Part of the city’s creative community was recently saddened by the loss of Dan Hughes, a prolific illustrator who worked with well-known Philadelphia bands like Japanese Breakfast and Mannequin Pussy. He died suddenly at age 36.
Over the past decade, Hughes has become a staple of the Philadelphia music and arts scene. He has designed and screen printed posters, t-shirts, album covers, custom drum skins and other accessories for local bands and shows featuring national artists like Guided By Voices, Third Eye Blind , Maggie Rogers and SZA.
In recent years, Hughes has established itself as a go-to resource for up-and-coming artists in the city.
“He was a pillar of the community,” said Missy Dabice of Mannequin Pussy. “Whenever we needed something in Philadelphia, he was the first person I wanted to call. He was always my favorite person to collaborate with.
Hughes’ 7-year partnership with the famous punk band produced countless screen-printed tour posters, half a dozen t-shirt designs and an iconic bass drum skin that disappeared with the rest of the musical gear. of the group. when it was stolen on tour last year. One of the Mannequin Pussy t-shirts he designed was featured in an episode of HBO’s hit Delco-based murder mystery “Mare of Easttown.”
“He was able to take those basic artistic seeds and pour his own creative energy and water into them and create something that would be far beyond what my own mind could even think of creating,” Dabice said. “He really set the tone for how I work with all the other artists.”
Japanese Breakfast fans might recognize the banner designed by Hughes for their “Boyish” music videoor seeing the illustrated bass drum head he screen-printed during one of the band’s shows or appearances on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” or “Saturday Night Live.”
“For a while there, he was the go-to guy in Philadelphia, especially if someone needed something last minute,” said Japanese bassist from Breakfast Deven Craige. Japanese Breakfast, which has grown in size and toured extensively since last year, canceled its show in Toronto to return home for Hughes’ memorial service last week.
“My brain just refused to accept that it happened,” Craige said. “I couldn’t even begin to start a grieving process until I came back to Philadelphia and saw everyone.”
The bandmates of Japanese Breakfast joined several dozen friends, family members and other performers at a memorial service for Hughes in his hometown of Harleysville, Pa., on Sept. 25. After the service, friends and fellow entertainers gathered to share drinks and stories about Hughes at the Monkey Club, the East Kensington dive bar where he was known to stop for a beer.
Hughes played a vital role in Philly’s DIY music scene. He co-launched the independent cassette label Endless Daze and booked shows in the late 2000s and early 2010s as a founding member of the Kensington Warehouse and Hall of Fame artists’ collective. The Ox concert, now defunct.
“Besides being a visionary illustrator and having incredible ideas, Dan was also a very talented and hardworking screen printer who could do just about anything,” said Andy Molholdt, guitarist for indie rock band Speedy. Ortiz.
Hughes was also known for his wit. In 2014, his humor made local headlines when his Photoshopped portrayal of Bill Murray hangs out at the El Bar sparked rumors that the actor may have made one of his famous surprise public appearances at the famed Fishtown dive bar. Hughes followed up with visually fictional nights featuring Senator Bernie Sanders and Pope Francis.
Hughes was found at his Olde Richmond home on September 14 after succumbing to an unknown medical condition. His family and friends believe he may have suffered from an illness that went untreated due to the artist’s lack of health insurance. A PPD detective told his family that there were no obvious signs of self-harm or drug use. Official autopsy results are expected from the Medical Examiner’s Office within the next 8-10 weeks.
Plans are in the works for a memorial concert featuring bands from Philadelphia, an art exhibit featuring Hughes’ work, and a printed art book.
“I feel like I’m mourning the loss of everything Dan was going to do next,” Dabice of Mannequin Pussy said, wondering who the band might call to do their next poster. “I’m in no rush to figure it out, because then it will be really real. It won’t be Dan anymore. I don’t want to find someone new.