This story originally appeared in the Winter 2008 issue of Limelight Magazine.
By GEORGE AUSTIN
At the Rock the Ink festival in Providence, R.I. at the end of the October, people could choose from many artists from around the country to give them a tattoo and then could walk into the arena to watch bands, ranging from local bands to national acts, play all weekend long.
Glenn Kuczer, drummer for the band A Breed Apart, said offering tattoos and music at the same festival would not work with any kind of music. He said it worked at the Rock the Ink festival because it was done with the right type of bands.
“I think this style, genre of the music fits perfectly,” Kuczer said. “It’s totally interchangeable crowds. It goes with the heavy rock, heavy metal. It all goes hand in hand. If you had country rock, there would be a separation.”
Many of the musicians at the festival, which was sponsored by Live Nation, had tattoos.
Guitarist Joseph MacGregor had tattoos of a reefer and a biomechanical three dimensional giger. He said he has been getting tattoos since he was 18 years old.
“I think it’s a great idea,” MacGregor said of combining tattoos and music in one festival. “I think that music and art and tattoos should be best friends. They should have a working relationship.”
Cameran Drew is a tattoo artist who competed in the Miss Tattoo pageant at the Rock the Ink festival.
“I think a lot of people in the tattoo world are some of the largest music fans,” Drew said. “You’ve got such a diverse world with the tattoos. You have to have the music.”
Drew said that music helps people to zone out into a different world while they are having the paint put on them.
At the Miss Tattoo pageant, there were evening gown, bikini and Halloween costume competitions. Contestants had to have a certain number of tattoos. Drew, who owns two tattoo studios in Ohio and Texas, said the winner is chosen based on all around talent and beauty, much like the Miss America pageant.
“I love to compete,” Drew said. “I think it’s a lot of fun. I support all tattoo women. I want people to realize you can be real cool with tattoos.”
Tattoo artist Joe Zaza Peterson had a booth at the Rock the Ink festival. He said he was fairly busy in his booth at the festival. One customer at the festival had Peterson make a tattoo that was a portrait of his son who is a marine.
“Music throughout time has gone with everything,” Peterson said. “It’s a way to rejoice together. Today, tattoos go with everything. It expands through every lifestyle, every walk of life, every generation.”
Peterson, whose studio is named Zaza Ink, said he prefers not to have music playing while he is creating a tattoo because he likes to concentrate on what he is doing and communicate with the customer.
Peterson said he has done tattoos for musicians in his shop in West Boylston, Mass., but he says you don’t have to be in a rock band to be cool.
Steve Smith, drummer for the band Resin, which performed at the festival, has a “rock star” tattoo on one of his hands. He liked the concept of the Rock the Ink festival.
“Rock ‘n roll goes with tattoos like it goes with super models,” Smith said. “It’s a lifestyles event.”
Smith said the festival was a great opportunity for local bands that were able to perform at the same festival with such big names as Godsmack and Bret Michaels. He said he walked around with Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin. Smith said Resin has gotten more hits on its web site just because it played on the same bill with such well known acts. Smith said playing in a major festival gives a small band credibility. He said he also discovered other bands he liked at the festival. Smith said what was even more important than the 20 minutes the local bands were on stage playing, was the booths they had set up to give information to people at the festival.
“It gives a band confidence to be able to do something like this,” Smith said as he was standing outside his booth.
Josh Horn, an artist for Daytona Hardcore Tattoos in Florida, said he was booked solid for tattoos every day of the festival.
“Music is an art,” Horn said. “Tattooing is a form of art. It’s good to put two arts together. It complements each other very well.”
Combining tattoos and music seems to be catching on. While the Rock the Ink Festival was a one-time event, a tour, featuring punk band Social Distortion and metal band Motorhead, with many tattoo artists traveling with them to sell their skin art, is scheduled to kick off at the end of January and run through mid-March with the same type of concept.
Ronnie Surprenant, a shipper at a produce company from New Bedford, Mass., came to the Rock the Ink festival to see Godsmack and was thinking about getting a tattoo after walking by all the booths with the artists.
“I love it,” Surprenant,” said of the idea for the festival. “I’m a tattoo lover and I’m a rock metal head. I love the metal music and I love the tattoos.”
They also had a contest at the festival for best tattoo, best portrait tattoo and most realistic tattoo. Trophies and medals were given to the winners.
Raymond Pacheco, a telecommunications worker from Westport, Mass., said he came to the festival for both the music and the tattoos. He said the festival, which was held at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, had a nice atmosphere.
“The two concepts put together is pretty cool,” Pacheco said. “Tattoos and rock stars go together. I think it’s a pretty neat idea.”