With an unpredictable future looming precariously before them, Rochester-area musicians and the artists who help promote them have been caught in a kind of COVID-19 limbo. In this ongoing series of The F-Word, CITY music writer Frank De Blase finds out how various players in the local scene are staying afloat.
Alison Coté has become the go-to artist for Rochester musicians in need of show posters, album covers, and more.
Graphic designer Alison Coté’s posters are so ubiquitous in the Rochester music scene, it seems a local show just isn’t ready for the stage until it has a slick showbill from Coté to accompany it.
Her style is adaptable to whatever her musical clients can dream up, but Coté has a clear affinity for vintage aesthetics that range from “Live at the Apollo” to B-movie schlock ‘n’ roll. An Alison Coté poster is typically 11 by 17 inches, and will run you $100 and up. Since 2016, Coté’s been creating these works, which can be seen on lampposts and in shop and venue windows throughout the city.
Enter COVID-19, exit the shows and the posters that promoted them. Before the scene came crashing down around our ears, the 27-year-old Coté was designing 10 to 15 posters a month for local and traveling shows.
That’s gone away, but “not entirely,” she says. “I’m still doing some work for optimistic folks who have shows planned for later this year.” Point of the Bluff Vineyards — with events planned for late summer at its location in Hammondsport near Keuka Lake — is among those hopeful clients commissioning new concert posters.
Coté stays busy, working out of her Penfield studio, the walls brightly accented with some of her art as well as that of others. The workspace, which contains only her computer and mid-century dollhouse collection, isn’t as cluttered as one might think. She used to work in physical mediums more. “It’s strictly a digital endeavor now,” she says.
Despite her obvious talent, Coté has precious little training; her time in college was abbreviated. After attending Pratt School of Design for a year and a half, she quit her formal education and began learning from her professional-artist parents, David Cowles and Laura Wilder.
Coté’s works are highly recognizable, in large part because of the transparency of her influences. “I’m inspired by all things vintage and retro,” she says. “I especially love kitschy, playful design from the 1950s and 1960s.”
Her first concert posters were created for her husband Alex’s rock band, Dangerbyrd. Gradually, friends from other bands began asking her to create additional posters. Eventually, when demand started to get too high, Coté had to start charging, and poster design became her profession.
A lot of Coté’s current work is coming from bands and artists who are taking advantage of being cooped up in quarantine and recording a lot more. It’s a surge of creativity. Those resulting new albums, LPs, EPs, CDs, and singles — released by the likes of Trevor Lake, Dangerbyrd, and Greg Townson — need cover artwork. For this, Coté charges between $150 and $500.
“I think Alison is great to work with because she communicates very well,” says Lake, Televisionaries’ guitarist and drummer for both Dangerbyrd and The Hi-Risers. “I’m also pretty vague with my ideas and she puts together a masterpiece from my not-so-descriptive ideas. She’s also mad cool.”
Frank De Blase is CITY's music writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.