I’ve been a die-hard, Bouncing Souls fan since the first time I saw them live in 2003. I was 20 and only a few years into discovering the entire punk scene. The positive, love-every-moment, vibe of the band and the fans at that show enthralled me, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Since then I have developed a tendency to associate moves, relationships, and “crucial moments” (😊) in my life with their music and the different times and places I’ve seen them play.
While that first show was a formative experience, there was another that had an even bigger impact on me: January 24th, 2009 in Minneapolis. At that time, I was living in Madison, Wisconsin and really into this guy I’d been seeing for about 6 months. During the week before, he’d told me to keep my weekend free and that we were going on a road trip. (Northern midwest roadtrip in January? Seriously?!) Saturday came, and we started driving. No clues to where, but as we drove further north it didn’t take me long to figure out we were headed to the Twin Cities! We rolled into town and checked into a hotel, but I still had no idea what we were doing there.
I was bursting with curiosity about what the surprise yet to come was. After dinner at a local brewery, we shuffled down the sidewalk in negative degree weather, finally on our way. Suddenly, my man stopped us and looked at me with a grin. I was impatient as it was freezing and I wasn’t pleased to be hanging out on the sidewalk. He pointed to a marquee down the street. It was the Triple Rock Social Club, a bar/venue immortalized by NOFX. At first, I thought ‘cool we’re gonna go party at the Triple Rock/how appropriate: it’s 10 below’! But then he prodded me again to look closer at the marquee: Bouncing Souls! Holy shit! I had no idea they were even in the region! He pulled the tickets out of his pocket and handed them to me. We went in, and it was everything I could have dreamed of. During the show he even held my coat, so I could rock out at the front. Clearly a hopeless romantic. To this day, I consider that to be hands down, the most thoughtful gesture anyone has ever made for me, and it should shock no one that today that man is my husband, Noah. We have the flyer from the show framed and hanging in our home.
Over the last few years, I’ve considered taking the ultimate plunge in fan devotion and getting the Souls’ classic heart and crossbones as a tattoo. During this time, (original, been there since day-one Bouncing Souls bass player) Bryan’s Instagram feed has featured many beautiful examples of his work as a tattoo artist. It got me thinking: it’s one thing to declare your love for your favorite band (and indirectly your husband) in ink, but how cool would it be to have the person doing the tattoo be a member of that band, AND the one who first drew the heart and crossbones design in the first place!
This spring things started really falling into place. I’d made plans to fly out to New Haven to visit one of my best friends. After a quick google maps search, I realized Bryan’s shop in Neptune Beach, NJ is only a few hours’ drive from her apartment. Suddenly an appealing idea became a realistic possibility. When I asked her thoughts on a road trip, she said that her boyfriend absolutely loves a pinball museum on the boardwalk in Asbury Park (a short drive from Bryan’s shop) and that she likes the beach, and they’d be down for a trip to the shore while I got work done! The last part was to see if Bryan was even available during the time I’d be visiting. Lucky for me, I contacted him early enough and he was willing to fit me in before another appointment, first thing when the shop opened. So, it was set!
The day of the appointment it was rainy and cool, nothing but ghosts on the boardwalk in Asbury. I’m not going to lie, I was really nervous. The majority of my back is covered in tattoos so I know quite well how much they hurt! Additionally, the saying “don’t meet your heroes” kept running through my head, as I stressed about what the hell I was going to say to some guy I’ve admired for years who knows nothing about me. It would be totally fair if he had no interest in chatting, and that would be really awkward! Luckily, my fears proved to be unfounded, and my time in the chair couldn’t have gone better! While I definitely felt every time the needle was making contact, I was distracted enough by our conversation to keep my composure. Our conversation centered on (of course) music, but not just punk. It turns out Bryan is a big Joe Jackson fan, and he had Alexa play some of his songs when I couldn’t name any (passing on a little music education from that day for those of us born in the 80s or after: Jackson’s song “Got the time” is a MUST listen for any punk fan! It has a killer, driving bass line that I could picture Matt Freeman playing. Anthrax even covered the song-which of course, we listened to as well). Apart from music, the conversation meandered to his family connections in the Midwest (where I live), the work he’s having done on his 100+ year-old house, he and his wife running businesses in the same neighborhood (she runs a dog grooming shop, Paws and Anchor, down the street), the different places we’ve both visited, and his roughly 10-year evolution from working at someone else’s shop to running his own. And then, as if the easy conversation wasn’t good enough, things got better!
About halfway into my session, Pete (Bouncing Souls guitarist) walked through the door! He was just stopping in to say “hi” as he and a friend of theirs were in the neighborhood. The three of them chatted a bit while Bryan kept working (he didn’t want to make his next appointment wait), and when the guys left, both Pete and Bryan said almost simultaneously “See you later and forever.” Awwwww! When I commented to my bestie (who’d stayed at the shop with me after all) that we need to start using that, Bryan smiled and said something (I don’t remember exactly what now) about how he and Pete have been best friends since high school and they say that to recognize that they’ve been and always will be there for each other. One of the things I’ve always especially loved about The Bouncing Souls is knowing they go back decades, and yet carry on what looks like a genuine love for each other. It was so moving to see the sincere expression of this in person!
I can’t speak highly enough about the process of getting this tattoo, and I enthusiastically recommend booking with Bryan. This is from the perspective of an admittedly huge fan of his band, but also someone who has gotten lots of tattoos. Besides the enjoyable (all things considered) time spent in the chair, there were a lot of things that impressed me about the shop and his work:
1. The shop is extremely clean! And, as many yelp reviews attest to, so is the bathroom!
2. He is very professional regardless of how many tattoos you’ve had. When I first walked in, I made a comment about how I was nervous as it had been years since my last tattoo. Bryan said something encouraging that acknowledged that yeah, it DOES hurt! This was very unlike my first tattoo experience where the artist belittled my anxiety and talked about how he’d slept through his last sitting (implying he was such a badass).
3. Bryan was very easy to talk to, but maintained a high degree of focus on his work. A few times he even asked me to “hold on a second” as he focused on a line” before continuing the conversation. I was trying not to annoy him with all my questions, but I was doing everything I could to not think about the needle, and (admittedly) was feeling a bit starstruck the whole time.
4. He doesn't just do Souls tattoos! Check out his portfolio on (“bryan_keinlen” or “anchorsaweightattoo” on Instagram) to see everything from gorgeous portraits to traditional American tattoos.
5. My most important takeaway is that I am THRILLED with how my tattoo looks after healing up!! The lines are crisp, and colors really pop.
Next up, I’ll see The Souls in Chicago on August 17 and probably Minneapolis the 18th with The Bronx, The Bar Stool Preachers, and The Swinging Utters! What a lineup!!! Hope to see some Mables there 😘