What not-to-miss at Hell City

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From the April 10, 2014 edition

When you’re trying to change society’s view of tattooing, you’ve gotta cover a lot of bases. Luckily, Hell City’s got it on lock-down. With so much to catch, you might let some good stuff slip through the cracks, right? Not if Durb Morrison has anything to say about it. The self-proclaimed “mad scientist” behind it all has got your back (tattooed or no), giving you the top events not to miss at this year’s convention.

Suicide Girls Blackhearts Burlesque Show: Hell City’s a skin-stained leg of the alternative tattoo models’ country and worldwide Blackhearts Burlesque tour, and the first tattoo convention on the Girls’ long list of performances. Catch their themed shows — like “Big Lebowski” and “Star Wars” — at 6 p.m. Saturday on the main stage.

Classic Freak Showwith a twist: Using a menagerie of inspirations, like vaudeville, Rob Zombie and “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the world-renowned, tattooed troupe Showdevils hit up the convention with their “classic-with-a-twist” acts, such as glass-eating, blind chainsaw-running, sword-swallowing and straitjacket escapes, Morrison said. Be sure to keep your eyes on the tats as much as the acts; they’re a show in themselves, he said. The show hits the main stage at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Wet Paint Project: Tattooists have mastered what Morrison considers the hardest art form out there, but it’s not their only art-based skill. The Wet Paint Room captures 30 tattooists producing fine arts pieces, a skill down-pat for tattooists, in real time. Add in the adjacent Fine Arts Gallery, where completed works by a variety of tattooists grace the walls, and you’ve got yourself a bona-fide example of the art process from start to finish, Morrison said. The project goes all weekend at the Wet Paint Project Stages.

Heck City: Making a tattoo convention family-friendly may be daunting, but Heck City proves it can be done. The area’s multiple booths provide kids with all the temporary tattoos and face-paintings they’ll need to “feel like the crowd,” Morrison said.

Sailor Jerry Fun: The convention pays homage to Sailor Jerry, the popular American tattoo artist famous for his nautical skin stains, through drink specials and Happy Hours all weekend, as well as the Sailor Jerry Rum Party at 10 p.m. Saturday at Downtown’s Big Bar on 2. Not enough? Register to win a free Sailor Jerry tattoo by SJ tattoo artists Joey Knuckles and Billy White.

Tattoo Theater: There’s not just tattooing to watch. Head to the Tattoo Theater, which shows not only documentaries on various aspects of tattooing but also the Hell City Film, a seven-year-in-the-making doc diving deep into tattooing and the Hell City convention, focusing on the historical and fine arts parts of both, as well as interviews with the convention’s tattoo artists. While it may not tug at your heart-strings, Morrison said, it may just shift some perspective on the trade. Docs will be screening all weekend long.