By Christian Holub and Charlie Puckett
The heat at Pitchfork this year made skin the top fashion choice and we were, for the most part, happy to see it. Those who shed their modesty and were emboldened to display their goods weren’t sharing the kind that made you see “Titanic” or not ask a question in health class. The goods these Pitchfork attendees preferred to share were the works of their tattoo artists and the visual stories their ink told. Mix an indie music festival devoted to subcultural tastes with a blaring sun and, naturally, you’re going to see as much as you are going to hear. We asked some of those willing to share their skin to share the stories behind their pieces and this is what we got:
1. The Tim Burton Arm
Name: Frankie Rose
From: Brooklyn, New York
Tattoo Highlight: Forearm piece of wavy spires Rose knew to find in an animated Tim Burton landscape but never expected to find on her arm.
Performing as a solo act, Rose opened Pitchfork 2013 and was pretty excited about it. “It was actually the best spot, because the people that care are gonna be there and they’re excited,” said the former Dum Dum Girls member. “They’re not hungover and you’re immediately done. So if you’re here the whole week, you just get to party the rest of the week. Your job is done.” When we asked about her tattoo, she wished that job was never done. “I think tattoos are really dumb and you probably shouldn’t get them. Now, being an old lady, I have major regrets.” When asked how long ago and why she got inked, Rose said, “A long time, I must’ve been eighteen or nineteen. I don’t regret them enough to get them removed, ‘cause it’s like a time of history, you know what I mean? It’s like something you did, a moment you have. I regret this, this is horrible. I don’t know what the fuck this is. I let a guy just tattoo me that had never tattooed before. I was like, ‘I want it to look like Tim Burton!’” Despite being dissatisfied with whomever thought he’d become a tattoo artist starting with a piece on a figure of garage rock history, Rose was delighted to be in Chicago. “I like Chicago a lot. If New York and LA fell off the planet… and Austin…and maybe Portland… I’d move to Chicago. I just like the ocean, you know?” We have Lake Michigan, Frankie.
2. An Ode to One’s Own
Name: Jesse Matthewson of KEN Mode
From: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Tattoo Highlight: The cover art from KEN Mode’s third album, “Mennonite” emblazoned on the right arm.
We found Matthewson sitting cross-legged under a tree shooting the breeze with some fans. Still sweating from KEN (for ‘Kill Everyone Now’) Mode’s energetic set, he shared the story behind his art with a big grin. After breaking from Escape Artist Records and the band splitting for a short hiatus, Matthewson released “Mennonite” on his own record label, Arctodus Records, in 2008. As a reminder of the good things that can come from reuniting and risking a self-released album, Matthewson got the tattoo to permanently mark the change. “Our good friend drew it,” Matthewson said, pointing at the top of his forearm. “That album was kind of at a turning point in my life, so I got it as a signifier of that change. And the front cover is on the underside. That, and I have dinosaurs ‘cause dinosaurs are badass and if you don’t like dinosaurs you suck.”
3. Ma and Pa Do His Punching
Name: Hayden Menzies of Metz
From: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Tattoo Highlight: “Mama” and “Papa” in hieroglyphs on his fingers. (Honorable mentions: one he had done while blindfolded and one south of the belt for lucky ones.)
Soft-spoken, the noise-rock gentle(man) drummer didn’t have much to say, trusting that the tattoos could just speak for themselves. Menzies proudly credits most of the work in each arm’s sleeves to Lizzie Renaud of Speakeasy Tattoo in Toronto. The humbleness of a drummer? It’s a job requirement, not a credit.
4. Joe Beck – (Buddha)
Name: Joe Beck
From: Chicago, originally Minneapolis
Tattoo Highlight: Nautical themed hairstyling equipment on his inside writsts and one gigantic Buddha on his sternum
A hairstylist by day, including Saturdays and Sundays, Beck was pumped to make it out Friday to see Björk Guðmundsdóttir, known by most as Björk. “Bjork’s my girl. She puts on a great show.” Turned out that the Icelandic performer needed Beck to be her boy. The headpiece she donned that evening looked like an interactive exhibit from the Museum of Science and Industry and could have used some trimming (and, possibly, careful electrical work). We were more impressed with Beck’s tasteful and calming choice of artistic expression—an enormous Buddha elaborately inked right over the heart.
Name: Savannah Mirisola-Sullivan
From: A place that has good taste in movies
Tattoo Highlight: “Wayne’s World”’s Mirthmobile on the right shoulder
We had to stop and ask when we saw it. “It’s Garth’s Mirthmobile from ‘Wayne’s World.’ It’s the first PG-13 movie I ever saw and I watch it with my brother every year, so it’s for my brother. Pretty much every Christmas. We still have our original VHS copy.” Wherever Mirisola-Sullivan came from, she was also excited for the Guðmundsdóttir, but had trouble finding another reason to be there. “I honestly can’t remember who else is playing,” she explained laughing. As you can tell, she was all smiles and if Wayne made room for an eleventh on his most excellent list of Top Ten babes, we’re hoping it would have been her.
6. Probably Not A Vegetarian
Name: Stacie Yokiel
Tattoo highlight: Almost life-size chicken on her left arm
The personal story behind Yokiel’s ink has roots, meat and a reminder that dreams don’t make good manure. “It’s kind of layered. I grew up on a farm and used to butcher chickens when I was little. I had a tattoo for my dad and thought, ‘Oh! I need to get one for my mom,’ and one of her dreams was to grow up and get married and have kids and live, ya’know, on a farm and have chickens running around, and ducks and goats. She ended up marrying an alcoholic and living in the city and being practically a single mother. So I got this as an ode to staying true to your dreams and your beliefs.”
7. Ol’ Dirty Bastard
Name: Ralph Stollenwerk
Tattoo Highlight: Ol’ Dirty Bastard with Nativity set-themed hair (Runner up: Two rats bumping uglies in honor of him and his girlfriend).
Stollenwerk got the piece done because of a lost bet. On the shin. Drunk. He probably also has as many tattoos as O.D.B. has nicknames: Big Baby Jesus, Peanut the Kidnapper, Knifey McStab, Freeloading Rusty, Joe Bananas, Little Billy Clinton, Rusty, Dirt McGirt, and Dirt Schultz just to name a few.
8. Grandfather’s Windmill
Name: Kim Holland
From: Washington, D.C.
Tattoo Highlight: Windmill on the inside of her left arm
“Yeah, okay, I have a very long story about the windmill” is usually a pretty good thing to say when someone asks you about the unique tattoo on your arm. Given picturesque scenery known to be frequented by windmills that her last name brings to mind, we were especially interested in hearing the long story. “My grandfather built these large windmills, he’s Pennsylvania Dutch, and he made this giant one that we put out on my parents’ front yard every year,” she explained. “My sister and I would always get pictures by it. It was like an every spring/summer kind of thing. We loved it. There were these wooden tulips that you see at the bottom. This was a real life windmill. And then one year it was stored in the wintertime in the shed at my grandparents’ house and it burned the windmill down. My mom was devastated. So it’s like the windmill lives on. So that’s it, that’s the story in a nutshell.”