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Fresh Ink and Rock ’n Roll – Inkcarceration 2019 Recap

July 12, 13, 14, 2019 (Mansfield, OH) – 


Clear skies, buzzing needles, and loud rock ‘n roll. It was Inkcarceration 2019 – and what a weekend it turned out to be.

Blasting out with a rock ‘n roll lineup above and beyond what one could have imagined for 2019. Any single one of the three headliners would have created a huge buzz about this Northeast Ohio festival.

The second-year festival brought in three of the best hard rock acts to grace today’s stages. Shinedown, Godsmack, and Five Finger Death Punch continue to pack some of the largest venues around the country. Could the prison contain what this festival had in store for us?

OK, technically the music takes place outside on The Ohio State Reformatory grounds with the Prison providing a backdrop of sorts.

With a strikingly different layout this year, and the addition of a hydration station and large shade tent, organizers kept the fans experience a top priority. The flow was much better and with the capacity crowd, it was put to the test. It was no surprise they seemed to have met what they set out to do, fill the grounds of The Ohio State Reformatory with rock n’ roll revelry.

The west side of the prison grounds featured this year’s food trucks and the large shade tent complete with picnic tables for sun-free eating and drinking. The lines and service times were good throughout most of the day but got a lot longer towards sun-down as the crowd got larger and the demand went up.


East Cell Block at The Ohio State Reformatory ©Allen Heimberger

One can call this historic site many things; The Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield Reformatory, or the more famous monicker – Shawshank Prison. Yes, this was the host for filming one of the best movies of all time, The Shawshank Redemption. Although not a stranger to camera crews, many music acts have filmed their music videos on these grounds, including Saturday night headliner Godsmack and their video Awake (2000).

The prison has a storied history of being one of the most haunted places in the country. Most of the energy, however, goes into hiding with all of the outside energy flowing through the halls during the festival. You can get an up-close and personal time with the prison during some of their overnight stays at other times of the year, in case that’s something you dare to do.

The reformatory also featured Blood Prison which is an annual haunt that takes place in the west cell block during the fall in celebration of Halloween, but was resurrected in July and in full swing during INKcarceration this year. Ten bucks got you a trip through hell once, and fifteen got you as many trips as you could take throughout the day.


The center of the prison was abuzz all weekend. We heard reports of over 1000 tattoos being freshly inked during these three festival days. That’s a lot of ink, a lot of pain, and a lot of memories those patrons will have from INKcarceration 2019.

Most of the 70 tattoo artists are fully booked prior to the festival’s start, but some wait and do walk-ups only, giving those last-minute deciders a chance to get their tattoo in prison. The stellar art the ink stars were injecting into the flesh of the undying crowd was spectacular. Daily tattoo awards were given out leading to a highly competitive weekend.

Maybe next year we’ll schedule some Splice Ink, just gotta figure out how to work it into the busy daily schedules.



The short day – but that shouldn’t have fooled anyone. It was Shinedown day. First up though were eight magnificent acts to get day one warmed up. It did not take long once the gates opened for the grounds to fill up. With great vibes and rock ‘n roll comradery, it was underway.

Brent Smith of Shinedown ©Angela McIntire

Starting the afternoon off were Broken Hands, Everyday LosersAwake at Last, and The Funeral Portrait. Things were off to a great start and then the ever-entertaining Chris Jericho and his band Fozzy took charge of the first stage. With their high energy set, the crowd was sure getting amped up.

Maintaining the momentum, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus closed out the second stage with another energetic set, until tossing it back to the first stage for the last three acts of the day.

As the production value increased the energy raised as well as the mosh pits. Skillet put on a performance that showed everyone in attendance that they meant business and were worthy of their slot on the first stage. Not to be outdone Taking Back Sunday was up next.

Shinedown was ready to close out the night. As the majority of everyone in attendance gathered on the grounds in front of the stage you really got the first glimpse at how huge this crowd had gotten through the day. Brent Smith and his powerhouse vocals had this crowd on his every word. Their set featured songs from their latest release Attention Attention (2019) as well as their hits throughout the previous years. As the crowd sang along and crowd surfed, it was like one giant rock ‘n roll family gathering. That theme would carry on throughout the weekend.

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Godsmack. That was enough excitement for most, but the undercard bands were out to show their artistry as well, and what a show it was. Starting off with two Ohio bands Impending Lies and Titans in Time, they both showcased their goods to sizeable, early crowds. Even the high temperatures of the day did not keep away the early crowd.

Sully Erna of Godsmack ©Allen Heimberger

Dance performers Monster Dolls were ready to throw a little horror cabaret into the mix. Light The Torch, Raven Black, Buckcherry, and Eyes Set to Kill held down the afternoon set slots with their performances.

Red Sun Rising put on a highlight of a set. Maybe it was being in their home state, but it’s probably due to their relentless touring that has them rising to rock ‘n roll royalty.

Stabbing Westward brought their heavy industrial sounds to the festival, followed by Motionless in White who stirred up the mosh pits and had swells of crowd surfers. Andrew W.K. brought the party to the headlining set on the second stage – with his distinct sound and smile, he had the crowd partying hard.

