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Inkcarceration Returns to Ohio State Reformatory

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The Best of Metal and Tattoos Return to Infamous Ohio State Reformatory

July 14th – 16th, 2023

The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield Ohio welcomed metalheads and inksters from all over the country for its 5th edition of the Inkcarceration Music and Tattoo Festival. The jam-packed festival represented all things metal with three straight days featuring 12 nonstop hours of heavy hitting music, moshing and crowd surfing. Fans got to experience new up-and-comers on the scene along with some of the biggest names and pioneers of the genre. If the music wasn’t enough, attendees also got to experience free tours of the famous and supposedly haunted reformatory. Along with the tour, was a tattoo expo featuring some of the best artists in the nation competing in a contest. The festival also featured a haunted house in the basement of the haunted prison aimed at scaring your socks off. Campgrounds were also available with a shuttle that ran back and forth all day to the site. 

Day 1 started the festival off with a mixture of different metal sounds, but no shortage of big names throughout the day. The stage setup was a bit different this year as there was one main stage (Inkmates) along with another smaller stage (Inked) right by the entrance. There was also another mini stage by the reformatory that featured many up -and-comers. Both the Inkmates and Inked stages alternated between some of the biggest hitters of the metal scene for the last 30 years. Coal Chamber, Hatebreed, We Came as Romans, Suicide Silence and Highly Suspect kept fans rocking all throughout the day as then venue filled up to capacity. 

POD. photo by Steve Thrasher

The night finished off with a bang starting with P.O.D. closing down the Inked stage. The San Diego nu Metal band showcased their catalog of hits that took over the scene in the early 2000’s. There was no lack of energy from lead singer Sonny Sandoval as they even brought up a fan to help sing one of their biggest hits “Youth of the Nation.” Volbeat continued the trend of the first day variety with their unique heavy sound. The Danish group rocked the house with their most popular jams including “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown,” “For Evigt” and “Still Counting.” The main headliner of the day finished things off without disappointment. Limp Bizkit has always brought a unique and controversial show dating back to Woodstock 99. This did not change at Inkcarceration as Fred Durst was up to his same old antics that everyone loved. The band played all their big hits like “Break Stuff,” “Nookie,” “My Way” and even did a cover of “Killing in the Name” as a shot at Rage Against the Machine from a beef that started 20 years ago. A really cool moment during the set, saw a fan get on stage to sing with Fred on “Full Nelson.” Limp Bizkit finished things off with “Take a Look Around” while concluding a successful first day of Inkcarceration.

Limp Bizkit. photo by Steve Thrasher

Day 2 featured another impressive lineup throughout the day. From Ashes To New, one of a few last second fill-ins due to cancellations just a week before the event took place, got things going on a rainy gray afternoon. That didn’t stop fans from flocking to the reformatory grounds to rock out with Memphis May Fire, Underoath, Motionless in White, In This Moment and local fan-favorite Mushroomhead

Mushroomhead. photo by Steve Thrasher

Saturday’s headliners were a blast from the past who have had major impacts on metal culture. Megadeth were on top of the world in the 80’s and 90’s, but showed Inkcarceration they could still rock with the best. They got the pits buzzing and the surfers soaring with their fast pace headbanging mastery. They ran through their big hits with crowd favorites “Symphony of Destruction,” “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” and “Tornado of Souls.”

Megadeth’s performance set the stage just right for another legendary band, Pantera to finish the night out. Although the band is not in its original form after the deaths of the Abbot brothers and just coming back after a 20 year hiatus, they still rocked the house. Their set started with a video montage of their career, which turned into an explosion of pyros that sent the crowd wild. The energy never had a chance to slow down as their performance was nothing short of mayhem. The band had a very heart touching tribute to deceased band members Dimebag Darrel and Vinnie Paul with “Cemetery Gates” as well as “This Love,” “Walk” and “Cowboys From Hell.” The night ended with an encore from the band playing “Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit.”

