Scenes From This Weekend’s Elm Street Music and Tattoo Festival.
It’s four o’clock in the morning, Billy Idol is blaring from the speakers, and no one — well, no one here, at least — seems ready to stop partying.
Yes, it’s been a long, five-day weekend at Elm Street Tattoo and the Reverend Horton Heat’s inaugural Elm Street Music and Tattoo Fest in Deep Ellum, but, at Elm Street Tattoo co-owner Oliver Peck’s East Dallas home, this group remains well into the wee hours of Monday, indulging in some early-morning beers, days-delayed conversation and impromptu dance-offs to the music coming from Peck’s iPod.
For the most part, these attendees are tattoo artists: Chris Nunez, Peck’s fellow judge on the Spike TV reality tattoo competition show Ink Master holds court in the back patio, back-slapping a group of friends he’s seen only in passing all weekend long; other tattooers from across the country mill about, sharing cigarettes over a just-tapped keg that’d been purchased seemingly for this exact get-together’s purpose; still others take seats where they can find them, just happy, for once, not to be inking up a client as they’d been doing all weekend long.
“This weekend’s been amazing,” Peck told a crowd gathered earlier in the night at the Three Links venue he co-owns in Deep Ellum before thanking them for their support. His audience was enthralled, but, in that moment, hardly overwhelming in size — not a fair indicator of the weekend-long festivities’ draw at all.
Indeed, in Peck’s eyes, the weekend — a mishmash of an affair that combined the ideals of a music festival, a tattoo convention, a motorcycle exposition and a skateboarding demonstrating into one catch-all of an affair — was everything he’d hoped it’d be in its first, borderline trial go. Already, he’s excited about the prospects that this festival holds in its future. He can’t help it; without much prodding, he excitedly mentions his hope to shut down Elm Street to traffic in next year’s version, which, he promises, will very much happen. Peck’s known as an excitable sort, so his anticipation’s hardly a surprise. But his constant looking-ahead doesn’t do his festival’s first go much justice.
The first Elm Street Music and Tattoo Festival was very much a fun one — expansive and intimate at once, spread out across five stages and two parking lots in the Deep Ellum neighborhood, but manageable within the confines of each of these locales. It was bigger than ever as tattoo conventions hosted by Peck’s Elm Street Tattoo shop have gone, but somehow more laid back, too.
It felt organic. It felt natural. It felt right.
On Friday, tattoo fans by the hundreds came and dominated the scene, spurred on by Elm Street’s regular Friday the 13th marathon tattooing sessions.
As the weekend progressed, so did its main draw. On Saturday evening in particular, music reigned supreme, as regional pop-punk stalwarts Bowling For Soup performed before a packed house at Trees, teasing fans with its just-released Lunch Drunk Love LP — the band’s 12th — and pleasing them with the expected dick jokes with which the band’s become synonymous. Across the street, local bar-rock favorites Dead Flowers played to a similarly feverish crowd at Three Links, drawing fans into the space as their drunken rock sounds filtered out onto the road from the venue’s open garage-door facade.
Sunday night, meanwhile, was quieter, as perhaps should’ve been expected. On the last night of the festival, the festival seemed mostly filled with area musicians, tattooers and longtime fixtures in the local music scene. Trees, the festival’s largest stage, bowed out of its role in the fest on Sunday, instead hosting a sold-out show from long-running metal outfit Sevendust. Still, at Three Links, crowds whooped along to the sounds of Peck’s close musician friends, Colorado’ Drag The River and MxPx frontman Mike Herrera, performed intimate, stripped-down sets. Down the road a ways at Wit’s End, a slightly livelier scene — sonically, at least — dominated as Fort Worth alt-country heroes Quaker City Night Hawks inspired its crowd to two-step between shots at the bar.
Fittingly, though, the festival would come to its formal end back at Three Links as Dallas rockabilly icon Jim Heath, the name behind the Reverend Horton Heat moniker and Peck’s co-sponsor in this festival, performed a solo set for a crowd that was just as wowed by his between-song background tales as they were his electric guitar noodlings.
“I never play shows like this,” Heath shared after his set came to an end, the smile on his set a strong indicator that he was pleased with how it came out.
And he wasn’t alone. After his set, Heath reunited with his fellow ’90s Deep Ellum fixture Rhett Miller, frontman for the Old 97’s, who’d scurried over to catch the end of Heath’s set after playing his own surprise show, unrelated to this festival, down the road at Twilite Lounge earlier in the night. For a few minutes after their shows, two shared some conversation and a warm embrace — a charming sight, to be sure, as these two men were among the ones responsible for Deep Ellum’s last heyday, and, here they were, back in the thick of things once more as the neighborhood has again found itself approaching a new zenith.
Really, the whole weekend was a charming one — a warm, welcoming good time shining bright in the face of the rough-edged appearance of both this neighborhood and this festival alike.
Maybe that’s why those close to the organizers so lingered at Peck’s house in Monday’s early hours. The Elm Street Music and Tattoo Festival had been going on for five days by this point, sure. But, nonetheless, no one — no one in this crowd, at tjis party — was ready to see it come to its end.
Tough to blame them for that.