Despite the rumors swirling through the tattoo world, this isn't the last year of Long Beach's Ink-N-Iron tattoo convention. Instead, it's going to look very different in the future, so if you're a fan of big concerts, burlesque, and classic cars, you should absolutely be at the Queen Mary June 12-14.
"Next year, it's going to be way different," says Tim Hendricks, the new host of Ink-N-Iron. "It's going to be more directed toward art and art culture, rather than the big bands that've played in the past."
Make no mistake, there'll still be a badass concert, it just won't be the huge names (like Iggy Pop) that have driven up the price of tickets in the past.
Although Hendricks is well-known within the tattoo industry, from his artwork to owning Fullerton's Classic Tattoo and spending time on Miami Ink and NY Ink), hosting Ink-N-Iron wasn't something he ever planned. "My friend Juan has hosted Ink-N-Iron for many years, but this year his daughter is graduating that weekend I think, so he couldn't make it," Hendricks says. "I guess he kind of passed the torch to me for it."
Of course, the new host is already answering all sorts of questions about the convention, like "What does the host of a tattoo convention do?"
"Being the host means making sure that certain things that have to happen on the tattoo side of it happen to make it conducive to tattooers," Hendricks says. "I'm handling the 'wedding seating' (for the tattooers' booths) as best I can, stuff like that. There will always be complaints, so I just listen to the tattooers' gripes and do my best to make it a better convention for them."
Even as the new host and his planned new direction for Ink-n-Iron, Hendricks believes that the convention will be just as popular and just as much fun as always. One thing that'll never change, he vows, is the venue.
"It's a tattoo convention on a boat," Hendricks says. "It's nostalgic, and it's dry-docked so it's really on a piece of land, but it's still a really cool boat. I don't know how many people know this, but it used to secretly carry sailors during World War II. It wouldn't get torpedoed because it looked like a cruise ship."
While the art theme doesn't fully kick in until next year, some of the changes will already get implemented this time around. "It's definitely going to be a little more mellow this year," Hendricks says. "There's not really any huge headliners, just some cool down-to-earth bands [Pennywise, Bouncing Souls, Peter Murphy, and Killswitch Engage] and a pretty cool car show. Part of the reason we didn't want any giant headliners is so we could drop the ticket price down to like $42 this year. Plus, you get a $15 voucher from your artist if you get tattooed there, so that's only $27 for the whole day."
Like Ink-n-Iron's previous host, Hendricks gives much of the convention's success to its Long Beach home base.
"It's been around for so long because of where it's at," Hendricks says. "The Pike is a tattooing landmark. There are still tattoo shops and artists people know about who were tattooing there around the turn of the [20th] century. Most famous old tattooers come out of Long Beach.
"I don't think it's separate from other conventions in any way other than that it's at a cool location and it's a very well-run convention," Hendricks continues. "Conventions are like gatherings for tattoo artists. I go to conventions to see old friends and people who I only see at those conventions. They're like family reunions. The Aboriginals used to get together to share what they're doing and show what they're drawing. Conventions are like that for tattooers. I get to go out and meet young tattooers who are crushing it every day and see what kind of people they are. Everyone should come see us at the Classic booth this year, because Classic hasn't done a convention in a long time, and it's really a bonding experience for us."
Tickets and more information on Ink-N-Iron are available through Eventbrite.