And that punk is far from passé.
Just like music, tattoos tell a story. They’re personal, artistic reflections of who someone is, where they’ve been and what matters most to them.
We went to Chicago’s Riot Fest, a three-day-long, nostalgia-infused music festival and carnival. Between headlining acts like Misfits and Death Cab For Cutie and a crowd longing to connect with songs from their past, Riot Fest is a place to let your freak flag fly and own it. The fans and musicians who defined punk may have aged, but that doesn’t mean they’ve grown up.
We were lucky enough to chat with a few of our favorite artists at the fest. So we just had to ask: What’s the meaning behind your tattoos?
The Descendents fronted the punk scene in the 80s and 90s, paving the way for pop-punk bands to come, like Green Day and Fall Out Boy. Their rebellious songs chronicle a refusal to grow up, and even after forty years together, the band maintains a youthful feel and never fails to connect with fans.
When it comes to tattoos, surprisingly, frontman Milo Aukerman doesn’t have any, but bassist Karl Alvarez told us his favorite tattoo is a picture of him that his son drew when he was 3. “The way you can tell this is me is because those three lines there are my forehead wrinkles and these dots right here are my freckles on top of my head,” he said.
“In a funny way tattoos can work for people in a way songs do,” Alvarez said. “They can document periods of their life and you can choose to look at them as bad or good.”
Fitz and the Tantrums
If you can’t get “HandClap” out of your head, you’re not alone. The indie pop band is all about creating catchy hits that strike a chord with the masses.
“It’s a good period for music and dance music to blend in,” Noelle Scaggs told us. “[HandClap] is one of those songs where you’re discussing losing control. It also speaks volumes to loneliness and wanting to fill a void. It’s got all these variations of meaning and it’s a very personal song for Fitz and me, and the aspect of letting go and having freedom.”
Each of Noelle’s tattoos is a “reflection of growth and change” she’s experienced at various points throughout her lie. “You think of the phoenix and how something rises and becomes something else,” Scaggs said about her ink. “It’s the same thing with the lotus—it dies and it’s reborn.”
Scaggs also has a Justin Bieber-inspired tattoo that says, “Life is Worth Living” in French. “That song really inspired me and touched me the very first time I heard it,” Scaggs said.
Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas
Jessica Hernandez’s smoky vocals and retro aesthetic are setting the indie pop scene abuzz. She draws inspo from her theater career and artists like Dolly Parton and the Talking Heads to craft super-relatable songs.
“I feel like that’s the best way to connect with people: when they can read the lyrics of a song and be like, ‘Oh my god, I know exactly what you’re talking about,’” Jessica told us. She said that through their performances and collaboration on the second album, the Deltas have been able to “break out of their dorky high-school shells” and create something wonderful.
Jessica’s tattoos include everything from her husband’s name to a random piece of “feminine” artwork she chose in a tattoo parlor in Mexico City?—?she didn’t realize it at the time, buuuuut it kind of resembles a vagina. Luckily, she 100% rocks it.
The artists weren’t the only ones sporting head-turning ink. Here are pics of fans’ best ink (and fashion!).
All photos courtesy of Ryan Luciani via Dose