By: Kelsey Bowen
What happens when you put a stage in front of the Queen Mary and you allow people to stay there, get drunk and get tatted up all weekend long? Well, you get Ink-N-Iron, which turned, into a giant party for many of the surly, sexy and slam-dancing ticket holders aboard the ship in the Port of Long Beach. The three-day festival was hemorrhaging with breakneck drumbeats and rude distortion as well as burlesque shows, cars, clothes, pole dancing, freak side shows, and (duh) tattoos.
Browsing the rows of boutique fashion vendors and old-school stylists, it was clear that even if you felt out of place in the metal, goth, punk, rockabilly, pin-up crowd, you could find a dress, corsets, high heels and someone to do you hair so that you fit right in. Of course in some cases, that means bulging right out. At one point, I heard a group of girls talking about how one woman had gotten her corset ripped off and “her boobs were so big she couldn't even cover them up.” Apparently it's the risk you take when you try to fit too much woman into one small piece of outdated clothing.
The three floors below the deck of the retired, 81-ton ocean liner was like Valhalla for tattoo artists. On Friday and Sunday the foot traffic in between the rose of bearded men with buzzing machinery and a backlog of equally buzzing clientele was somewhat bearable to get through. Saturday, it was almost impossible.
Some of the artists were not interested in even making eye contact with a reporter. Luckily, some German artists from a parlor called Inky and Stretchy talked to me. On their second tour of Ink-N-Iron, artists from the Euro tat shop mentioned that even though they were a bit separated from the music, the sound of business was enough to keep them lively.
“Some days we listen to whatever some days we just listen to the humming of the machine,” one artist said. “That's our music to us, it feels like our home.”
The actual music at the festival was pretty badass for the most part. First day headliners included TSOL, Corrosion of Conformity, and Suicidal Tendencies. All of the bands were great but, it was clear by their 45-minute performance that Corrosion should have been the headliners. They had by far more energy than Suicidal and they did not rush through songs that people wanted to hear. It wasn't that Suicidal, fronted by legendary punk weirdo Mike Muir, didn't have the energy, but their performance feels very predictable at this point. Many people in the crowd were already yelling “Pepsi!” and as soon as their classic song “Institutionalized” came on, before the band blitzed through it as fast as possible.
Second-day headliners included the Misfits and Buckcherry, a curious pairing, but hey, we rolled with it. The Slackers, Adolescents and the Vandals had really gotten the crowd going, everyone was pumped and these are the opening acts and they had more energy then the last two shows. After opening acts, the stage presence of She Wants Revenge packed a shot of danceable darkwave to a festival that typically hinged on old-school punk energy. It turned out surprisingly successful, especially with frontman Justin Warfield's impeccably robotic vocals echoing over the crowd. The Misfits, however, were a disappointment, nothing sounded great and they were dead on stage. When they had finished, I was hoping that here was some hope for Buckcherry, and they were worse. You couldn't tell one song apart from the other. The vocals were almost unintelligible, and everything sounded pretty out of tune.
The third and final day of the festival ended on a high with a stacked line-up that included Face to Face who set the stage perfectly for SoCal stalwarts Pennywise, now with new frontman (and old Ignite frontman) Zoli Téglás which had also done a great job on
stage. They were the only band that should have been a headliner, and although the crowd was much smaller, that did not seem to faze them at all. They had played with all of their energy turned in a performance that definitely left it's mark on our memory.
Critical bias: I have lots ink.
The Crowd: Tattoed punks, young greasers with their gals, wooly-haired tattoo artists, neo-Nazis, people who don't take shit from neo-Nazis.
Overheard: “How many beer's have you had sir?”
“Ones? That seems like the right answer.”
Random Notebook Dump: If you were in the market for a new shirt or pair of shoes at the festival, all you had to do was wait until the crowd from the main stage cleared out and you could've found plenty of stuff.