When Keith Ross was a 10-year-old growing up in New Jersey, Black Sabbath came to town. Since he was too young to attend, he drew the concert as he imagined it.
The drawing, along with others, inspired Ross to create @TinyConcert, an Instagram account that features short videos of bands drawn with a ballpoint pen — “Just as I would have when I was a kid,” he tells Rolling Stone. “I keep all my mistakes. It’s the smudges and stray lines that give these characters their charm.”
Since 2018, Ross has drawn acts like Alice Cooper, Motörhead, Bad Brains and the Ramones, the latter of which was reposted by Johnny Ramone’s widow, Linda. “Getting likes and hearts from Linda has been big motivator for me,” he says. “Not to mention a hugely supportive Instagram audience.”
Last fall, Ross received an unexpected email: Would he be interested in making a music video for Pearl Jam? “You can imagine how thrilled I was,” he says. “Especially when I learned that [bassist] Jeff Ament was a fan of Tiny Concert already. Yes, I’m bragging.”
According to Ross, Eddie Vedder thought that Tiny Concert would be perfect for “Superblood Wolfmoon,” the band’s second single off their upcoming LP Gigaton. “When I heard the song, I was all in,” Ross says.
Ross’ artistic approach has always been to keep the animation concise, so that viewers can watch it over and over again; he’d never made a full-length music video before. He also had only drawn punk and metal bands before. “I had a moment where I thought maybe this is too scribbly for a band like Pearl Jam,” he admits. “The response from the team was ‘NOOOOOO!’ which was what I needed to hear.”
More than a thousand drawings, a handful of empty Bic pens and two sleepless months later, the video for “Superblood Wolfmoon” was complete. Unlike most of his work, Ross says the entire process was collaborative. “I’m usually sketching, thinking and fretting about the details in private,” he says. “But this time I had the support of the entire Pearl Jam team.”
Branching out and creating a full-length music video for Pearl Jam was a chance for Ross to do something new. “This project has drawn a direct line to cool people and keeps presenting new places to take my drawings,” he says. “Getting to add Pearl Jam to my portfolio is a perfect example of that.”
For Ross, his ultimate Tiny Concert dream is to draw Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. “That’s right,” he says proudly. “Muppets.”
“Beyond that, I have a long list of songs that keeps growing every day,” he adds. “So, get ready for more smudgy Tiny Concert creations for a long time to come!”