The Inkcarceration Music and Tattoo Festival returned to the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, on July 15-17 with three days of music played to a sold out crowd.
Inkcarceration is a relatively new event. The festival began in 2018, following on the heels of the Ink In The Clink festival that had run for three years prior in a similar theme. When I first attended in 2019, and there was one main stage and a smaller side stage. Last year, the festival partnered with a major festival promoter, Danny Wimmer Presents, and the festival expanded dramatically, attracting 75,000 fans in 2021. In 2022, there were more than fifty bands playing at the event, including headliners KORN, Breaking Benjamin, Evanescence, and Disturbed.
There are many things that make Inkcarceration different from other music festivals. To Begin with the most obvious, the event is held on the grounds of the Ohio State Reformatory, an historic prison that opened in 1896 and was in use until 1990. All attendees of the festival could go on a self-guided tour of the prison for free during the weekend. You don’t get that at Bonnaroo.
Another huge feature of Inkcarceration is right in the name – it is a tattoo festival as well. More than sixty tattoo artists displayed their work and offered tattoo appointments to attendees in halls set up toward the rear of the prison. Even though I focused on the music while I was there, I did see a lot of fresh ink wandering the grounds so clearly the tattoo aspect of the fest is a big draw.
With so many bands playing during the weekend, I cannot talk about them all, so I will mention a few highlights from each day to give a sense of experience.
Day 1. The big draws on the first day were Papa Roach and headliner KORN – I have seen both bands many times before and they always put on a great show. Being a metalhead myself I am perpetually on the lookout for the louder acts, so I was also fired up to see Code Orange and DED, and they did not disappoint. The crowd was at first a little confused by Code Orange, I think, but they came around and threw in with the spirit of things by the end of the set. Lacuna Coil gave an emotive performance, and they announced that they were releasing a re-imagined version of their famous album Comalies in the near future for its twentieth anniversary. All of the music was delivered with energy and passion, and the big show really was KORN at the end of the day.
Day 2. There was a chance of rain as the second day dawned, but it never happened. Clouds provided a nice screen from the summer sun most of the day and the music went off without a hitch. Breaking Benjamin and Evanesence were the biggest name on the slate, and they offered up breath-taking performances. The award for the feistiest set goes to Spiritbox for an amazing show. There is a short drone video of part of Spiritbox’s set and if you haven’t seen it yet, look it up because it is extremely well done. You get to see the perspective of the crowd, and then the perspective of the band, and you also get to hover on stage for a while. Very cool. My favorite set from the day, predictably, was Black Label Society. Zakk and crew played an hour of unforgettable metal spiced with amazing, nearly-impossible guitar playing and a rowdy round of chest beating at the end. It couldn’t have been better.
Day 3. The rain caught up with Inkcarceration on Sunday. The door time got pushed back one hour because of lightning in the area and three bands were cut from the line-up as a result: Fire From The Gods, The Violent, and Darkhorse Saloon. That is unfortunate for those bands and their fans, but overall it is amazing that no other scheduling adjustments had to be made. The crowd was a bit smaller on the third day of the festival, but concertgoers still swarmed in droves to make it all happen. Disturbed, Lamb Of God, and Seether were the top-billed names on the schedule for day three. The slots leading in were loaded with hot tickets, too: Jelly Roll, Black Veil Brides, John 5, Butcher Babies, and 10 Years were must-sees for me. Even in the rain.
Inkcarceration is a festival that is growing every year. The combination of the setting, the tattoo artists, and the compelling line-up makes it one of the best music festivals of the year. If you missed out on the festival in 2022, give this one strong consideration for next year because it is a guaranteed good time.
[This is an excerpt from the article I wrote for Ryze-Up Magazine. A link to that full article appears below (or it will, as soon as it posts).]
Inkcarceration Festival website, https://inkcarceration.com/
Ryze-Up Magazine article,