It's as if Dallas collectively decided to self-fulfill the prophecy of the full honey moon on the 13th causing a crazy night. As the whiskey flowed in the packed bars of Elm St., the bands of the festival smiled and played to crowds of freshly inked fans, the majority of whom seemed to be sporting freshly done lucky 13s.
Much like last year's festivities, Friday feels like it had a significant attendance bump over the previous two nights, as thousands of fans fill the venues and line up in Prophet Bar waiting their turn to get work done by one of the 50-plus tattoo artists who have been working for almost 24 straight hours.
While making my way around the festival and to the Prophet Bar I discover that an old friend of mine is visiting from California. She didn't even know about the fest, but when she found herself in Deep Ellum and saw the chaos, she bought a day pass and decided to get a 13 tattoo. After I, and a few others, almost meet our end from a car speeding through a red light on Elm St., I find her in the Prophet Bar freshly inked, with wrap around her arm. We grab a beer and decid to venue hop.
Walking back from the Prophet Bar we see a huge line waiting for donuts in front of Glazed, while a little further down in front of Three Links a group is huddled on the sidewalk watching Spies Like Us perform. Amongst the group, a lone skanker dances in a circle, hopeful that someone will join him. Wanting to grab a drink before the music takes all our attention, we follow a group of costumed partygoers into the Twilite Lounge.
While not as packed as the festival venues, Twilite has become the spot for fest goers who want to skip the bar lines and grab a drink. Several people sip on frozen Jack & Cokes while comparing their new work. A lone New York Rangers fan sits in a booth watching the Stanley Cup playoffs. Just outside the door there's an endless parade of people walking back and forth between bars and venues, all of them laughing and having a good time. Many are playfully complaining about the donut line. Donuts, not tattoos or music, seem to own Elm St.
Later I find myself inside Trees, standing at the bar and watching MXPX light up an overtly excited crowd. Frontman Mike Herrera is the lone original member on stage, but his fill-in band is able and from what I can tell the crowd doesn't care, as the front of the stage has turned into a half-mosh pit/half-pogo area. Fans will support pretty much anything so long as you give them what they want and these fans just want to have a good time. Herrera and his replacement band are making sure they have one.
Outside on the Trees patio, groups wait in line to take advantage of the Photo-Wagon, a converted camping trailer that's been turned into a mobile photo booth, complete with random props and silly hats. People are paying $5 a pop to jump in with friends and take three quick photos. Behind that a barbecue pit sits selling sandwiches and ribs to people who aren't full of beer or whiskey. A particularly intelligent fest attendee combines the two and takes his sandwich into the booth with him. "That guy knows how to party," someone declares from the throng of onlookers. You could say the same thing of the same lone skanker I saw earlier, who's across the street still trying to turn the sidewalk in front of Three Links into the hottest party of 1996.
Standing between Club Dada and Wit's End we have a debate over who to see; in the end, Dale Watson and his boozy Texas Country wins out, and we head inside Dada. On stage, Watson is playing while people dance -- slowly, if not very gracefully -- along. He does a series of shots while on stage; several of his fans, and myself try to keep pace, and I end up taking a seat outside after downing them. Watson's 51, I'm not even 30, and I can't keep up. Watson does brag that he drinks a lot, and it's obviously true.
Later the Von Erichs take the stage to play their blend of Texas Punk at what feels like a breakneck pace, causing a friend to turn to me, and shout "These guys fucking rock." I just nod, and take a sip of Lone Star, seems to me this is the best way to end the night's musical festivities, before heading back to Twilite.
As the night winds down and the drinks flow at the Twilite Lounge, I spend 30 minutes trying to talk my friends into the idea that we should just sleep on the patio of Pecan Lodge, that way we can wake up to freshly made barbeque, and be in the area for Saturday's portion of the festival. Luckily or unluckily, depending on how you view it, they talk me out of it, and we head to the car. While walking, a lady catcalls at us, yelling she hopes we got a tattoo and had a good time. I guess that full moon really did bring the crazy out in us all.