Beer City Tattoo Convention '07

Published: 01 December, 2007 - Featured in Skin Deep 155, January, 2008

As I sat waiting to board my plane I still wasn’t 100% sure what to expect from a tattoo convention being held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. All I could think of was bowling, Pabst blue ribbon beer, Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. Hmmm, not too much there to work with until I took my seat on the plane and it hit me. Milwaukee is the biker Mecca, home to Harley Davidson motorcycles. Shit…bikes, beer and tattoos are a marriage that can’t be beat. And to be frank, the Beer City tattoo convention was a happy marriage, one that was sure to change my perception of the Midwest.

After checking into my hotel the festivities started rolling. I met up with Troy Timple and the crew from Tattooed Kingpin at the registration desk. Once the introductions were complete Troy looked at me with a half-cocked smile and said, “just wait Dave, the fun’s just beginning”.

The artists represented there were the cream of the crop for Midwest tattooing with others coming in to show what else is going on around the country. Bomb Shell Tattoos of Texas, Hellcat Tattoo of Florida, Body Designs from New York, Central Coast Tattoos from California and Angry Black Club/Harisumi from San Juan Puerto Rico all made the trip to show what they got. The quality of art these fine tattooists brought with them sure made my trip worthwhile.   

It was amazing how many activities Troy and the crew packed into this weekend. Midget wrestling Friday and Saturday night was a nice little break from the sea of awesome art being presented to me. With 7 bands booked into play this show the cool sound of live music was not to far away. There was a separate room for the bands so the bands and the throngs of fans cheering them on and dancing long into the night didn’t dampen the artist/client interaction. The Boneyard Brawlers, Mad Truckers Gone Wrong and One Day Criminal were just a few of the bands that kept the party rolling.   

In addition to rockin’ music and midget wrestling, the crew from Tattooed Kingpin booked some great performance artists. There were two separate suspension acts that kept mouths agape and crowds cheering for more. Miss Pussycat performed a great burlesque number, including a dance act where she preformed on a ring suspended from the ceiling. She also did the obligatory dance number with a grinder, steel plate panties and bra. With all these things going on I felt like the proverbial kid in a candy store.   

As with any good show there were a couple seminars for the artists in attendance. Phillip Spearman’s “Black and Grey Techniques” seminar was definitely one sought after by the serious artists.  Phil’s been in attendance at many of the top conventions here in the States and does a guest spot regularly with world-renowned artist Mario Barth. And let’s not forget Mr. Dave Nestler, pinup artist. Dave brought the other artists ‘from pencil to paint’ with his two-and-a-half-hour seminar covering issues such as masking tips, techniques and trouble shooting for both mediums, pen and brush techniques and setting up a working colour pallet. Both of these artists know their shit and it was well worth attending both seminars.    

Other than the obvious big-name artists making an appearance at this show there were a few up and comers who caught my eye. Su Houston from Tatu Tattoo in Chicago was cranking out some fantastic work whilst juggling questions from onlookers and prospective clients. Earl Ramey of Sacred Skin in Des Moines was laying in some incredible oriental work with some of the cleanest lines and solid colour I’ve seen in a long time. Jon Bass from Madison Wisconsin laid out some old school colour work, in addition to being a great artist he had a way with customers that kept them coming back for more.  

The work put forth by the artists here and what the attendees proudly displayed was enough to make any photographer have a smile to rival the Cheshire Cat. Awesome portrait work, solid colour, great line work and black and grey kept me snapping pictures pretty much non-stop throughout the whole show. People lined up outside my photo room just waiting to show off the work they wore so proudly.  The Midwest pride was certainly showing itself at this convention.   

So all in all Troy and his crew weren’t lying when they said there would be non-stop fun. In my opinion this had to be one of the most laid back shows I’ve been to in years. Great people, some serious art, great music and performance art was a whirlwind of activity for the whole family. How could I have been missing something like that my whole life?   

Whilst packing up my gear I couldn’t help but reflect on the sights and sounds this weekend in Beer City threw at me. It’s always nice when a convention surprises you and leaves you with that ‘yeah, that was so fucking cool’ feeling. I’m looking forward to what Troy and company has in store for us at the next Beer City show; I guess I’ll just have to wait till next year. Now I’m sitting in an airport lounge, sipping some whiskey and thinking about the whirl of excitement that surrounded me for the last 3 days; 3 very strange yet exciting days.   

Until next time kids, lots of love from the colonies, your pal Davie.


Text and Photgraphy: Dave Marden


Skin Deep 155 1 January 2008 155