Out on the Town: Boston Tattoo Convention

For all its flaws, Facebook is the adventurer’s best friend. I learned recently that by searching “events in Boston this weekend,” one has access to information about many different kinds of events. Scrolling the search results this week, I encountered the Boston Tattoo Convention, a large gathering of tattoo artists and enthusiasts from around the U.S. Immediately intrigued, I moseyed down to the Hynes Convention Center in Back Bay to learn about a subculture pretty foreign to me.

There are two main ways to get to the Hynes using public transport: One can either catch the number-one bus from Harvard or Central and get off near Berklee School of Music, or transfer to the Green Line train and get off at the “Hynes Convention Center” stop. I always recommend the former because it’s less crowded. Folks clad in black and covered in tattoos loitered outside the venue. I knew I was in the right place.

After entering the venue, I was subject to a short security screening. Then, I bought my pricey $30 ticket before entering the main exhibition room. I expected the convention to be a place for artists to advertise their designs, and encourage convention-goers to get tattoos at their shops. I was not expecting what I saw, that is, hundreds of people getting tattoos at booths. No matter where I walked, I could not escape the buzzing of tattoo needles, which reverberated in my skull. This, combined with loud music from individual booths and large crowds, led to an overwhelming experience.

Despite my headache, I was enjoying the atmosphere of the convention. Tattoo subculture is surprisingly varied. Each corner of the exhibition hall had a different feel. Between the “Punk Rock,” “Hard Rock,” “Hip Hop” and “Metal” tattoo booths, one could observe different art styles, contrasted by recurring themes in design from area to area.

Between the many tattoo booths laid various shops, where one could purchase everything from tattoo salve to CBD oil to furry handcuffs. Any of these items coupled with the $30 ticket price make for a pretty expensive day, so if you’d like to attend in future years, I’d recommend bringing extra cash.

Finally, to the right of the entrance to the hall, there was a large stage. Events are held there over the course of the weekend. On Saturday, I witnessed two acrobats swinging on a hoop, but there were plenty of events I missed, including a tattoo contest. According to the Boston Tattoo Convention website, tattoos entered in the contest must have been completed that weekend at the convention, so they’re all fresh as can be.

I expected the convention-goers to be flippant about getting tattoos, but the extent to which convention-goers didn’t mind impressed me. Despite all the needles buzzing from every direction, everyone was quite relaxed, and I left the convention in awe of these folks who commit to art enough to showcase it on their bodies for the rest of their days.