WORDS BY CRAIG A. STEBBINS AND PHOTOS BY CRAIG A. STEBBINS / MARK SKINNER | Go Venue Magazine
For one to say that the INKCARCERATION FESTIVAL (formerly Ink-in-the-Clink), is nothing more than simply another three-day metal rock-n-roll show is comparable to saying a Lamborghini is just another form of travel. With the Ohio State Reformatory (1896-1990), as a unique background to this ‘one of a kind’ fest, it’s also home to the 1994 film ‘Shawshank Redemption’, which is celebrating its 25th year anniversary. 2019 also marks the 2nd year that the INKCARCERATION FESTIVAL has taken place. With over 70 tattoo artists tucked away on the upper floor of the Reformatory, it was obvious that these outstanding ink artists had their hands full, as each booth displayed a placard notifying fans that each day was completely booked, at the price of $350/hr. It would be beneficial to next year’s attendees to call/book well in advance prior to the 2020 festival.
The reformatory also played host to a self-guided tour of the actual prison cells, corridors and private rooms used by the warden and chaplin. Other points of interest were the electric chair, and the ‘tunnel’ movie prop, encased in clear plexiglass. To top everything off there was a vast array of delectably delicious food vendors and a spacious open-sided tent, for fans to get out of the sun and enjoy their meals. Now onto the music! INKCARCERATION proved to be of epic proportions with headliners Shinedown, Godsmack and the boys of 5FDP.
Day One started out somewhat slow, as the gates opened and fans trickled in. With the main stage on freshly mowed grass, and the side stage as well as the food court on pavement, attendees knew right off that these three days were undoubtedly going to be scorchers, as the weather forecast predicted temperatures in the mid-90’s and no rain in sight!
Broken Hands, who replaced The Every Day Losers, opened up Day #1 on the side stage. Hailing from the United Kingdom, their setlist consisted of many fan favorites, including their latest single “Wrong Track” from their upcoming disc entitled ‘Split In Two’, dropping August 9th. Following on their heels was Atlanta, Georgia based Funeral Portrait (also part of Summer 2019 USA Tour). Recently releasing their newest single “Holy Water”, it is also rumored that new material should be expected mid-2020. Hard hitting Awake At Last hailing from Dover, Delaware brought their dark pop/hard rock and post hardcore genre with a short setlist from their debut album ‘The Change’ (06/21/19). For more info, go to http://www.awakeatlostrock.com.
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus took a brief break from the Don’t Hide The Light tour to hammer their diehard fans with songs not only from the latest album ‘The Awakening’, but also from the debut album ‘Don’t You Fake It’, dropped over 13 years ago.
Fozzy (Chris Jericho) was next up bringing his fans to near hysteria with a short but intense (7 song) setlist. Opening up with “Judas”, it was quite obvious that the crowd was in sync with every word and note played, as I witnessed many singing in harmony, while in the pit. Fozzy also graced us with my favorite “Do You Wanna Start A War” before closing with “Sandpaper”. After his show Fozzy, dressed in jeans and an orange INKCARCERATION 2019 tee-shirt (with sleeves ripped off), stopped by to do a few radio interviews as well as graciously have pictures taken with those of us present. A truly remarkable and humble man! Following Fozzy was a Nashville, Tennessee quartet that I’ve always looked forward to covering, as well as mingling with backstage/media. Fronted by the powerful John Cooper on bass/vocals, Skillet came, captivated and conquered us with their hard rock/Christian rock. Right from the first drumbeat laid down, the ever-so talented Jen Ledger, Skillet wasted no time electrifying the eager crowd, opening with “Feel Invincible” and hammering us with their remaining 10 song setlist. Beginning at 7:40 pm sharp, with the sun setting behind the stage, it couldn’t have been a better backdrop. Toward the end of “Whispers In The Dark”, John played up to both the videographers and photographers, giving both great shots and videos! While Korey Cooper began shredding her strings on “Sick Of It”, John traded in his 5-string axe for a pair of flamethrowers (steam) on each arm, and would time it perfectly with the blue and red stage lighting, making the experience all the more spectacular. Closing their set with both “Monster” and “The Resistance”, Jen Ledger could be seen twirling her sticks unlike any drummer I’ve witnessed. Outstanding performance! Check with http://www.skillet.com for upcoming tour dates, as you do not want to miss out!
