The first song my five-year-old son loved – like, he demanded to listen to it on repeat every time he was in the car, whether the destination was two hours away or five minutes – was Queen’s iconic “We Are the Champions.” He first heard it when he was three. He’s since developed an affinity for ‘70s arena rock: Journey, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC.
He’s discovered them all pretty much on his own, save for a little help from Alexa.
I went through a phase late in high school and early in college when I listened to ‘70s rock. Though, it was only because it was what everyone around me was doing. I liked some of it, but I can’t say I connected with any of it in a meaningful way. That came later, when I finally developed the self-confidence to listen to what I wanted to listen to. (And I’ve been a devout Swiftie ever since.)
So you can imagine my surprise when the ‘70s rock that’s constantly playing at home and in the car started to make me wistful for … something. I haven’t been able to pin out down yet. Maybe just a simpler time, when I was able to let my attention be consumed by wallpapering my room in concert posters.
If I ever get around to acting on those daydreams, I’m going to do it right. No Spencer’s Gifts this time around. Not when there’s a shop just up the river that treats ‘70s rock tchotchkes with the reverence they deserve.
Rock Art Revival opened in Frenchtown last year, selling vinyl records, band tees, jewelry, handmade guitar straps, and lava lamps. A meticulously curated collection of concert posters that had as much of a hand in defining the era as the music itself is displayed in gallery-like fashion.
“We really want to educate people on the poster culture,” Rachel Hill told NJ.com on the eve of Rock Art Revival’s opening. Hill owns the shop with Sean Gilday. “Because it’s a whole universe, my eyes have been opened so much to the depth of all this just in the last six months we’ve been trying to put this store together.”
“What really got me into the posters are what I considered to be the beauty of the poster graphics,” Gilday said. “It’s just eye-pleasing to me. I have them framed and hanging around my house, and they really make me happy. So I thought it’d be great if other people could see what I saw.”
Out of the back of the shop, Hill and Gilday operate their booking agency, Blue Raven Entertainment. In 2019, they helped arranged about 1,000 concerts, according to NJ.com. In 2020, that number plummeted to less than 100. Hill and Gilday had discussed the shop, but it was always in a distant-future sort of way. When COVID devastated the concert industry overnight, some day became right now.
Some of the posters and products celebrate a few of the artists they represent. But, overall, the shop has a distinctly retro feel. But it’s a more grownup version of the past, where concert posters are framed and properly lit. And Hill and Gilday will advise you to listen to The Doors’ Live at the Hollywood Bowl on vinyl, even though a clearer version resides on Apple Music. Streaming will only get you part of the way there, they’ll say. And they’re right. I see that now.