This month, I decided to feature the Philadelphia Tattoo Convention since it was my first time attending the Philly version of the largest tattoo gathering on earth. I normally go to the one that Mario Barth puts on in Secaucus, NJ in September or the big NYC one that happens at the Roseland Ballroom every year. I have to admit that the Philadelphia Tattoo Convention, which was run by Villain Arts, really gives these bigger shows a run for its money. I thought they did a fantastic job with this one and I’ve been to many within the past 13 years.
The Philadelphia Convention Center—located on Arch Street right near Chinatown, which was a familiar locale for me—was jam-packed with tattoo and piercing enthusiasts alike. After receiving our tickets, we were herded in like cattle through these metal detectors. I have to say that the security here is way more thorough than the TSA at the airports. Another thing that I noticed was a sign on the door that stated no “colors” allowed into the convention center, which meant no gang “colors” were allowed, unlike Mario Barth’s convention, which is covered with Hells Angels paraphernalia. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because I actually know a few of those guys, but for those who don’t know them, it might seem a bit intimidating. So, leaving “colors” at the door was something new for me to see at a convention.
As I was walking in, I immediately ran into a familiar face in Jerzey Tattoo owner Bruce Walker and his wife Crissy, who I went to high school with. I checked out Bruce’s shop a few years ago when he was in Fair Lawn, NJ. He’s since moved the shop to my hometown of Saddle Brook, NJ, right on Market Street. Bruce told me that he didn’t get a booth this year and was just there to get his shop’s name out there. We walked in and all you can hear was the beautiful sound of machines buzzing and the smell of soap. If that doesn’t make you want to get a new tattoo, I’m not sure what will. Let’s just say I came “this” close to adding some art to my body, but I was reminded I have a wedding to save for.
Anyway, on our way in, there was a booth of t-shirts that read on the front “Tattooing Sailors and Whores,” so we had to buy one! The shirt was being sold by Philadelphia Eddie’s Tattoo 621. Next, we made our way up and down the rows, and it was so awesome to see some of the most amazing tattoo artists in the world all in one place. There were also some great vendors who dealt some cool jewelry, t-shirts, Pinups For Pitbulls was there (a highlight for my fiancée) and some fun special guests like Eddie Munster or Butch Patrick, who was with my bud and our “Tattoo Artist Of The Year 2013,” “Tattoo” Tony from Under My Skin Tattoo, Brian O’Halloran from Clerks was there, and from Sally-Ann Salsano’s Tattoo Nightmares, Big Gus, who was promoting his new clothing line. He was the person I was really pumped to meet because since interviewing Sally-Ann twice, I became a fan of the show and Big Gus’ work, so it was cool to meet him and talk shop for a few minutes.
As we snaked through the whole convention center up and down the rows—which, by the way, was a lot of rows—and we soaked in all the buzzing, we did run into some familiar faces like, as I said before, “Tattoo” Tony Rodriguez, Paul Booth from Last Rites, who couldn’t be more humble, the gang at Hand Of Glory Tattoo, Jen Carmean from Monarch Tattoo, the guys from Rising Sun Tattoos, my old pal Christian Masot from Silk City Tattoo, and of course, Mick Metal from Revolution Tattoo Company. I also met a bunch of new tattoo artists from around the world along with many contestants on shows like Ink Master and Best Ink, but the one that really impressed me the most was a guy named Jess Yen from a shop in Huntington Beach, CA called My Tattoo. This guy’s artwork almost seemed like it was jumping off the skin. It was that three-dimensional. You have to check his artwork out at mytats.com.
The one thing that I learned from this trip to the Philadelphia Tattoo Convention is that you really need to do your research on the artists that are at these conventions if you want some artwork done on your body. If there is an artist that you always wanted to get a tattoo from and he or she is at one of these conventions, then get there, because you save cash on airfare, even though these artists were typically charging around $250 an hour. My guess was that that would cover airfare and hotel stays for them. If you actually do your research on these artists and find one you really like, you can actually walk out of a convention like this with a tattoo you will really love. As for my first Villain Arts Philadelphia Tattoo Convention, I have to give it two thumbs up all around. It’s too bad that if you missed this year’s, you have to wait a whole year until the next one. Then again, you can hit the New York City Tattoo Convention at the Roseland Ballroom for the last time this weekend, March 7 through 9. For tickets, log onto nyctattooconvention.com. You can also wait for Mario Barth’s Biggest Tattoo Show On Earth in the fall.
Well, I’m off to check out my next tattoo spot! Who knows what state it will be in! If you have a tattoo shop that you want to suggest, please e-mail me the name of the place and whom I should ask for at email@example.com.