The 2nd to last band to take the main stage and going strong for two decades now, Long Island, NY based Taking Back Sunday nailed their set (5 songs), enticing the fans with their opener “Liar (Takes One to Know One)”, “You Can’t Look Back”, and ending with “MakeDamnSure”.
With the sun below the horizon and the air finally cooling off, the crowd breathed a sigh of relief as the stage- hands put their finishing touches setting up the last band of Day 1. As the minutes ticked past their start time, one could almost cut the thick anticipation that hovered above the heads of dedicated fans with a knife. Then the explosion combined with heat-intense pyros that could be felt for a solid 50 feet or more, as Zach Myers led the boys of Shinedown into a fierce intro with “Devil”. Hot on the heels of their latest album release ‘Attention Attention!’ featuring chart-climbing hits “Get Up” and “Monsters”, these cats hailing from three different states (Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina), all but obliterated all attending with their 15 song setlist. With a spectacular display of pyros, explosive bangs and killer lasers, Shinedown played many songs from their new album, but also took time to not only go back in time with hit single “45”, and also performed their version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man”. Soaked with sweat and visibly drained, Smith, Kerch, Myers & Bass continued to out-perform themselves as they wrapped up the night with “Sound of Madness” and “Brilliant”. A truly remarkable and not soon to be forgotten show!
DAY ONE – All Photos by Mark Skinner
After gorging ourselves at a local Bob Evans, we once again set out for another hot-n-blistering day at Ohio State Reformatory. Getting there as the gates opened, we opted to treat ourselves to a quick tour of the reformatory, as both the Monster Dolls and Cleveland’s Impending Lies took to the stages. Judging not only by the music but by crowd interaction as well, Day Two was off to a great start. While the tour of the bowels of the reformatory was amazing at best, we beat feet over to the side stage as Los Angeles based Raven Black graced our presence with 3 songs – “13”, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Scars” and “Carnival” as the morning crowd grew in size and intensity. Known only as Raven (vocals), Muppet (drums/vox), The Doctor (lead guitar/vox), and Stitches (bass), this theatrical metal band (founded 2012) will bring the dead to life with their unique brand of metal – (influenced by artists such as Avenged Sevenfold, Static X, Metallica and others’ with similar genre).
Founded in 2013, Eyes Set To Kill were next up, as the sun’s rays began to beat relentlessly upon us all. But this trio from Tempe, Arizona kept their cool while hammering out a short set, ending with “Broken Frames” from self-titled album (2009). Next up were four hard-hitting guys from Los Angeles. Howard Jones – vox (ex-Killswitch Engage), Francesco Artusato – guitar (ex-All Should Perish), Ryan Wombacher – bass (Bleeding Through), and on the drums Mike “Scuzz” Sciulara – (Extinction A.D.) hit the stage hard, bringing their heavy metal genre with a strong metal fist. With 5+ years under their belts and their album ‘Revival’, Light The Torch will keep you with horns held high.
Now it’s time for a breather and grab some grub, so we wandered in and out of a sweaty and sunburned crowd as we made our way wearily towards our all-time festival favorite – “ISLAND NOODLES” for a pound of fresh teriyaki chicken with yaki-soba noodles (a Hawaiian favorite) stir-fried with fresh garlic, ginger, and a medley of 21 fresh vegetables – 3 of which are seasonal…then simmered in a secret light island sauce. The results? Sorry, I’m bound to a secret oath! You’ll have to make your way to their stand and find out for yourself.
Andrew WK, what can I say? Still sporting his filthy white jeans and tee, this zany madman came to party his ass off and commanded us to all join in. What a wild ride it was! From spinkicks to wicked high jumps and occasional punching into thin air, WK had the mosh pit in full swing while the rest were dancing and singing. A native of Manhattan, NY and in the biz for over 20 years, may not be the one you want to be courting your daughter (LOL)…but a must see entertainer for those festive moods.
