There was something in the air in the Pacific Northwest in the late 80s and early 90s. And no this isn't another article about Seattle. Some of the magic in Portland, Oregon at the time may have drifted down from Seattle, but I like to think of it the other way around, or at least a symbiotic relationship.

Steve Birch is one of those magical, mythical creatures. He’s a lifelong Oregonian and a loyal Portlander since 1985. He’s a man who seems to prefer hiding in the shadows, like most graphic artists, so let’s give him a little shine today with some backstory.

Steve played in the band Sprinkler, who released an album on Sub Pop in 1993 called "More Boy Less Friend." The band formed from ex members of Death Midget and Rawhead Rex. After their breakup in 1994, Steve briefly joined Everclear as a touring guitarist from 1997-1998, during the "So Much For the Afterglow" era. He also notably did the layout for the album. Steve went on to form the band Audio Learning Center, who put out two albums on Vagrant Records.

Let's dig into some of my favorite “Mr. Steve” pieces.

Nirvana w/ Screaming Trees

February 19th, 1990 @ Pine St. Theatre (Portland)

In 1990, Nirvana had released their debut album, Bleach a few months before, but hadn't exactly taken the world by storm. That would be for the next album, 1991's Nevermind. At this point heavy music was very much still in its hair metal years. Screaming Trees headlined this gig & at this juncture were still on SST Records, fresh off of their fourth album, Buzz Factory. Also featured Tad & Rawhead Rex.

Pixies w/ Bob Mould

November 1st, 1989 @ Starry Night (Portland)

Pixies were fresh off their second album, Doolittle, released in April of 1989 on 4AD Records. The album will feature arguably their strongest songs. Bob Mould on the other hand, had released his debut solo album, Workbook, still fresh off the breakup of his punk trio, Hüsker Dü. He would go on to form the short-lived band Sugar & to this day still releases solo albums.

Lenny Kravitz

March 8th & 9th, 1990 -- Portland/Seattle

This poster, not only just very striking visually, marks an interesting point in Kravitz' career. His first album Let Love Rule had been received positively, but didn't yield any radio hits. So this it a real crossroads in his journey, making it a fun artifact for such a storied rock icon.

Meat Puppets

December 10th, 1989 -- Portland/Seattle

A lot going on here for the history books. Meat Puppets were touring in support of their sixth album Monsters, and had already been a band for nine years at this point. Their mainstream success wouldn't come until a few years later with Nirvana for their MTV Unplugged in 1993, where they performed with the band as they played Meat Puppets covers.

Also interesting to see the inclusion of fellow artist Mike King's band Hell Cows, as well as the legendary Dead Moon. Dharma Bums were no slouches either.

Sinead O'Connor

April 20th, 1988 @ Starry Night (Portland)

Sinead was yet a household name at this point in 1988. Her debut album was released a year before. Her song "I Want Your Hands (On Me)" was featured a few months later on the soundtrack for Renny Harlin's Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master. In 1992, in protest of the Catholic Church, she ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II during a performance on Saturday Night Live. She later said she doesn't regret the protest, because it's more important to be a protest singer than a successful pop star.

Allen Ginsberg

October 7th, 1989 @ Cinema 21 (Portland)

Allen Ginsberg is best known for his poem "Howl," but also as a contemporary of Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and other beat poet/writers. As a gay man, he was an early pioneer as an activist for queer peoples, free speech and anti-war.

Suicidal Tendencies

September 24th & 25th, 1988 -- Bremerton/Portland

Suicidal Tendencies were a week out from the release of their third studio album How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I can't Even Smile Today. The album marked a departure from their earlier punk/hardcore sound into increasingly metal territory. Their next three albums for Epic Records would gain them more mainstream exposure, thanks to videos on on MTV. And to think, all they wanted was a Pepsi.


July 16th & 18th, 1989 -- Seattle/Portland

This Dutch band was formed in 1981 under the name Clan of Xymox, but in the late-80s they began to release albums as Xymox. The synthpop band never got the love that a band like Jesus & the Mary Chain received, but they were very much responsible for the proliferation of electronic rock throughout the 1980s. Put some respect on their name!!

Malcolm X "Fight the Power"

Political poster from 1989

What type of blog would this be without the requisite political poster. The 1960s psychedelic art scene were always keen to produce anti-war or other works, so this is Steve Birch nodding to the past history. Possibly inspired by Public Enemy, who were touring the U.S. in 1988-1990 with their monumental rap albums, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Fear of a Black Planet. Spike Lee's film, Do the Right Thing would also be a reference for this 11" x 17" poster, since it included the song "Fight the Power."


February 4th, 1989 @ Pine St. Theatre (Portland)

Manowar are such an enigma. The loudest band in rock music, formed in 1980 by Ross "the Boss"  Friedman of The Dictators and Joey DeMaio. The sixth album, Kings of Metal released in November 1988 would be Ross' last album with the band, but DeMaio still is a member, alongwith original singer Eric Adams. As the heavy metal masters say, "Stand and fight, say what you feel."

Bonus: Sprinkler w/ Heatmiser

March 28th, 1992 @ Satyricon (Portland)

What would a piece about Steve "Mr. Steve" Birch be without his own band, Sprinkler. The band was celebrating the release of their single Marble/Landlord on Tim/Kerr Records. The interesting thing here, is the inclusion of Heatmiser, Elliott Smith's band pre-solo stardom. This is also before the release of their first album in 1993.

In conclusion, Steve Birch is an icon and this piece barely scratches the surface of his work. So go dig a little and let us know your favorite Mr. Steve pieces!!