This past July 15th-17th, The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, played host once again to a sold-out crowd for the yearly Inkcarceration Festival. This year, 75,000 fans converged on the small town of Mansfield over the three days, which on a regular day has a population of just shy of 50,000 people. A massive lineup of bands over three stages, and more than 60 tattoo artists housed ironically within the prison walls, offered fans the opportunity of hanging in the yard banging their heads or getting “inked” while sitting behind bars.
Getting into the venue this year was a bit more complicated as road construction had almost every exit ramp and roadway into the reformatory torn to pieces. Adding insult to injury, a train spent most of the morning re-aligning itself on a nearby track creating total gridlock, which saw some fans coming unhinged. As is regular for a parking lot outside a Danny Wimmer festival, concert-goers started early, cranking their music up and playing games while tailgating in the parking lots. When doors opened at 11 am, some chose to skip opening bands and party a bit harder while taking in the sounds from outside the gates. Walking in, we were met by a monstrous merchandise tent and a line to accompany it. Most bands had shirts for sale, but some rotated in and out daily, so you always had to stroll by to see what changed. The VIP area had a smaller merchandise booth that only sold Inkcarceration apparel; even then, they couldn’t keep it in stock. The two main stages were side by side, and the third stage was around a bend opposite the main entrance to the prison. Food and drink were thoughtfully laid out, so no one had to walk too far to get anything they might need. Vendors for shopping and charity booths were plenty, and the prison offered a regular tour and “Blood Prison,” a haunted house within the reformatory walls.
After hitting the merch booth and listening to As You Were open, the main stage, Oxymorons and Born of Osiris, brought in more fans from the parking lots and set the stage for DED to belt out their main hits over a 30-minute set. Italian gothic metal band Lacuna Coil, led by lead singer Cristina Scabbia turned the crowd into a mosh of insanity. Sleeping With Sirens took us back to our Warped Tour Days with Kellin Quinn sounding exactly like he did all those years ago. Daughtry played a mix of rock and ballads that had the whole crowd singing along, including a cover of Alice In Chains’ famous hit “Man In The Box.” Michigan natives I Prevail wasted no time, laying straight into their hit single “Bow Down” and not stopping for 11 songs. With multiple mosh pits and a relentless sea of crowd surfers, they set Three Days Grace and Papa Roach up to keep the party going. Jacoby Shaddix and the quartet from sunny California played more than 15 hits over their hour-long set, including a cover by The Prodigy, “Firestarter.” Headlining tonight was none other than KoRn. It seemed there was something for everyone playing 16 songs that spanned their entire discography. Opening with “Falling Away From Me” and “Got The Life,” they kept the music heavy all the way through to closer “Blind.”
With issues leaving the parking lot the night before, we were slow rolling into the festival grounds today, as it seemed everyone dragged their feet. Hearing AEIR and Volumes on the walk-in, we were greeted by Ayron Jones on the main stage after shuffling through security. In what seemed like deja-vu, Adam Gontier (originally from Three Days Grace) belted out hits from his current band Saint Asonia and songs previously heard yesterday from Three Days Grace. No one in the crowd seemed to mind, as everyone was singing along with every word. Canadian heavy metal group Spiritbox only performed six songs but definitely left an impression on the crowd. Most fans were heard making loud praises, who wanted to see them live before casting an opinion. Lead singer Courtney LaPlante makes both singing operatic and throat screaming look effortless.
Avatar, Theory Of A Deadman, and Black Label Society played us into the late afternoon, with 30-minute sets becoming one huge mash-up of their respective hits. Ronnie Radke and Falling In Reverse came to tear things apart as they always do but had to stop the show a few times due to the crowd being a bit too aggressive and people overheating. Once they got the “all clear,” the pits opened up, and there were crowd surfers as far as the eye could see. Evanescence played direct support tonight, with lead singer Amy Lee using the whole stage throughout their hour-long set. Ending with the hit single, “Bring Me To Life,” the crowd was all singing at the top of their lungs, ready to continue wailing into the night with Breaking Benjamin, who would close out our second night. Over the next hour and a half, Benjamin Burnley and the guys treated the crowd to a barrage of classics playing most of their 19-song set from older albums such as 2004’s “We Are Not Alone” and 2006’s “Phobia.”
As it happens with most Danny Wimmer Festivals, mother nature put on her best storm and attended the festivities today, with rain starting before gates opened and lightning causing a delay in opening altogether. Nonetheless, Gemini Syndrome, Butcher Babies, and Veil Of Maya opened our last day in Mansfield before Sick Puppies took the stage and bassist Emma Anzai pulled double duty in back-to-back days (as she is now bassist for Evanescence). Taking a break from his touring duty with Rob Zombie, John 5 and his band put on an excellent show before Jelly Roll hit the stage with a monstrous amount of pyrotechnics. By the time Nothing More hit the stage midway through our day, everyone was soaked, the grounds had turned into a muddy slip and slide, and people started to throw in the towel (so to speak). Those that stayed were treated to a fantastic performance by Black Veil Brides, followed by Seether.
Lamb Of God is no stranger to a thunderstorm, having recently played in the Caribbean seas aboard Shiprocked this past January in a torrential downpour. Keeping the stage dry was easy with the level of flames that were shooting throughout their hour-long set. Chosen to close out the 2022 Inkcarceration Festival was none other than Disturbed. Hitting hard with the first notes of “Ten Thousand Fists,” David Draiman and the quartet from Chicago covered most of their albums, playing hits from them all. “Hey You” which launched only days before, was played for the first time live before an audience and was met with enthusiasm as most fans already knew all the lyrics. Ending our weekend with “Down With The Sickness” was almost perfect, as most of us would come to regret standing in the rain for 12+ hours the following days.
Overall, this year’s Inkcarceration Festival went off in its entirety, with rain only hitting one day out of three and the powers within the Danny Wimmer camp allowing it to continue, not shutting it down. I’ve been blessed to attend most of the festivals produced by DWP, and they do their best to keep it going against all odds and only pull the plug when mother nature rocks a little too hard. While it’s too soon to know what will transpire in July 2023, it’s probably a safe bet that Inkcarceration will once again invade the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, especially if the fans have anything to say about it. Keep up to date with all future announcements and lineup drops at the official website here.