Love, peace and soul — on gig posters

By Antoinette Isama

Chicago’s nightlife scene peddles its wares through posters that are pasted on poles, thumbtacked on cork boards and attached to messages on the Internet. It’s a must that these posters pop; they are vital to drawing a crowd for live performers and shindigs alike.

A monthly dance party at Wicker Park’s Double Door has been practicing that art of attraction through its posters since its first night on the turntables.

DJs Dave Matta, Duke Grip and Scott “Sloppy White” Williams formed Soul Summit, a free dance party that specializes in early soul music, in late 2009. On every third Saturday of the month, Chicagoans are given a history lesson while dancing the night away to both rare and familiar records ranging from the ‘60s to the early ‘80s, as well as funk records. Soul Summit also features guest DJs and bands, which sometimes requires a cover at the door.

“We run the gamut of soul, funk and R&B,” Williams said. “It’s a good balance between obscure 45s and James Brown, Sly Stone, or big tunes from Motown.”

Williams is a graphic designer by trade and has run Scott Williams Design for over 20 years. An ardent for poster art, he is Soul Summit’s art director and takes care of the artistic side of the party with the visual feel of the “vintage-soul” posters.

“With poster design,” Williams said, “I enjoy calling the shots and design for what I think is cool and fun.”

Inspired by the ads in the back of old magazines such as “Popular Mechanics,” Williams’ original designs channel in on what encompassed the culture surrounding soul music, and what was hip during that time period. The poster for the Aug. 17, 2013 party featuring guest DJs Frank Raines and King Otto embraces just that – Afro picks. The navy-colored print features options of combs needed to keep the hairdo lifted and stylish. The kicker is how seamlessly he includes the information about the dance party in the design – one would think it just a part of the art.

Humor is another element in some of the Soul Summit posters. For the Aug. 16 party last summer, the two-color poster is a faux handbag advertisement that encourages self-defense with each handbag; with appearances from Aunt Esther and Fred Sanford from TV sitcom, “Sanford and Son.”

Soul Summit’s posters are screen-printed by hand – an art in of itself – by East Garfield Park’s Delicious Design League, a design studio that specializes in illustration for print and the web. Williams takes each design in black and white and picks the colors for printing.

“With screen printing it’s important to keep the colors at a minimum,” he said. “The more colors on the poster, the more expensive printing them will be.”

Jason Teegarden-Towns, founder of Delicious Design League, worked with Williams since the beginning of Soul Summit.

“For a color poster, the average cost not including paper is about $1 per color, per print,” Teegarden-Towns said.

Williams generally prints 75 to 100 posters per party and sells them for $10 each. Once the stock gets low on a print, the price will go up.

“We aren’t concerned with ‘making a lot of money’ on the prints,” Williams said. “It’s more about using them as a promotional vehicle for the party and making sure they’re affordable mementoes for attendees.”

Selected as “Gig Poster of the Week” at Chicago Reader five times alone in 2014, Williams is grateful for the response he has gotten from his designs. He even has a small international following, with supporters purchasing posters from France, Spain and the United Kingdom.

“I’m flattered that people dig my posters and take the time to frame them,” he said. “Especially since this is something I spend countless hours on.”

To Williams, in addition to the vintage quality of his designs, the music is what is the most important for Soul Summit. Attendees take away the essence of soul music when they purchase Williams’ posters at each party or online.

“The era of soul music is timeless,” he said.

Soul Summit will be back at Double Door on Feb. 21 featuring guest DJ, Adrian Younge. Find more information here.

Photo at top: Scott Williams’ poster design for Soul Summit’s Feb. 21 party featuring Adrian Younge.