Next stop…Hydration! We had a few minutes to kill, so off to find shade under a tree in the media area, armed with 2 bottled waters each. What a scorcher – and barely a breeze to be found! We definitely showed our age as we stood up (bones a crackin’) and slowly made our way to the main stage in anticipation of standing toe-to-toe close to Josh Todd and Steve Decaney, the boys of Buckcherry. While Todd’s vocals sounded a bit harsh and overworked, it certainly didn’t stop him from belting out such classics as ‘Porno Star”, “Somebody Fucked With Me”, “Crazy Bitch”, and even a Nine Inch Nails cover – “Head Like A Hole”. Decaney was at his best as he effortlessly laid down his guitar tracks and riffs, either smiling abundantly and/or looking upward with eyes closed. Originating in Los Angeles, Buckcherry began their journey in 1995 and have amassed 7 chart-topping albums – their first in 1999, self-named ‘Buckcherry’ and the last being both ‘Confessions’ and ‘Best of Buckcherry’ (2013). Wasting no time setting up the side-stage, crew members feverishly hustled about getting everything in place as members of Red Sun Rising walked up the stairs to the back of the stage. I haven’t seen these Akron, Ohio crowd pleasers since I covered them as part of GWARBBQ 2016 (my first shooting gig). Opening their 8 song setlist with “veins”, there were some minor soundboard snafus that were quickly corrected as they played on. Ending their set with “Deathwish”, it was obvious the crowd wanted them to play the remainder of the night.
Based in the small blue-collared town of Scranton, Pennsylvania, founded in 2006 and with 4 albums to their credit, Motionless In White fronted by the multi-talented Chris Motionless (vox) and accompanied by Ricky Horror (guitar), Ryan Sitkowki (guitar), on drums Vinny Mauro, hit the stage highly energized as they played everything from “Disguise” to “Devil’s Night”, to their closing number “Eternally Yours”. Performing at INKCARCERATION FESTIVAL in 2019 was their first show after a well-deserved break. You can catch them as they tour later this year with Alice Cooper and Halestorm. Live, a multi-platinum American rock band hailing from yet another small Pennsylvania town called York, with over 22 million albums sold worldwide in their nearly three decades of performing, bringing an 11 song setlist, and ready to transport you musically to a time when life was less complicated. Along with their classics – “All Over You”, “Shit Town”, “I Alone”, and everyones’ favorite “Lightning Crashes”, Ed Kowalczyk (vox) didn’t disappoint as neither of the members of Live. Such a mellow laid-back sound, soothing to the soul!
Wrapping up Day 2 is the bad boys of Boston, MA, coming to the stage with their multi-platinum four time Grammy Award winning, as the one-n-only Godsmack. Without any hesitation, Sully Erna (vox/guitar/drums), Tony Rombola (guitar/vox), Robbie Merrill (bass), and one of the industry’s finest and truly the baddest dudes on the kit – Shannon Larkin began their explosive set with “When Legends Rise” off their self-titled album. The crowd literally came apart at its seams and the photo pit became a temporary sea of fans, as they got past security guards, as well as surfing over the rail in order to stop and video Erna in his prime. Total pandemonium with nowhere to turn or move. In hindsight, I’d expect no less from die-hard ‘Smack’ fans! Playing all their all-time crowd pleasers, including Erna and Larkin battling it out on dual revolving stages in “Batalla de los tambores” – their duet never gets old and keeps getting better with time. After 10 songs, the band appeared to call it quits…but we knew better as Godsmack eased into their encore with “Under Your Scars” (‘When Legends Rise’), which brought a somber effect on the fans, then quickly rolled into “Bulletproof” (‘When Legends Rise’) bringing back the hysteria witnessed earlier. Closing out an ‘over the top’ performance as only a band that’s forever in their own league, both professionally as a band and individually. A perfect ending to a glorious (yet hot) mixture of musical talent, food, and a very well-natured crowd. Kudos Godsmack!
