Inkcarceration Music Festival
Written by Ash Cullen on July 16, 2019
INKcarceration festival, which is held at the Ohio State Reformatory, is a weekend long festival that focuses on heavy rock, the art of tattoos, and a backdrop that is simply straight out of a movie. Located in Mansfield, Ohio is arguably one of the most famous reformatories in the United States, as it opened it’s doors in 1896, and closed its doors to prisoners in 1990 due to lack of funding. Many will recognize the Ohio State Reformatory as a location in which the critically-acclaimed 1994 film ‘Shawshank Redemption’ which stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. 2019 marks the 25th-anniversary of the release of the classic film, as well as the second year in which INKcarceration Festival has taken place. Over 70 different tattoo artists flooded the reformatory to perform thousands of tattoos over the course of the weekend. If you planned on walking in and getting a tattoo any time, you were gravely mistaken as the scheduled appointments that were available were booked out so far in advance. Each day there were awards handed out for the best black and white, best color, best realism, and more. Jennifer J. Arroyo, former bassist for Kittie and Suicide City, was on hand to help announce the winners of each day before the headliners took to the stage each night. I suggest that if you want a tattoo at next year’s INKcarceration Festival that you book your appointment as soon as humanly possible- this is something you don’t want to miss! And in case you weren’t old enough to receive some fresh ink, there was an airbrush artist on site giving out free airbrush designs, as well as free face paintings for those that wanted to express their creativity.
As for the music, INKcarceration was an absolute slammer of a festival. Broken Hands, who hail from the UK, had the honor of setting the stage for the whole weekend as they were the first act to perform on Friday. Be sure to check out their latest single ‘Wrong Track’ off their upcoming album ‘Split in Two’ once it drops August 9th on Atlantic Records. Next we were able to sit down with Lee Jennings, the vocalist of Atlanta’s ‘The Funeral Portrait,’ who is part of the “Summer 2019 USA Tour” with ‘Awake at Last,’ ‘Palisades,’ and ‘From Ashes to New.’ Jennings let us know that they released a new single, ‘Holy Water,’ accompanied by a visually-striking music video earlier that same day. Be sure to check out tfpcoffincrew.com now to pre-save as well as stay up to date with everything ‘The Funeral Portrait’ as we are expecting new material somewhere by early 2020.
‘The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ took time from their “Don’t Hide Your Light Tour” to play a set that included songs from their latest album ‘The Awakening’ with the reformatory as a beautiful backdrop behind them. RJA also made sure they let their diehard fans know they appreciate their continued support for nearly 13 years as they played some of their hits off of their debut album ‘Don’t You Fake It,’ including ‘Face Down’ and a very personal rendition of ‘My Guardian Angel.’ Next up on the main stage was ‘Skillet,’ who absolutely threw down a great set as always. Again, the set is a bit repetitive as it has not been changed up, but we expect to see something new next time as their new album Victorious drops next month. I will note at this time that the lines to get a beverage took more than half of Skillet’s set. This was a bit absurd that it took roughly 30 minutes to stand in line to get some drinks, but we soon realized that the vast majority of the workers from this weekend were in fact volunteers. This did help keep the cost of drinks to a minimum when you compare the prices here to those of the bigger festivals ($8 beer versus $12-15 beer elsewhere), so they definitely had that working on their side. Everything at INKcarceration was also compact so walking from stage to stage (only two stages) was very minimal, which certainly helped as the blacktop below the feet of those headbanging only made the beating sun that much more intense.
Taking Back Sunday took to the stage after Skillet to remind us all that we’re all choir boys at best. These guys are currently on their 20th anniversary tour of the band being together, as the first leg of the tour ends July 18th in Patchogue, NY before they take a month and a half off to prepare for the next leg of their tour that kicks off September 1st in Seattle, WA. The band to end day one of INKcarceration Festival is a band that has been on the top of the rock charts for some time now, including their latest release ‘Monsters’ off of their latest album “Attention! Attention!-” Shinedown. These guys do not cease to amaze as they have been working hard with their latest tour, which has a remarkable aesthetic to it with the lasers, the pyro, the bangs, the crowd interactions- all of it! Shinedown played many new songs of their latest album, but also took the time to play some of the songs that put them on the map, including a mesmerizing performance of ’45.’
