Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.
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Here We Are Now
-Patrick Rapa

Where They Were Then
From Studio to salon to saloon, old-heads recall the scene they can¹t exactly remember.
-A.D. Amorosi

Punk Calling
Diary of a man in a local band (or two) in the early 䢔s.
-179Frank Blank² Moriarty

Getting to the point
the bryn mawr club knows where it¹s going, and where it¹s been.
-Mary Armstrong

Those were the frickin¹ days
Rolling stone¹s david fricke remembers the main point
-Patrick Rapa

The Lowdown
Peaks, valleys and what finally put a fork in The Low Road.
-Lori Hill

Deep Thoughts with The Low Road

Tearing Down The House DJ
The life, music, modeling, drugs, death and rebirth of Narayan.
-Sean O¹Neal

October 17-23, 2002

cover story

The Hangman

proof of life: ³For many of the bands [and] clubs,² says Lewes, ³the fliers are the only documentary evidence they existed.²
proof of life: "For many of the bands [and] clubs," says Lewes, "the fliers are the only documentary evidence they existed."

James Lewes is documenting a very perishable part of the local rock scene.

You’d probably figure the man who’s gathered what must be the largest assortment of fliers from Philadelphia rock shows in one place loves live music. Not exactly.

"I have never really liked going out to shows," says Lewes. "I tend to get claustrophobic in small hot sweaty spaces."

Although he has actually enjoyed a number of shows in town over the years (he calls More Fiends and Pink Slip Daddy at The Bacchanal one of his favorites), Lewes did not start putting together an electronic database of Philadelphia's rock fliers because the shows they represent were particularly memorable. Instead, it's an attempt to document an oft-overlooked aspect of the music scene and catalog a perishable art form.

"Earlier this year, I bought a copy of Fucked Up and Photocopied, which is purported to be the definitive collection of American punk fliers," he explains, "and found the authors had only included three Love Club fliers." Knowing this town had a lot more to offer, he set about tracking down "every flier produced in Philadelphia between 1978 and 1990."

It's not likely that he got them all, but there are hundreds of entries on Artifacts of the Improbable, the CD-ROM database that resulted from his efforts. Not relying only on his personal collection, Lewes, a web designer, contacted various scenesters and pack rats whom he knew would have specimens he could scan. Artifacts, an HTML program, is cross-referenced by club and band names. Although Lewes does consider it a complete work, he's calling it "Volume One" because he figures once word gets out about the project, more fliers will make their way to him.

The plan is to sell the CD primarily on an order-by-order basis, though he says it will be available at local record stores like Record Exchange, Noise Pollution, A.K.A. and Dot Dash. Artifacts goes for $25. "If there is no demand then I will starve and be forced to give blood," he jokes.

Born in Wales, Lewes came to Philadelphia after falling in love with a vacationing student from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. "I traveled around Europe with her," he remembers. "And she brought me back as a souvenir in October 1982."

A lifelong music fan, he started his own zine, The Rake, and wrote a music column for Siltbreeze (which was a zine before it became the popular indie record label) under the moniker "Loud Mouth Lime." The running joke was that Lime was a Brit-pop snob who was adamant that all music by non-British artists "was not worth the vinyl it was recorded on and should be consigned to the garbage heap of culture."

Lewes in real life is much more democratic. From The AB's to The Zoo Boys, everybody gets equal billing on Artifacts, and every band mentioned, however tiny the type, gets its own page. Besides local bands both memorable (The Dead Milkmen, The Hooters) and less so (how could we have forgotten Cow Plop Booters, Demented Meatballs From Hell, Epileptic Albino Bullfrogs and Thirteen Weirdos from the Yellow River?), many national acts who toured through Philly during that era made the CD.

"Each and every flier represents a moment in time that brought together anywhere from a couple of people to a couple of hundred," says Lewes. "For many of the bands [and] clubs, the fliers are the only documentary evidence they existed."

He does have his favorites. "Hypnotizing Chickens did a series of sepia fliers, usually featuring a woman's head, which are just monster." He also likes entries by Decontrol, Tornado 5, Initial Attack, and The Mumps.

A few artists stand out in his mind, like Elizabeth and Allen Fiend of the More Fiends, and Matt Marello, who produced fliers for Love Club, The East Side Club, Filly's, Ripley's and Revival. Many of them, in their own ways, are real works of art. Using photocopiers, clip art, markers and a good dose of punk ingenuity, the mostly unknown artists created something they probably figured wouldn't live past the date of the show.

Not stuck entirely in the past, Lewes is organizing an exhibition in December, gathering works by more than 200 current flier-and poster-artists from the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Russia and Israel. We'll keep you posted.

To purchase Artifacts of the Improbable, go to www.idesigninmotion.com/projects/philapunk/intro_artifacts.html or write to James Lewes, 14 Park Ave., Swarthmore, Pa., 19081.

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