DAY TWO – Photos by Mark Skinner and Craig A. Stebbins
With blisters on both feet (me) and bodies screaming from head to toe, we two old dogs decided early on that on this last day of what has been quite the experience up to this point, we’d slow down some as we wanted to be able to visit the tattoo booths on the reformatory upper floor. So while the Monster Dolls once again opened up, bringing their ghoulish array of comedy, weapon props, and unique style of demonic dancing, and acrobatics to the side-stage, we got to hit the tat booths. While every artist/booth were booked solid, everyone we stopped to chat with and take photos of were overly friendly and informative. Overall, the only downside of many artists’ experiences at INKCARCERATION FESTIVAL was that even though fans were easy to part with $350/hr. for some outstanding inking, the profit margin was bleak. It seemed that due to the high cost of rental. Space, travel and such, breaking even became a norm. Hopefully next year this will be addressed and the artists will profit handsomely for the quality of work provided.
Los Angeles based dark pop/rock genre Rivals fronted by Kalie Wolfe (vox) with accompanying members Sebastian Chamberlain (bass), guitarist Mickey Woodle, and Josh Alves on the kit, wasted no time thrashing the early morning crowd with 5 short yet powerful numbers, including “Damned Soul” from their latest album ‘Damned Soul’ (Feb. 2018). The honky tonk metal sounds of Scattered Hamlet got our sluggish tired blood flowing on this clear sky morning. One part Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchett featuring heavy rock elements from Motörhead to Down. With a relentless touring schedule of 150+ shows/40 states yearly, these good ole boys make no apologies for the equal love of Harleys, shotguns and blassic American symbolism.
After an extended break to eat, use of the facilities and a lame attempt to rest our crackling bones, we once again were set to go as Starset was set to hit the stage at 4:45, and this was one band we didn’t want to miss. Unlike 2 years ago when Starset sported their astronaut costumes (ROTR 2017), this year they came on stage dressed in post apocalyptic garb, much like the folks in the Mad Max films. Formed in 2013 and hailing from Columbus, Ohio, and with two dynamic discs to their credit – ‘Transmission’ (debut, 2014) and ‘Vessels’ (Jan. 2017), as well as a hit single “My Demons” (280 million YouTube views), and commercially successful single “Monster” peaked at #2 on Billboard. Besides the four actual members – Dustin Bates (vox/keyboard), Ron DeChant (bass/vox/keyboard), Brock Richards (lead guitar), and Adam Gilbert (drums/vox), they were joined by two lovely violinists Mariko Muranaka and Siobhan Cronin, who were brought on the 2019 tour. These two ladies, one playing cello the other a violin, were the focal point of not only the photographers, but fans alike. Beginning with “Unbecoming” and wrapping up their 8 song setlist with “My Demons”, Starset captivated all attending with their unique style of cinematic rock, influenced by the likes of Linkin Park, Thirty Seconds To Mars, and Nine Inch Nails.
With only five minutes to spare due to watching Starset’s full set, we simply couldn’t get through the masses to witness From Ashes to New performance, but were able to get back to the main stage once again as I Prevail stood before the crowd, ready to entice all with their classics from not only their debut album ‘Linelines’ (Oct. 2016), but a few from their recent album release ‘Trauma’ (March 2019) as well. For more info on this accomplished band, please visit http://www.iprevailband.com to see when they’ll be in your town next.
Up next was one of my all-time favorites – P.O.D., an American Christian nu-metal band formed in San Diego, CA (1992), and have amassed quite an impressive discography (11 total). Of all the bands covered this epic weekend, it was P.O.D. that not only got the crowd up and dancing/singing along to their modest set, but it was noticeable that the pit photographers were head-bopping and having difficulty shooting the band while doing so. Sonny Sandoval (vox) was energized unlike most witnessed at INKCARCERATION FESTIVAL 2019 to that moment in time, as he ran and jumped around constantly – especially when P.O.D. played their classic hits “Boom”, “Youth Of A Nation” and their closing number “Alive”. The crowd interaction went beyond exceptional, and once they played their last tune, their diehard fan base were left mezmorized and wanting more. After the show, we had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with drummer Wuv Bernardo, and even got a couple selfies taken with this talented and most humbled musician. Following P.O.D. (who closed the side stage performances) was the ever elusive (to photographers) Seether. Founded in May of 1999 in Pretoria Gauteng, South Africa, this hard rock band came bringing their A-Game with an extended setlist covering their 20 years together. Frontman Shaun Morgan, known to shy away from photographers and who rarely smiles, was witnessed many times during their show smiling ear-to-ear as they played “Fine Again”, and their classic “Broken” to a crowd hanging on his every word. Seether was without a doubt a trip down memory lane playing songs from their 7 studio albums, the most recent in 2017 – ‘Poison The Parish’. For tour dates and discography info, visit http://www.seether.com.
