Inkcarceration Festival unlocked its doors again last Friday, July 12 in an impressive return to the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. Unique among music festivals, Inkcarceration stands on three pillars: the venue, tattoos, and music.
The Ohio State Reformatory is an old prison (built toward the end of the 19th century and in operation until 1990) famous for being the primary filming location for the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption. The structure is currently undergoing a restoration after having decayed significantly in the last three decades. One of the great things about this festival is it includes entrance into the former prison and a self-guided tour. Looking around the prison, it is difficult to accept that it was used until 1990, even after you make a mental adjustment for the years of neglect. The cells aren’t very roomy, I can tell you. The building exterior is impressive and serves a stern and oddly poignant backdrop to the music as it is always in view from everywhere on the festival grounds. You are not going to see this kind of thing at any other festival in North America.
Roughly sixty tattoo artists attended Inkcarceration and inked the live-long day inside the Ohio Reformatory. Walking through the claustrophobic space you could see the tattoo art hanging in the stalls and you could watch people being permanently altered live on the spot. The festival organizers had links on their websites to all the artists and if you arranged for an appointment before the festival you had the best chance at getting some work done over the weekend. Awards were handed out in five different categories each day for the art created at the festival, and a best-in-show festival award was announced on Sunday for color and separately for black and grey.
There were two stages at the festival, and performances alternated between them with no overlaps, which is great because that way fans got to see every performance and hear every note. This is a standard set-up for smaller festivals and it is the main advantage they have over the bigger events: no long walks between distant stages and no making brutal choices between seeing one band over another that are playing at the same time. The headliners were Shinedown (Friday), Godsmack (Saturday), and Five Finger Death Punch (Sunday), supported by an eclectic undercard. The festival opened on the main stage with Broken Hands, a British band kicking off their US tour at the festival, and with The Everyday Losers, a Midwest favorite, on the second stage. The mulling crowd was a little distracted at the beginning but the festive atmosphere intensified as more people arrived during the afternoon and particularly when Fozzy took the stage. By the time Shinedown went on, the prison yard was packed. On Saturday, along with the much-anticipated Godsmack (memorably playing “Voodoo” – a song that grabs you by the spine live), the highlights were veteran bands Buckcherry, Stabbing Westward, and Live. It is always great to hear the old songs you know so well. Sunday saw the festival overrun by Five Finger Death Punch fans, who were legion at the affair. Earlier in the day, Rivals from L.A. and Issues from Atlanta got things going, and, as the crowd swelled to capacity and the sun started to set, the festival hit its pinnacle with the headliner’s energetic performance and pyrotechnic display. If anybody was disappointed, I didn’t run into them that night.
Inkcarceration marked a successful second year with a much bigger crowd than the inaugural festival in 2018 and with the luck of perfect weather – always a risk at outdoor events. The unique venue, tattoos, and two non-competing music stages ensure that there is no other event quite like this one.
Photos by Wayne Edwards. © 2019 Wayne Edwards.
Schedules below the ones released by the festival.