over a fifteen-year period from the late 1980’s to early 2000’s, exposes an aspect of Portland so inherent to its identity, drawing from familiar and fringe musicians unique and diverse, and gathering animated individuals under social causes and common interests.
The bulk of the posters are “gig” posters and pertain to punk, heavy metal, and Black musicians, whose music ranged from jazz to reggae to African-influenced. Black musician “gig” posters feature Masta-Ace – The Chosen, Fiesta Dancehall Reggae, Cannon/Lion of Judah Band, Mikey Dread and the Fully Fullwood Band, Pablo Moses, African Kings, and Obo Addy.
Portland’s cultural scene comes alive in posters oriented to widely varied causes and interests, including LGBTQ groups, social activism, protests, women’s events, sex workers, dance performances, and varied social and cultural groups. Events of significant history and following in Portland, such as Take Back the Night, International Women’s Day, Night of Gay Porn, Dos Lesbos, Swamp Mama, Lesbian Art Movement Show, Women’s March for Peace, Sex Worker’s Ball, Dyke March, Hypnotica, Futurism Extravaganza, Sweaty Nipples, and King Black Acid/Summer Solstice, are preserved and captured.
Night scene venues of obsolescence and continued notoriety in Portland are memorialized. Emblazoned in ink are Satyricon, Bitter End Pub, Jasmine Tree, The Tonic, Berrati’s Pan, Crystal Ballroom, Ash Street Saloon, Paris Theatre, St. John’s Pub, Medicine Hat Gallery, Roselane Theater & Grill, Pine Street Theatre, The Otton, Mt. Tabor Pub, Cobalt Lounge, and more.
Collector Glenn Fontaine holds personal interest in the artistic and cultural value of the vast collection of posters. A graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, Fontaine is a gifted artist of diverse media that has been notably featured in museums and exhibits. His gravitation towards the imagery of the posters initiated his collecting, tearing sheets from telephone poles and bulletin boards, a pattern of collecting that became a fifteen-year journey resultant in an abundant compilation of posters that speak the culture of Portland.
Written by Alexandra Mueller (Special Projects Archivist)