+LIVE+ was ready to take you back 25 years to the release of Throwing Copper. Reunited and rejuvenated, they sounded spectacular tonight. Tossing in a couple of covers their set was all you could have imagined.

As the 30-minute switch over was taking place, the Godsmack curtain was in place as the crowd batted around beach balls with anticipation of tonight’s headliner. With pyro and guitars, it was on with When Legends Rise. Legends they are. Godsmack has been at the top of the scene since the late ’90s and they are continuing to put out incredible material. Look no further than When Legends Rise (2018) and 1000HP (2014) to see the powerful and meaningful music they are producing. They are at the top of their game when performing live and Godsmack showed everyone why they deserve the accolades they receive. As they ripped through the hits with a fourteen-song set, they left the crowd wanting more, but plenty satisfied.

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The Sabbath. The last day of the INKcarceration festival. Sore feet, hangovers, ringing ears, and sunburns. These are just a few of the things today’s crowd was nursing. These are typical festival war wounds, at least if you are actually participating fully.

It did not take long to get reports of people running into members of Five Finger Death Punch and other bands on the festival grounds. As 5FDP toured the prison interior, they chatted with some fans and of course local law enforcement. Big supporters of law enforcement, they did not let anyone in blue go unnoticed today.

Ivan Moody of 5FDP ©Allen Heimberger

Those lucky enough to line up early were able to get a front rail spot when gates opened. They would stake their claim and remain in the front row throughout the entire day, guaranteeing them a premium spot for all festivities on the first stage.

Striking up the first chords of the day were last-minute replacements Adrift on River Styx, on the second stage. Hillbilly hard rockers Scattered Hamlet blasted their set from the main stage like a shot from a double-barrel shotgun for an early highlight in the day.

Monster Dolls, Rivals, Smile Empty Soul, Kerbera, and Issues kept things moving with their varied performances. Melodic rockers Starset put on their high production performance complete with violin and cello added in for an amazing sound. Both From Ashes to New and P.O.D. garnered massive crowds in front of the second stage. With very different styles they both brought the heat and energy and had the crowd fired up.

I Prevail had a huge amount of fans present. It was not only obvious from apparel but also the crowd’s reaction once they took the stage with the number of crowd surfers and fans rocking along.

Seether had the set-up slot. With second stage performances complete the crowd packed in front of the main stage for the last two sets of the festival. Luckily the temperatures were dropping and the shadows were getting longer bathing a huge amount of the crowd in the darkness, and the coolness of the shade.

Seether opened with Gasoline, and by the time they played the acoustic-led Broken, they had the entire crowd singing along as Singer/Guitarist Shaun Morgan let them sing most of the first verse as he watched in amazement. They continued with the best of their catalog to close out their set as the crowd surfers continued to keep front-line security busy.

Five Finger Death Punch was ready to finish off the festival. With an amazing 17-song set, they put the perfect exclamation mark on INKcarceration 2019. Opening up with Lift Me Up the crowd surfers passed overhead like it was rush hour and they did not let up. Ivan and company paid homage to our troops and the men in blue. Paying respect is a great thing, and it seemed very much from the heart, no more evident than when Ivan pulled some of the young kids from the crowd to join them on stage. Passing along rock ‘n roll to the younger generation is what will guarantee festivals like this will live on for a very long time.

Finishing the night up with The Bleeding seemed to sum up how most of us felt. Banged up, bruised, and very tired – the exact way it should be.

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INKcarceration 2019 proved one thing – this is THE festival to put on your calendar for 2020. The improved layout and amenities solidified the fact that this is a number one fan-friendly festival.

Were there still small issues this year, sure, but the crew worked to better them throughout the weekend. It is with this fan first commitment that will have this high on the list for 2020 festivals.

Although the festival warns against moshing and crowd surfing (do these at your own risk), they have plenty of big guys up front to keep those up top safe when arriving at the edges of the barriers. It felt so safe, we witnessed many very young crowd surfers going overhead on Sunday.

With a few more adjustments for 2020, we predict this will be a sure early sell-out, regardless of lineup. The lineup is secondary to the location – the famous Shawshank Prison. With the tattoos, food, drinks, Blood Prison, prison tours, and great music – it’s not just a festival, but an experience like no other.

TIPS for 2020

We are predicting this festival will take place the second weekend in July again. No official word, but both weekends were in the July teen dates. Just block off a couple of weekends to be safe, it never hurts to pencil it in so you don’t accidentally commit to Aunt Jenny’s 52nd birthday party instead.

Get your 2020 tickets as soon as they are up for sale (note our early sellout prediction). Secure your camping pass – these sold out quickly this year. If you are traveling and looking to grab a hotel, get that quickly as well. Hotels within 45 minutes were very scarce by festival time.

If you want a tattoo, book early. Look for the list of artists to be released, and hit them up on their social media to get them locked down.

Hit up the INKcarceration socials and follow for updates and announcements. Also, check out other fan groups on Facebook for insider tips and help if you’re a newbie or already a part of the “Inmates”.