Above, Elias Soriano of Nonpoint drops to his knees in a moment of hard metal passion during the 2008 Altered Skin Revolution

Photos by Jamie Griffin
Article by Jeremy Evans

As the Altered Skin Revolution gears up for its tenth anniversary this weekend, founder Pat Kuhn tells fans to expect this year's event to be bigger and better than ever.

"It just keeps growing," Kuhn said of the annual celebration of live music and tattoo art in Old Town Saginaw. "We’ve gone from about 800 people the first year to 3,000 last year. We expect to top that."

For the first time, the festival has been expanded to two days. Eight bands will be featured Friday evening and 14 will perform during the day-long bash on Saturday.

The Revolution was launched in 2001 by Kuhn and Byron Cronkright, both tattoo artists at Old Town's Drunken Monkey Tattoo. The original idea was simply for a tattoo contest, explained Kuhn, but live music quickly became a central element of the festivities.

Like past events, this year's festival features a slate of both local and national acts. Area favorites such as Neighborhood Muscle, Silverspork and the Miscreants will be there, as will Chicago's SOiL, New Orleans's 12 Stones and Austin's Anew Revolution.

While Saturday's line-up highlights hard rock and heavy metal acts (don't be fooled into expecting daintiness from Detroit band Mansfield Park, Jane Austen fans), Kuhn says Friday night will showcase "more of a mellower-type music," including the Bearinger Boys, the Tosspints and I Became the Sky.

"We played the festival two years ago, and it is just super, super fun," enthused Joseph Bonham, guitarist of I Became the Sky. "It's probably the biggest music festival in the Tri-Cities for local bands."

Though I Became the Sky began in Saginaw, they are currently based in Nashville. But they willingly made the ten-hour drive from Tennessee to play at this year's Altered Skin Revolution.

"We’ve played quite a few venues throughout the Midwest, and this is our favorite," Bonham said. "The crowd and the sound tech, they really listen, and they really care."

Bonham also said he is looking forward to the "block party" atmosphere of the event. The 300 block of N. Hamilton will be closed for both days while bands take to a temporary outdoor stage in the middle of the street.

Lest the hubbub of 22 live bands overwhelm the other events of the festival, Kuhn emphasizes that the Revolution will stay true to its roots and continue to prominently feature celebrations of body art culture. Drunken Monkey plans to triple its usual staff of tattoo artists for the weekend, and the tattoo contest—with categories such as most realistic and best color piece — is still a fundamental part of the weekend. And "altered skin" is not confined to tattoos and piercings; this year's event marks the return of the suspension show, in which participants are hoisted from hooks and shackles placed under the skin. (Kuhn maintains it is a pleasurable rather than painful experience.)

This year also brings a "pin-up girl" contest, where amateurs can channel their inner Bettie Page or Betty Grable in vintage '40s and '50s outfits.

Tickets for the event can be purchased at Drunken Monkey Tattoo locations in Saginaw and Essexville, and online at Friday night is free; Saturday is $20.

As in previous years, all profits from the 2010 Altered Skin Revolution will be donated to the Old Town Saginaw Christian Outreach Center, which operates a food bank and a soup kitchen. Kuhn says that the event has donated about $13,000 to date.

"It's not to sit around and make money off of," Kuhn said of the Revolution. "It's to have a good time, and any money we make from that is going to be used to help people."

© Jeremy Evans, 2010