Pantera. photo by Steve Thrasher

Day 3 featured a very mixed array of bands along the metal spectrum. The lineup didn’t miss on big names with Fame on Fire, Crown the Empire, Wage War and Dayseeker during the afternoon. In the evening we got to see GWAR put on their one-of-a-kind act in monster costumes while shooting fake blood into the crowd. However, Flyleaf put on a great set themselves as Lacey Sturm sang her heart out. Bush lightened the mood a little bit, but put on a memorable performance when Gavin Rossdale went into the crowd and even walked all the way up to the blanket area. Pop Evil, another last second edition, shut things down on the Inked stage setting things up for the final headliners of the festival.

Flyleaf. photo by Steve Thrasher

Inkcarceration went out with a bang with two of the heaviest hitters over the past 25 years. Lamb of God returned for their second year in a row. Lead singer Randy Blythe showed up with a new look as he cut off his iconic dreadlocks, but that didn’t change the energy they brought. They unleashed an avalanche of solid hits such as “Memento Mori,” “Laid to Rest,” “Ditch” and “Redneck.” Their heavy set was a great segway for the main headliner, Slipknot. The group hailing from Iowa came out with a bang. Their set featured lots of explosions and pyrotechnics which enhanced their already unique look of 9 guys in masks. These masked looks fit in perfectly with the theme of the festival as they look like they just came out of the haunted house in the reformatory. Slipknot didn’t disappoint as they showcased two decades of hard hitting jams including “Phychosocial,” “Snuff,” “Wait and Bleed” and “Unsainted.” If that wasn’t enough, they came back out with a killer encore to play “Duality” and “Spit it Out.” Slipknot finished off in style in what proved to be another successful Inkcarceration Music and Tattoo Festival.

Slipknot. photo by Steve Thrasher

Mansfield is most famous for the Ohio State Reformatory. The Prison was built in 1886 and was operated until 1990. It is most known for the filming of most of the movie Shawshank Redemption. Throughout the festival the reformatory was open for tours free to all. Here you could see where they shot scenes from Shawshank Redemption as well as the different parts of the castle-like institution. The tour showed inside the cells and different offices of the staff and warden. Not only was this an interesting piece of history to see, it helps give the festival another amazing dynamic,

Inkcarceration 2023 – Saturday – Experience – Lexie Alley

The Ohio State Reformatory is presumed to be haunted and has been well documented for paranormal activity. One of the rooms during the tour gives you an opportunity to experience this. The prison also plays host to a haunted house called “Blood Prison.” The haunted house tour takes you into the basement of the prison filled with startling props and scary live actors with the sole purpose of to scare you senseless. As far as haunted houses go this has been one of the best ones I have ever experienced. During Inkcarceration, there is only a limited section of the tour available. The full tour can be experienced in the fall months before Halloween. There is also a Christmas edition of the haunted house that will be open a few days in December. 

Blood Prison. photo by Nathan Zucker

There was also a section inside the prison dedicated for tattoos. Inkmates were able to get fresh ink from well renowned tattoo artists from around the country. The open was open to the public to watch them show off what they do best as well as buy merch. The artists also competed in contests which were sponsored by Inked Magazine. This was a sight to see whether you are a tattoo enthusiast or not. 

Inkcarceration 2023 – Friday – Tattoo – Lexie Alley

Inkcarceration welcomes Inkmates far and wide with open arms for one purpose; 3 days of head banging madness. One aspect of the festival that sometimes gets overlooked is the community aspect of this event. From the pits to the lines of crowd surfers, everyone seems to be looking out for each other. Inkmates of all ages,backgrounds and abilities are encouraged to rock out as hard as they can. Fun and safety are the main goals which were shown to be respected by everyone. With these missions in mind it is very easy to meet new people and share the same amazing experiences with other Inkmates.

I was fortunate enough to meet a group of amazing people in the pits. For three nights in a row I was able to experience great music, rowdy pits and hundreds of crowd surfers with these great people. The camaraderie felt inside the walls of the festival is surreal and seems to be a big factor in the rise of popularity of the event over the past 5 years. It should be interesting to see what DWP has instore for next year’s Inkcarceration Music and Tattoo Festival.

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