The phrase “worst tattoo” may bring up images of tramp stamps, barbwire wrapped around a bicep or even the face of that one ex you thought would last forever right next to your heart, but for the Second Annual Worst Tattoo in Austin contest, that’s not exactly what event organizer Devon Tincknell has in mind.
“It’s about celebrating the other side of tattooing,” said Tincknell. “This is about the other end of the spectrum where you have your tattoos that you got when you were blacked out at a friend’s house in their living room or your tattoos where you just purposely thought out, talked to an artist and had them draw up something really strange.”
One example Tincknell mentioned was when he was flyering at Fast Folks Cyclery on East 6th Street. He was talking to one guy about the contest when the guy showed him his tattoo of South Dakota. Unimpressed, Tincknell asked the guy if he had another tattoo to show him. There on the back of his calves were Darth Vader on one leg and Chewbacca on the other leg wearing elaborate Indian headdresses.
“I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s what we’re looking for, man,’” said Tincknell. “That’s really weird. I get that it’s a great tattoo, but it’s also absurd. That’s what we’re looking for. It’s not that it’s the most poorly done, per se, but the ones where it’s like, OK, but really, what inspired you to get two characters from Star Wars with Indian headdresses? Let’s just talk about that for a minute.”
Last year about 40 people showed off their tattoos and briefly shared the story behind them. There was the tramp stamp where a guy tattooed “always classy” after he made the comment at work that he would get it if he didn’t have to pay for it. His co-workers later put up a tip jar and raised the money.
One guy had a “party leg” where he was drunk at a party and let people tattoo his leg like a cast. But it was Kathleen Boyle who was declared the winner with her tattoo that simply states “Chili Cook Off ’09.”
“She won because I think she had a great story where it was just about getting wasted and being in that party mode,” said Tincknell. “Then you wake up and that thing you and your friend were drunk yelling is now on your body for the rest of your life.”
This year’s Worst Tattoo in Austin contest, which will take place on Feb. 23 at the 29th Street Ballroom, will run slightly different. Instead of categories, people can register starting at 8 PM to add their name to the list. Before their name is added, though, they will need to make sure they fit the criteria of what Tincknell calls a worst tattoo.
“The guy that has a poorly done tribal armband with a heart, yeah, welcome to 6th Street bro. You got a shitty tattoo. So does everybody. Move along,” said Tincknell. “But the really good ones, we’re gonna start filling up a list.”
Judges Mike Wiebe (Riverboat Gamblers), Zack Carlson (host of the Alamo Drafthouse’s Terror Tuesday) and Michael Foulk (New Movement Theater) will choose who wins the over-$1000 in tattoo prizes from several Austin tattoo parlors: Bijou, Austin Tattoo Company, Atomic, Shaman Modification, and Sailor’s Grave.
“We’re gonna trim the fat and remove the weak from the shaft and then let the audience pick the grand prize winner,” said Tincknell.
Providing the entertainment, The Mole People will cover bands who have those iconic logos tattooed on people’s bodies such as Black Flag. Jules Jezebelle will provide a burlesque half-time show which Tincknell said will be fucking crazy.
“I don’t even think the crowd’s gonna be ready for it,” said Tincknell.
As for the winners from last year, Tincknell ran into the “always classy” guy and learned that he didn’t get it covered up with his prize. He got another tattoo instead.
“He loves his tramp stamp. He didn’t get it covered up,” said Tincknell. “But he has a tattoo on his arm, I believe, that is his dog dressed up as Sherlock Holmes smoking a pipe. Is that the worst tattoo I’ve ever heard of? No, it’s actually pretty amazing. But I still think it’s a nice, weird, off-beat tattoo to spend your prize money on.”