The eighth annual Ink-n-Iron Festival is ready to invade Long Beach once more June 10-12. Held on the Queen Mary, the three-day music and arts festival features 138 tattoo booths and more than 40 bands. In addition to tats and tunes, there will also be cabaret shows, pole aerialists and a car show.

Aside from Coachella, no other Southern California three-day music festival has the impact and notoriety of Ink-n-Iron. Its international appeal stretches across 48 countries and 13 languages. Tattoo artists from as far as New Zealand and Germany and as close as Los Angeles and San Diego all congregate on the Queen Mary for three days to share in the ancient art of tattoos.

“This is a non-contrived event. It’s a business that has been built over a series of quality ideas strewn together with a common ideology,” Ink-n-Iron co-founder Trace Edwards shares. “You look at the landscape of Southern California three-day music festivals and the only other one that’s really viable is Coachella – and you’ve got to drive 200 miles into the desert.”

Edwards boasts that his festival, unlike Coachella, is a nine-ring circus of controlled chaos that is evenly matched in its talent across the board. There’s no disparity in each area.

For roughly 12 hours each day (except Sunday), anyone can roam the Queen Mary grounds and take in music by renowned rockers, Buzzcocks, the Sonics, Fishbone or many of the other bands rocking the three-day festival. If you need a break from the music and tattoos, there’s also a car show that features hundreds of hot rods. What’s special about the car show is the strict requirements to be eligible. Cars must be pre-1963 and must be custom, no stocks.

That type of attention to detail and desire to create a diversified event is what led Edwards to create Ink-n-Iron eight years ago. At first, it was simply a tattoo convention aboard the Queen Mary. Within two years, the format expanded to include bands. Today, it’s an international event that creates clamor among fans and tattoo artists alike.

“We try to keep some of the tattooists revolving at the same level of artistry, but [also get] new, fresh faces and new, fresh styles of tattoo work so that the show is always staying fresh and never stagnating,” Edwards continues. “The show has a five-year waiting list for tattooists, and vendors are sold out three years in advance. So there is a clamoring to be involved, God bless it, it is a very fortunate situation for the event to enjoy.”

So why come to Ink-n-Iron when you can just head over to your neighborhood tattoo shop and get some ink done? Edwards pondered this same question when building his brand.

“The thing that differentiates our tattoo component from anyone else in North America is that out of 138 total tattoo booths, only 30 are from the West Coast. We as a business philosophy said long ago that how could we feel comfortable charging a local Southern California person admission to come see or get tattooed by an artist that they can drive to for the price of a tank of gas and have the same experience?”

The Queen Mary is still accepting online reservations if you’d like to stay aboard the ship. Just be careful with the drinking because there’s a wedding chapel aboard the ship and you can get married on the same day without travelling to Vegas to make the same mistake … I mean choice. There are other hotels in the area, but they’re pricey.

The best option is to take the metro train down and take the free shuttle called the Passport. Take the C shuttle from the last stop on the Metro Blue line, Pacific Avenue. Check the Metro timetable (mta.net) to see when the last train leaves.

The tattoo portion of the event ends by 10 p.m. each day. There are after-hours bands that will play throughout the weekend if you still have the energy for it. Each artist has a portfolio, and it’s stressed to check out an artist’s portfolio before booking an appointment.



Queen Mary is located at 1126 Queen’s Highway, Long Beach. For more information, visit ink-n-iron.com.