Day two for INKcarceration Festival was even bigger and louder than day one as everybody must have heard that there was a killer rock show in town because attendance was certainly higher for day two. ‘Impending Lies’ from Cleveland, OH took to the stage first as they psyched everybody up for the long day ahead with some new music, including “Rise Up” and “F.Y.F” off of their upcoming EP- so stay tuned for this release as it promises to be a bit heavier, but still the ‘Impending Lies’ we all know and love. And if you like the jersey or the guitar that James Skrtich was sporting for their set, be sure to check out their brand new F.Y.F jersey that was debuted at INKcarceration, and Ronz World Guitars for out of this world custom-painted guitars.
If you are a cigar/cigarillo smoker, then this weekend was almost like heaven as both Swisher Sweet and Optimo both had trailers on site (Yes, they are from the same parent company). At these trailers you could come in out of the sun to relax, play a little friendly basketball to win prizes, play some cornhole against friends or strangers, and of course purchase some cigarillos by trading your pudding cup or toothpaste- I mean 25 cents per PACK! That’s a whole box of cigarillos for $4! You best believe they were selling like beer at a festival- one in each hand. In addition to these trailers, there were many smaller booths that included an official merch tent, Monster Energy drinks, Crook & Marker Hard Seltzer, an airbrush artist tent giving out free Crook & Marker logo airbrush tattoos, and a special tent for Blood Prison. Blood Prison is the haunted attraction that is normally only available from late September until early November, but was more than happy to send unsuspecting victims deep into the dark, cold depths of the haunted reformatory for them to return with part of their souls missing.
The Monster Dolls took to the stage to perform one of their ghoulishly-inviting routines that certainly drew the attention of many of all ages as they incorporate dance, comedy, weapons, and fire into their group and individual routines. If you are having a hard time visualizing exactly what you’re missing then be sure to check them out as nobody wants to miss fire-breathing, acrobatic, comedic monsters. Once the Monster Dolls were banished back to the depths of the catacombs, ‘Light the Torch’ took to the stage to bring some of their heaviness to the crowd. Howard Jones, vocalist of Light the Torch, got the crowd riled up and engaged as he belted out some of their hits off of “Revival,” such as ‘Die Alone’ and ‘Calm Before the Storm.’
Motionless in White have been very busy over the last few years as they have signed to RoadRunner Records and put out a brand new album, ‘Disguise,’ that was released back in June. They have been releasing big single after big single from this monster of an album, including “Undead Ahead 2: The Tale of the Midnight Ride,” “brand new numb,” and “disguise.” INKcarceration was their first show after taking some very much deserved time off from their rigorous touring. Be sure to catch these guys out on tour later this year with Halestorm and ‘The Godfather of Shock Rock’ himself, Alice Cooper.
Sully Erna is no stranger to the Ohio State Reformatory as this is the location in which ‘Godsmack’ shot their music video for “Awake” back in 2000. The crowd was heavily awaiting to rock out something crazy when ‘Godsmack’ took to the stage and performed some of their new hits like “When Legends Rise,” “Under Your Scars,” and “Bulletproof” off of their latest release ‘When Legends Rise.’ Godsmack also performed some of their biggest hits over the years like “Awake,” “Voodoo,” and “I Stand Alone” as they closed out a massively successful day two at INKcarceration Festival.
