Event Review – INKcarceration Festival 2019

There are many festivals during the summer vying for your time and money – we here in the Northeast Ohio area are fortunate to be home to one of the most unique and well-run events in the country.

Around here we call the venue by a few different names – The Ohio State Reformatory – some call it the Mansfield Reformatory but those of you from out of town undoubtedly know it as Shawshank Prison.

Yes – the actual filming location for The Shawshank Redemption – for the second year in a row – played host to the INKcarceration Festival – a three day – two-stage – 35 band celebration of music and body art that this year drew a record crowd and while still hotter than hell – Mother Nature played much nicer then she did for the inaugural event last year.

The music is just one cog in this multi-faceted event though. You could also tour the prison – there was a haunted attraction called Blood Prison that savored their opportunity to scare the shit out of you – and of course there were tatoo vendors galore – all offering their services on the spot. It truly is a one of a kind event – and held in quite possibly to most awesome location ever. At the end of the day though – it’s all about the bands and their music and this year the folks behind INKcarceration pulled out all the stops and brought some of metals best to the prison yard.

Things ramped up on Friday night – Shinedown was the main draw but the day was packed to the rim with great acts – Taking Back Sunday, Skillet, and Fozzy just a handful of the acts that made the evening unforgettable. It was a comfortably cool evening and honestly – from all accounts – a damn near perfect night for a metal show. An impressive kick-off to the weekend.

Saturday – the heat ramped up a bit but – so did the size of the crowd and the enthusiasm for the bands the day brought. A full day kicked off on Stage Two with Impending Lies attacking the stage first – the day also brought Buckcherry, Red Sun Rising, Andrew W.K., LIVE, and ended with the one and only GODSMACK rocking the stage. The band is out promoting their latest release – When Legends Rise – and this was the first time I’ve been treated to seeing them live, and they did not disappoint. GODSMACK just well may be one of the best live bands I’ve ever had a chance to see. This latest album, When Legends Rise, is an amazing collection of pure metal awesomeness and it’s even better performed live. The band killed it – literally blew away the capacity crowd that crammed the front of the stage.

Pyro and explosions added the final layer of bad ass-ness and the crowd filed out – exhausted but smiling from ear to ear as they had been well rocked, and they knew it. I can not stress enough – when GODSMACK hits a town near you – find a way to be in attendance. Yes, they are that good.

The final day of the festival – Sunday – was by far the hottest weather-wise and it was on this day that I noticed the extra steps that the folks behind INK had taken to take care of their attendee’s. Hydration stations were set up all over the festival grounds – making sure everyone stayed hydrated – A cooling area – well shaded and awaiting anyone who needed to get out of the direct sun was accessable – and also a misting tent where you could stand under some cooling misted water – to take the edge off the sultry conditions.

This final day was highlighted by Five Finger Death Punch but – before they would hit the stage, a full day of rocking was to be had. Starset, P.O.D, and Seether are just a few of the nearly 12 hours of music that poured off the stages. FFDP put on a long – 17 song set that highlighted the bands aggressive, driving sound while giving a few of their songs a softer yet somehow more powerful treatment. Remember Everything stood out as a show highlight. FFDP is a tight, well-oiled machine and they do not mess around – they take their performance seriously – and it shows. FFDP is the real deal. Finishing off their red hot set with The Bleeding – confetti flew – smoke exploded – flames flared, the crowd went insane with crowd surfers being thrown around like beach balls – it was beautiful, chaotic madness – and the perfect coda to a perfect weekend of metal, tattoo’s and a little bit of horror and movie coolness thrown in for good measure.

INKcarceration is an event run by fans – for fans – and it shows. No insane rules and regulations, security wasn’t rude and pushy, fans needs and issues were thought of ahead of time and an enviroment was crafted to make the event enjoyable for all – and it was just that.

INKcarceration Festival 2020 is all but guaranteed – and let me be the first to tell you – if music festivals are your thing – this is the one that should be on the top of your list.

Dave Dreher
Co-Founder / Lead News Reporter at Gruesome Magazine
Dave is co-founder and lead news reporter for Gruesome. Dave has built his resume working for Diabolique Magazine, The Horror Channel, Horrornews.net, House of Horrors and Creature Corner. He has worked with Tom Savini on his official site since 1997 and is also co-host of the popular podcast Horror News Radio.