A lot has changed both inside and out of the world of Tattoo The Earth since its last Ill-fated hoorah in the Commonwealth more than 20 years ago. For starters, the tattooing aspect of the festival is able to flourish now, Iowa-bred metal visionaries Slipknot have gone on to achieve international legend status after receiving a lifetime ban from the stuffed-shirt confines of a city that shall remain nameless but definitely rhymes with “Revere,” and Bill Clinton is no longer President. Man, what a time.
But something that hasn’t changed, as we saw on Saturday in Worcester is the excitement, passion, community and dedication of metal fans as they flocked to The Palladium to embrace the festival’s titanic rise from the ashes and celebrate the undying longevity of a genre long misunderstood and ostracized.
With bands coming from near and far to join in on the festivities, it was in many ways a global affair that placed Wormtown directly into the middle of a scorching display of some of metal’s fiercest crusaders. From Los Angeles beatdown quintet Terror and At The Gates, hailing all the way from Sweden, to local hardcore/metal lifers like The Red Chord and Within The Ruins, all four corners of the world converged for a misfit Woodstock that brought the brutality in bunches, while maintaining a clean and remarkably fluid transition while volleying waves of delicious metal destruction between two stages throughout the day.
But while loyal fans braved the scorching sun outside, a quick trip inside the hallowed downstairs space of the Palladium offered not only a much-appreciated blast of air conditioning, but also the artistry and craftsmanship of some of the most well-regarded tattoo shops in Massachusetts. Serving hordes of ink-thirsty patrons were spots like Fall River Tattoo Company, Hopedale’s Flying Eye Tattoo, and local Worcester shops like Caged Raven Tattoo and Miraculous Creations, who were all hard at work on further putting their mark on the arms, legs, and backs of hundreds of concert-goers for a majority of the day.
The pull of the ink was as undeniable as it is irreversible, but music was obviously the major driving force of the day. There’s no denying the power delivered by legends like Connecticut-bred Hatebreed, who celebrated their 25th anniversary with a raucous set of high-energy intensity that had the crowd swirling and surfing for a loud and heavy 45 minutes, or Municipal Waste, whose thrash metal roots and love of crowd participation made for a solid half hour of chaos and joy. Black Label Society, led by Ozzy Osborne axmaster and kilt-clad guitar virtuoso Zakk Wylde, wielded the power of Thor with a crushing display of face-melting riffs, tributes to Pantera’s “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott and Vinnie Paul, and soaring, bluesy-smooth vocals as they divebombed and doomtrooped from start to finish with the local chapter of the B.L.S. family.
Last but certainly least, Thrash metal titans Anthrax weaved an hour-long tapestry of high-speed precision with their set, supplied by such an unending amount of energy, force and fist-pumping fan favorites, that not only reminded us of why they’ve reached the highest peaks of legend status in the scene, but also offered a near comical amount of youthful exuberance, that it sounds almost like fiction when you remember that they’re on a 40th anniversary tour.
Now that the smoke has cleared, it’s safe to say that the return of Tattoo The Earth was a rousing success, and a virtually perfect fit for the Palladium grounds. Whether it means that we’ll see an annual return of the show remains to be seen, but what became abundantly clear from the jump is that twenty years can make a world, or rather an “Earth” of difference, as long as fans show up to mosh, raise the metal horns, wear luchador masks and sing along to their songs, Tattoo The Earth can continue to breathe a renewed breath of life that is both refreshing and inspiring to see.