Day three was upon us and the sun was just as unforgiving as the first two days, but there was certainly no let down from the crowd or the bands as day three looked to bring the noise to ensure INKcarceration Festival would forever ink itself into the history books as being a very much up and coming festival that looks to expand even more next year. ‘Scattered Hamlet’ took to the main stage first on Sunday as they drank beer with no shame as they truly embodied their Southern Rock selves. And to solidify themselves even more in their southern roots, Scattered Hamlet’s hit ‘Shelter’ can be heard in Nascar Heat 3, out now. Following ‘Scattered Hamlet’ on the main stage was ‘Smile Empty Soul’ who did little talking as they went head first into their music catalog that spans over 21 years, including 7 full-length albums and 3 EPs. The Santa Clarita post-grunge group certainly had the attention of the thousands upon thousands of those in attendance for day three- which was easily the busiest of all three days. Smile Empty Soul let their raw emotion and heavy riffs fill the whole crowd as they performed hits off of their latest album ‘Oblivion’ as well as some of their widely-known hits, including their cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box,” “Silhouettes,” and “Bottom of a Bottle.”
‘From Ashes to New’ are definitely enjoying the attention and success they have been receiving so far this year as their latest album, ‘The Future.’ This is the first studio album since lead vocalist Chris Musser and drummer Tim D’Onofrio departed the band, and is the first to introduce Danny Case and Mat Madiro to the From Ashes to New lineup. The future for From Ashes to New is certainly now as they have had huge success with huge hits “Broken,” “Crazy,” and “My Name.” We are looking forward to see what these guys have planned next.
Another band that has been on the rise without any sign of slowing down soon is Detroit, Michigan’s ‘I Prevail’ who are currently out on tour now supporting their latest album, “Trauma,” which you should check out now as this hits so hard from cover to cover. This was definitely one of the most-anticipated acts of the weekend, and were a bit let down from the sound levels that were being put out. Not sure if there was a problem with their mixing or speakers, but their set was notably not as loud as those before them. Especially when they performed “Gasoline” the bass was not there, and it unfortunately took some from the vibe. The set was still epic as the high-energy was most certainly evident on stage as they incorporated hits from ‘Lifelines’ like “Scars,” “Come and Get it,” and “Lifelines” inbetween some bangers from their latest album ‘Trauma,” such as “Paranoid,” “Bow Down,” and “DOA.”
P.O.D. was the last band to perform on the second stage for the weekend as they brought their San Diego vibe to the heartland of the U.S.A. Sporting ten studio albums, these Cali rockers are no stranger to huge festivals all across the world. Performing top hits like “Boom,” “Youth of a Nation,” and “Alive,” P.O.D kept the crowd highly-engaged as the sun was starting to set on the castle of a prison behind them. They also performed new songs off of their latest album, ‘Circles’ which is out now via Mascot Records.
What is a tattoo festival without a band that has their name or logo inked on practically half of the United States? Exactly! That’s why it only made sense to have ‘Five Finger Death Punch’ close this amazing festival off in heavy fashion. Of course what is a FFDP show without some fresh ink, anger, alcohol, lasers, and a bunch of pyrotechnics?! Everybody was on their feet screaming along to all of the huge hits that they have released over their 14 years and 7 studio albums, including “Wash it All Away,” “Jekyll and Hyde,” “Sham Pain,” “Remember Everything,” and much more original songs. IN addition, FFDP played their big cover songs, including Bad Company’s “Bad Company,” Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s “Blue on Black,” and The Offspring’s “Gone Away.”
What more could you ask for from a music festival with a heavy focus on the art form of tattooing. Could there really be a better location to have such a festival than a haunted reformatory known for it’s inclusion in our pop culture world? Obviously not, and that is why after just the second year, it is arguably the biggest rising festival today- sure you can get a tattoo at many festivals, but name another with over 70 top tattoo artists and music all day like this, I’ll wait. If you love hard rock, tattoos, horror and gore, make sure INKcarceration Festival is at the top of the list for next year as it will undoubtedly sell out and the tattoo appointments will fill fast. Stay up to date with all of the information for INKcarceration Festival 2020 as it is going to be bigger, louder, more haunted, and of course a huge blast for the whole family.