Elm St. Music and Tattoo Fest
With Reverend Horton Heat, the Bouncing Soul, Frank Turner and more
The Bomb Factory and Three Links, Dallas
Friday and Saturday, May 20 and 21, 2016
There were a lot of firsts at this year's Elm Street Tattoo & Music Festival. For one, it was the first time the festival didn't fall on Friday the 13th, perhaps as the day becomes a seemingly played out tradition for ink enthusiasts who make it a point to get a tattoo on that day. This made the timing of the festival consistently random throughout the year, depending on which day it fell, and the last one happened just six months ago.
Also for the first time, the fest (mostly) didn't take place on Elm St. but instead at The Bomb Factory on Canton. The big room made its first appearance as part of the festival last year, but this year it hosted all the acts on Friday and Saturday. Only Three Links, the longtime home base for the event, joined in, with its condensed lineup of bands on Sunday night.
So for most of the weekend, the acts, artists and vendors included, were all under one roof. Whereas before it was an multi-venue outdoor walking experience, this time it felt like more like a punk rock tattoo convention, with booths lined up all around the venue that featured a lineup of seasoned artists and vendors selling quality products like t-shirts and jerky. Some showgoers stood near the front of the stage to watch the acts as other patrons lounged in their chairs and still others partook in the thrill of getting fresh ink with rock 'n' roll chaos looming in the background.
Overall, the festival once again delivered quality artists as well as multiple new and old school rock 'n' roll headliners that bring out punks of every kind: hooligans, crusties, pop punkers and old school nerds alike. In between sets, ink guns faintly buzzed as people celebrated the marriage between body art and songs of rebellion.
On Friday, the celebration started early in the afternoon with the bands going on around six, starting with the political hardcore of Disaster Strikes, followed by Austin's Sniper 66 who played their brazen style of bold, hard-hitting punk. Then, English Dogs from the U.K. played a full-throttle set of their crossover metal.
Off With Their Heads did some catchy numbers of their ageless, raunchy tunes. The band's mainstay guitarist and vocalist, Ryan Young, pointed out that 10 years have passed since the band put out its first full-length, Hospitals. They also played some of their more classic songs, like “Die Trying” and “Fuck This I'm Out.” While the band was shadowed by the following headliners, they still did good for their die-hard Texas fans.
The big room started to fill up as Angelic Upstarts were getting ready to play. The British troupe were active participants of the original anti-fascist Oi! punk scene of the late 70's. They've put out 12 full-lengths along with countless singles. Their raspy rebel numbers peppered with simple riffs and gang chants of “oh's” and "whoa's” are what make them classic singalongs to punk fanatics to this day.
The Upstarts' set invigorated the crowd as the aged band attracted the first real mosh pit of the night. Vocalist Thomas Mensforth emphasized the groups gruff background in between a mesh of their new and old material, "We were working class kids and now we're working class adults," he exclaimed.
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Bouncing Souls finished off the night with their brand of happy grunt punk, although something felt lacking from their set in between that song about “your mom” and when the vocalist bashed on the local scene when he proclaimed, “Dallas can't be like the East Coast no matter how hard you try!”
On Saturday night, a bigger crowd saw the Dictators play their electric blend of speedy thrash and melodic slow metal jams. The band's crunchy rhythms and intensely sharp guitar solos played well. Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls topped off the night with some energetic mid-tempo electric folk punk. While their set wasn't exactly a great fit to end the night, their energetic swinging diddies still pumped up some of the crowd as most of the festivities dwindled out for the weekend.
But before Turner took the stage, there was at least on tradition of the Elm St. Music and Tattoo Fest that stayed intact this year: Reverend Horton Heat's set. The Texas legend is one of the founders of the festival, and he and his band tore up the stage with the Rev's established brand of twangy wild West rock 'n' roll. His trademark speedy guitar noodling and wacky country-fried punkabilly demeanor is well-known here on his home turf, and with his solo spot on Sunday's lineup, it helped the weekend finish off right where it felt like it belonged: back home on Elm St.