Words and photos by Robert Forte
After an absence spanning over two decades, the ground breaking Tattoo the Earth Festival returned to New England this past weekend to once again prove to the masses this is quite literally where it all began.
These days, it’s rather easy to find seemingly countless hard rock and metal festivals spanning the United States as well as throughout the breadth of the entire planet to attend. However, flashback to the year 2000 and not only were these types of live music gatherings much harder to come across, while also being held far less frequently, those that provided a showcase for more extreme forms of heavy music were still next to non-existent.
Tattoo the Earth’s founder, Scott Alderman, had initially hoped that the festival would capture the spirit and energy that existed between both music and body artists while at the same time opening up a window into the two cultures for not only like-minded individuals but for anyone to explore.
Alderman was quoted as saying back in 2000, “Nothing represents the counter youth culture like music and body art. Tattoo the Earth is a statement of purpose and a passport to another way of living. I’m simply trying to create a platform where those ideas can be expressed.”
Legendary metal bands such as Slayer and Sepultura took to the Tattoo the Earth’s initial stage back in 2000 in addition to other lesser known acts that would go on to help define the next generation of heavy music such as Sevendust, Mudvanye and Hatebreed. This of course was in addition to some of the world’s most renowned, respected and beloved Tattoo Artists being on site to provide fans and the faithful an opportunity to bear witness to some of the finest body art this planet has ever seen. Jump into the time machine and what’s old is once again new. Alderman had been trying to pull together another iteration of Tattoo the Earth for several years, and fortunately the stars finally aligned for the festival to make a return in August of 2022.
Tattoo the Earth and Alderman couldn’t have found a more appropriate place to return to than the hallowed metal grounds of the Worcester Palladium, tucked into the hills of Worcester, Massachusetts. The Worcester Palladium has essentially served as a hub of all things heavy and extreme music in New England for over thirty years now, thus having Tattoo the Earth be reborn on the venue’s sacred grounds couldn’t have been more appropriate.
This year’s incarnation was headlined by a few heavyweights of the hard rock and metal universe in the forms of Anthrax, out on the road celebrating their 40thanniversary, the Zakk Wylde led Black Label Society before Wylde himself joins up with Phil Anselmo and company for the Pantera reunion and New England’s own Hatebreed, with Jamey Jasta and the lads being the only original band to play Tattoo the Earth initially, returning for this year’s festival. A lot could be written about the three aforementioned bands and rightfully so. All three have served to influence several generations of metal kids for more reasons than anyone could rightfully count.
However, Tattoo the Earth in its first run was also about providing an opportunity for either lesser known bands to have a showcase or for acts that fans rarely had the chance to see in a live setting, a platform. This year’s Tattoo the Earth Festival provided the same as acts such as Richmond’s Virginia’s own Enforced, Massachusetts metal/punk heroes Overcast, Arizona based Spirit Adrift, legendary Los Angeles hardcore act Terror and another Virginia based outfit, crossover thrash stalwarts, Municipal Waste, all delivered sets that ignited the festival’s grounds.
Enforced is a band that has been deserving of more attention from the mainstream media for quite some time. Their unique blend of Power Trip meets Sepultura saw Enforced absolutely rattle the second stage while waking up every last soul at the Worcester Palladium that was lucky enough to catch the opening set of the day.
Nestled somewhere between AC/DC and Dark Tranquility with dashes of both Iron Maiden and Judas Priest sprinkled about for good measure, Nate Garrett‘s (formerly of Gatecreeper) Spirit Adrift, gave Worcester ample doses of heavyweight riffs while also starting the afternoon’s first wave of many circle pits to come. Overcast, featuring Brian Fair of Shadows Fall and Mike D’Antonio of Killswitch Engage probably had the festival’s, dare I say, most heart warming set. Perhaps, rightfully so as the band’s origins are of course from Massachusetts, but birthplace aside, what set apart Overcast’s set more than anything else was the pure connection they made with the audience throughout their brief time on stage. For playing so early in the day it was a pleasure to watch the second stage area get overwhelmed as Fair, D’Antonio and Overcast opened up the vault to dig into a catalogue of songs many have not heard played live since the mid to late ’90s inside the sweaty, beer drench venues such as the Middle East in Cambridge, MA.
Considering the band had played a mere handful of dates these past twenty plus years, it was both somewhat surprising and rather joyful to witness so many souls in the crowd signing every lyric word for word with Fair as his trademark dreadlocks bashed into onlookers from the stage time and time again. Not to be outdone, Los Angele’s own Terror actually terrorized the festival’s ground with a set that was as brutal as it was downright beautiful.
The only band that photographers had to exit the photography pit early from due to safety concerns delivered the type of earth shattering performance that Terror have long been known for. God help any band that came on after Terror because to have to be judged on the force of will they create and the sheer hurricane that is their live set, good luck. Another early festival highlight came from the likes of Richmond Virginia’s own, Municipal Waste. The southeast crossover thrash outfit is still the type of band you see live whether your fourteen years old or getting close to retirement, that not only inspires you to think you can play music yourself, but that the band might actually invite you up on state to play a song with them in the near future.
Municipal Waste has always been this amalgamation of good times, too much (or not enough)drinking, S.O.D, Suicidal Tendencies, Exodus and the Cro-Mags. Who in their right minds wouldn’t be up for more of that? Or to put it more simply, Municipal Waste is a damn fucking good time and their time at Tattoo the Earth only reinforced the notion that not only can a band blow you away with their sublime yet understated talent, they can actually make you feel as though you belong and that you’re part of something special. That sentiment right there is not only at the heart and soul of Tattoo the Earth, it’s also something that rings true throughout the entire world of heavy music as well as the culture that surrounds it. Those on the outside of this world often look at heavy music as something that isn’t accessible to them almost on the sole platform of that, even should they be enticed by the music and it’s trappings, some feel as though they still wouldn’t be welcomed. However, that sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth because there is not a single music community that welcomes more misfit toys, lost souls, brothers and sisters than the world of heavy metal has and always will.
Heavy music is bound in blood by the very tenants of family, friendship, love and music, perhaps more so than any form of popular or not so popular music, that has ever existed. Further proof of this statement was only hammered home this past weekend in Worcester, MA where founder and creator of Tattoo the Earth, Scott Alderman, brought this family together once again. Alderman succeeded in creating an environment and a setting that was met for anyone that’s ever felt like an outcast for even a second in their lives, to feel as though they were surrounded by their closest friends and family members to celebrate all things heavy and a culture that has and continues to be miscast and often misunderstood by so many that judge it unfairly from a safe distance.
Here’s to hoping that the re-birth of Tattoo the Earth is just the beginning of something special that’s going to last for decades to come. I can’t speak for Adlerman himself, however, I feel strongly he would have this to say, all are welcome. However, if you still feel as though heavy music and the culture are still things that aren’t accessible to you or that you simply find the lifestyle and or the music off-putting, well, that’s just fine. As Sam Dunn said at the end of his documentary, Metal a Headbanger’s Journey, “If metal doesn’t give you this overwhelming surge of power and make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, you might never get it”“ And you know what, that’s okay because judging by the countless metal heads surrounding me, we’re doing just fine without you.”