Ending not only the day, but INKCARCERATION FESIVAL 2019, the next band is no stranger to any of us hardcore metal fans. Las Vegas is more than proud to be the home of 5FDP (Five Finger Death Punch) since 2005, with an endless list of nominations and awards too long to list here, but available at http://www.fivefingerdeathpunch.com. With the largest selection of swag at their merch booth and largest crowd of the weekend, there was absolutely no doubt that 5FDP was the band everyone was waiting for. Kicking off an impressive 17 song set, they slammed the crowd as they opened with a flashbang explosion that startled many as the elaborate light show kept the fast-paced band on point. Ivan Moody (vox) with painted face, minus his infamous ball-bat, was beyond exemplary similar to a phoenix rising from the ashes. In 2018 drummer Jeremy Spencer was replaced with Charlie Engen, and while Engen may have lacked in the outrageous antics/facial expressions, he surely made up for it with his skin pounding, keeping 5FDP on beat and their driving force. Around the 4th song (“Sham Pain”, I believe) they set off a massive canon of confetti, covering not only those up front, but Moody himself. Soon after Moody called for the Mansfield Police as well as available security people to the stage, to show appreciation and recognition for their dedicated service to not only the festival, but to the community as well. 5FDP also did two covers – “Bad Company” (Bad Company) and “Blue On Black” (Kenny Wayne Shepard), both received graciously by the sold out crowd. Although Jason Hook (lead guitar) shredded and played like a master of his craft, it was somewhat noticeable that he may have not been feeling well based upon his facial expressions on the big screen. Chris Kael (bass) was more stationary than usual during their performance on this night, but took time to play up to the photographers including Ivan’s father, who graced the photo pit shooting alongside Harry Reese (5FDP personal videographer/photographer). In my opinion, 5FDP was the only…the best choice to close INKCARCERATION FESTIVAL 2019, and rather certain that all attending would hands-down agree!
DAY THREE – Photos by Mark Skinner and Craig A. Stebbins
Summarizing this remarkable 3-day event needs to be done in stages, as INKCARCERATION FESTIVAL is a one of a kind spectacular adventure with so much more than simply music. The festival layout was well thought out, with both stages within an estimated 500’ from each other, expediating the transition between the two. The merch vendors on the hill facing the main stage offered a vast array of swag, free complimentary Swisher Sweet and Optimo cigars/cigarillos at their booths,also offered small spots of shade from the blazing sun while engaging in some fun cornhole toss and prize-winning basketball toss. And there’s the FOOD! If it wasn’t for my partner’s obsession with ‘Island Noodles’ lol, we’d have had a difficult time in choosing food sources for our belly…simply too many to choose from! Judging by the length of the lines of attendees at each food truck/trailer, there was no doubt that every vendor had something for every craving, and at a decent price. What other festival have you attended where there are not only tours of a historically notorious penitentiary, which is said to be haunted even to this day? None that I can think of! Or how about a festival housing nearly 70 talented and sought-after tattoo artists? Never. In short, whether you’re young or old, this festival has/had something for everyone! With just under 13,000 attending Friday and both Saturday and Sunday sold out (17,000 max.), INKCARCERATION FESTIVAL 2019 was a complete success. I don’t know about all of you, but the two of us that were chosen to cover this epic event, will certainly be looking forward to the 3rd Annual INKCARCERATION FESTIVAL regardless of the 3-day lineup. I can only imagine who will headline next year, but surely will have their hands full competing with this year’s lineup!
FESTIVAL ATMOSPHERE – All Photos by Craig A. Stebbins
Well played INKCARCERATION FESTIVAL 2019…we’ll see you next year – rain or shine!