By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Before your mind flashes back to thoughts of Denton's North by 35 Conferette—or, worse, thoughts of Austin's South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival—consider this about the impending MusInk Festival taking place at Fair Park this weekend: It isn't really a music festival at all.
Well, that's not entirely true. But let's go with it for now.
"It's a tattoo convention," says host Oliver Peck. Granted, he's a little biased: Peck's a Dallas-based tattoo artist well-known within that circuit for many reasons, chief among them his Guinness Book of World Records title, earned in 2008 after he inked 415 patrons during a marathon, 24-hour go at his Elm Street Tattoo parlor.
And, to a degree, he's right: More than 110 tattoo artists will convene at Fair Park this weekend to display their work and get a little hands-on with it too, inking up eager patrons looking to score a unique piece of body art. As for the music performances that are set to take place simultaneously? They're just part of the standard tattoo convention formula, Peck explains rather matter-of-factly: "Most tattoo conventions have bands playing."
Just not like this.
"No," Peck concedes. "They're usually not what you'd call high-profile acts."
This weekend, when the MusInk Festival makes its Dallas debut after earlier this year celebrating its third year running in Orange County, California, it will feature performances from the hometown heroes in the Old 97's, Memphis alt-country icons Lucero, outlaw country offspring and star-in-his-own-right Shooter Jennings, psych-rock NX35 veteran act Stardeath & White Dwarfs, and alt-rock favorites The Used—not to mention a long list of local favorites that boasts Telegraph Canyon, Eleven Hundred Springs, Doug Burr, Seryn, Dove Hunter, True Widow and The King Bucks, among many others.
In short, not too shabby a roster. A little more impressive than the standard tattoo convention also-rans, no doubt.
And here's where Peck really backs off his tattoo convention stance: "We wanted to have the bands be almost more of an attraction than the tattoo artists," he explains. "And that's good. There's only so much time at a tattoo convention. Maybe 300 people are actually gonna get a tattoo at the whole convention. So there's got to be more."
Peck and other festival organizers found their "more" by calling in a whole bunch of favors. Maybe it shouldn't be a surprise, then, to hear that many of these musicians wear Peck's work on their skin.
So, yeah, for Peck, at least, there's plenty to look forward to this weekend. For him, it's something of a reunion-meets-celebration.
"I've got like 100 friends coming in from all over the country," he says excitedly. "We're gonna party till the sun comes up."
But, for Peck and for the other organizers of the festival, it's more than just a party. It's also a chance to put Dallas on the map a little bit. That much essentially explains the general feel of the musical roster: Whereas MusInk's Orange County bill in February featured a serious punk bent with headlining performances from NOFX, The Buzzcocks and Face to Face, this one feels, well, more Texan.
"I definitely pushed the country angle," Peck says. "Plus, Lucero and the Old 97's are two of my favorite bands."
Indeed, the chance to see such musical talents performing on outdoor stages at Fair Park should make MusInk's first Dallas offering quite the draw. But so too should this: In addition to the tattoo and music portions, MusInk will feature performances from sideshow veteran Jim Rose's latest troupe, as well as exhibitions from pro BMX riders and skateboarders.
Just a tattoo convention? Hardly.
Maybe the coolest music and counterculture event that Dallas proper currently can claim as its own? Sure could be, if all this promise comes to fruition.
"I think it's gonna be awesome," Peck says. "They obviously spent a lot of money on it. Hopefully this pans out and we can do it again."