Get ready for a trip down memory lane. If you’ve had even the slightest inkling of interest in underground music in Reno over the past 20 years, Paper Thin, a collection of show flyers and poster art now on exhibit at Holland Headquarters, will be a major mind-blower.
The interior of Holland Headquarters has been wallpapered with handbills and posters from ghosts of rock ‘n’ roll past. They’re mostly black-and-white products of copy center ingenuity—though there are also full-color posters. Each flyer represents a memory-laden moment in time: shows you might remember, shows you loved, shows you hated, shows you took a flyer for but didn’t bother attending. Most of the flyers are for Reno shows, but there are also a few for gigs Reno bands played out of town in places like Seattle or Los Angeles.
Most of the music represented is punk rock and hardcore and the innumerable variants thereof, but there’s also a smattering of rap and folk and unclassifiable and whatever-the-heck else. Represented are Reno bands that made it relatively “big"—Fall Silent, for example—as well as bands that were quickly and justifiably forgotten. (We’ll not hurt anybody’s feelings by naming names here.) There’s also a wide range of venues—defunct bars like XOXO, defunct record stores like Insurrection and Resurrection, and defunct basements like The Spacement.
If you’ve been actively, obsessively following the Reno music scene, this show will be a flood of memories. If you haven’t been in town long, fret not, the exhibit is frontloaded with flyers and posters from more recent events, the last three or four years or so, though the oldest flyer I saw was for a 7 Seconds show in 1988. Even if you have zero interest in music, this is still an interesting exhibition of cultural detritus—it’s interesting how creative folks get within the limited confines of the handbill form.
So what goes into making a show flyer?
“Twenty ounces or more of Mountain Dew, a half ounce of toner and a shitload of sweat,” says Mac Schopen, an amateur historian and archivist of the Reno music scene—he was among the many locals who lent their flyer collection to be copied for the show. Some of the flyers he contributed were those he had made for some of his own bands, like xCrucial Attackx.
“There are two ways to do a flyer: The right way and the way I like to do it,” says Schopen. “To do it well, you have to understand concepts like ‘symmetry’ and ‘placement’ … but I just get the basic information in there: the bands, the venue, the date—including the day of the week, because some kids just … you know—and the time and the price, and then I try to find an image to take up as much space as possible. You want something cool, like a skull. You rarely go wrong with skulls. Or a dude with a mohawk. Or you take any political figure and add some devil horns. That’s about it.”
Prolific local musician Josh Hageman, whose surreal freehand drawings make up some of the most visually interesting flyers in the show, has an even simpler approach to what might be the ultimate DIY artform: “All you need are a couple sharpies—a big sharpie and a small sharpie.”
Holland arts and special events director Van Pham says, “We wanted to bring together a bunch of art that’s not usually perceived as art. … And it’s a way to involve people. It becomes a scavenger hunt.”
You stumble upon images and names that trigger memories.
Hageman describes his reaction to the flyers: “I remember that show … I remember I missed that show because I was sick … I missed that show because that was the night I lost my virginity.”