It’s become clear that ever since Ink-N-Iron left the Queen Mary in 2015, the only tattoo conventions worth attending in Southern California are the Golden State Tattoo Expo up in Pasadena and Musink at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa. Sure, there are others in places like Pomona and Long Beach, but those are a pretty significant step down both in quality and recognition.
While Golden State tends to be set up more like a traditional tattoo convention and carries a strong focus on the art of tattooing (and related products), Musink has always been the place to be for a weekend-long party celebrating tattoos, music, custom cars, and the culture that goes with all of them.
So if you’re looking at the lineup for this year’s Musink and thinking it looks a bit odd, you’re not alone. With the headliners of Suicidal Tendencies, Limp Bizkit, and the Vandals — along with supporting acts such as Fear, TSOL, Sick of It All and Dead Kennedys — the biggest draws of this year’s massive event have more than a few people wondering what decade they woke up in. But the festival’s perennial host, Travis Barker, is quick to point out that there’s quite a bit of rising talent to balance out some of the older acts.
“This year’s a little different in the aspect that we have Limp Bizkit and a few new and exciting bands that are just crazy,” Barker says. “There are a lot of first-timers who have never been at Musink, and that’s exciting to me. We kind of went old school on Friday — we’ve actually put in offers for Suicidal [Tendencies] every year, but it never worked out — but then on the Limp Bizkit day it’s very new school with bands like Ho99o9 and City Morgue.”
Of course, no Musink would be complete without some sort of live performance by the famous drummer himself. In previous years, Barker has hit the stage with everyone from Blink-182 (in their first major show with Matt Skiba) to Yelawolf to Transplants, and this time around he’s scheduled for a “Drum and DJ” set before Limp Bizkit on Saturday night. That’s not to say the 43-year-old percussionist will only be behind a drum kit once this weekend though.
“I’ll probably hop up and play like two songs with Suicidal on Friday and then do something with a DJ on Saturday, and then possibly something on Sunday,” Barker says. “I just like doing guest stuff with whoever wants me to join them.”
For those who can only make it out to one day (and aren’t closet Fred Durst fanboys), Sunday’s lineup consists of not only the punk rock powerhouses, but also the hangout for all of the local bands. With Fear, Dead Kennedys, TSOL, Anti-Flag, and Voodoo Glow Skulls all performing before the Vandals, it’s about as solid of a classic punk rock lineup as you’ll see anywhere. For that matter, it’s such a strong day that even the Vandals are taking it (somewhat) seriously.
“I’m just amazed by the lineup, and when I look at it I go ‘Why are we on top here? Why are we playing last?’” laughs Joe Escalante, the Vandals’ bassist. “We don’t care about when we play or who we play before or after, but we’re just honored and grateful that whoever the powers are that decided this lineup thought we could close the show. We’ll do our best.
“It’s like ‘Oh crap, we’ve got to practice!’” Escalante continues. “We went through many years of phoning in our shows, and I used to joke that 1 out of every 14 Vandals shows was amazing — but you might go to 1 of the other 13. Now, we actually practice weekly even when we don’t have a show lined up just because we’re such good friends and like to get together. We have good management and a good agent, so now there’s a tour manager scheduling the practices and all that stuff — and just babying us — so we have a lot more fun together.”
Seeing the Vandals perform these days might not seem like that much of a special event for those of us here in Southern California, but most of the world only ever gets to see them at the occasional festival gig. Outside of their hometown shows, the punk rock veterans have realized their best bet to balance their global music careers with the rest of their lives is to line up as many one-off festival dates as possible.
“There are [music] festivals all over the world now, and I don’t know how anyone else feels about them, but we love them,” Escalante says. “We’re still alive, but we’re too old to get in a van and play a bunch of small shows or do a tour like people want us to. At festivals, we get to play in front of a lot of people all at once, and that’s really the only way people are going to see us anymore. We’ve got a bunch lined up for the whole spring and summer, and it’s great to play one here in our own backyard.”
Aside from the music, Musink will also feature hundreds of tattooers from all over the world and a who’s who of the top local shops. But the most noteworthy change to Musink from one year to the next has really been the Low ‘N’ Slow Car Show that Barker curates every year. Over the last handful of years, it’s gone from a small collection of classic rides serving as some extra eye candy to an entire display of not just cars, but also trucks and — as of this year — vintage BMX bikes.
“I know other festivals have little displays that have Instagram moments, and I really feel like ours is the cars,” Barker says. “We have some real showstoppers out there. They’re the best that you could possibly come across, and I feel like that car culture goes hand-in-hand with the tattoos and music.”
MusInk featuring Suicidal Tendencies, Limp Bizkit, The Vandals and more at the OC Fair & Events Center, 88 Fair Dr. Costa Mesa, (714) 708-1500, www.musinkfest.com, $29.50 (single day)-$199 (Weekend VIP), all ages.
Josh Chesler used to play baseball for some pretty cool teams, but now he just writes about awesome stuff like tattoos, music, MMA and sneakers. He enjoys injuring himself by skateboarding, training for fights, and playing musical instruments in his off time.