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Rat-a-Tat Tattoo Fest

Mike Valente and Dan Neet are standing in a firearms warehouse surrounded by guns—lots and lots of guns. (They asked to do the interview here, as Valente works for a gun shop on Central Avenue, and they thought the back warehouse would make a good location for the photo.) This weekend, Neet and Valente (of local bands the Clay People and Brick by Brick, respectively) will be in Northern Lights surrounded by even more guns. But in that case they will be tattoo guns, not the array of empty handguns and Uzis they currently have at their disposal. The two musicians have organized a two-day extravaganza of a tattoo festival featuring 15 local tattoo artists, and a number of local record labels, as well as around 20 local bands including the Clay People, Disciples of Berkowitz, Dead Rabbits, the Erotics and Dead-Lift. And just to make sure no one feels the need to leave the venue, the duo have secured the catering services of Bombers Burrito Bar and Cheesecake Ma chismo. As you can tell, they are not just fooling around. Except that, well, maybe they are.

According to Valente, the idea for the show came together by thinking about what would constitute a good time for him and his friends. “Dan and I thought about what we would go see,” Valente says. “What would get my ass off the couch and out. Well, I get tattooed. I play in a band, and this area probably has the best local talent in the tri-state area, so let’s do it here first and see what happens.”

“I talked to Mike two months before he called me about the expo,” says Neet. “I was kicking around the idea of how we can put attention back on the local-music scene. It felt like it was kinda dragging its ass, for lack of a better term. I said to Mike, ‘Let’s put together a big show. We’ll put 12 bands on it, all local, and market it and get some attention on some of the local acts so people know what’s going on here again.’ And that’s the worst thing: People don’t know what is going on locally.”

With Valente planning a tattoo expo and Neet a local-music fest, Neet says it was only logical to combine the two ideas.

“What would I call a success?” asks Valente. “If everyone has a good time, checks out some local tattoo artists, hears a band they might not have heard. If people leave saying, ‘Man, I had an awesome time.’ ”

“It’s just gonna be a gigantic party,” adds Neet.

Valente says he will spend as much of the two days as he can getting tattoos from each tattoo artist in the building. The rest of the time, Valente says, he may have to spend putting out fires. As he admits, the festival will be a learning experience. “We will have our friends there and they can understand why I made this mistake or that mistake and they can say, try this.”

Neet says he and Valente are putting all they can into the expo: “Not only are we giving out prizes for best of show, but we are giving a prize to the artist as long as the artist is at the expo. I mean, we are giving out a trophy. . . . How do I put this? It’s an accomplishment. . . . I mean, it’s only from Mike and myself, but still, we’re like, hey! It’s us handing out the award but still it’s an award in the end.”

Valente insists that the festival is for anyone, not just die-hard tattoo heads. What better crowd of people for a tattoo fest than metal heads and hardcore kids!” he exclaims. Neet interjects, “Punk rock, metal, hard rock.”

“They might not go to a NAMJAM,” continues Valente, “so why not give them something in their own scene?”

Furthermore, he says that tattoos are far more appealing to the mainstream than some would like to think they are. “Tattoos are everywhere,” he says. Neet nods his head. Valente continues, chuckling: “Even respectable people like Dan Neet have tattoos.”

The Rat-a-Tat Tattoo Festival will take place Saturday (Dec. 16) and Sunday (Dec. 17) at Northern Lights (1208 Route 146, Clifton Park), beginning at noon each day. Tickets are $12. For more information, call 371-0012.

—David King

Flags of Our Fathers

In the last week or so, considerable critical and award-season buzz has attached itself to this year’s other Clint Eastwood World War II movie, Letters From Iwo Jima. (Among today’s directors, only Eastwood could shoot an entire film—in Japanese, no less—while editing another.) While we eagerly await Clint’s take on the Japanese side of the battle, we don’t want people to miss this chance to see Flags of Our Fathers on Proctor’s big screen.

While we can’t say we’re surprised that moviegoers passed on this bloody, complex epic—with the Iraq war spiraling out of control through the fall, an ambiguous look at the human and financial costs of war didn’t stand much of a chance next to Irish gangsters and dancing penguins—we implore you to give Flags of Our Fathers a chance. Flags tells the story of how the iconic photograph of four soldiers raising the American flag on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima affected the men in the picture and helped change the course of the war. Eastwood delves into multiple levels of drama, from survivor guilt to the senseless terror of battle to the cold realities of paying for war. It’s a bravura directorial effort.

Also notable are the performances of Ryan Phillippe (pictured) and Adam Beach as two of the flag-raisers. Hopefully, they won’t be neglected come award season, either.

Flags of Our Fathers will be screened Tuesday (Dec. 19) at 7:30 PM; Wednesday (Dec. 20) at 4:30 and 7:30 PM; and Dec. 21 at 1:30, 4:30 and 7:30 PM at Proctor’s Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady). Tickets are $3. For more info, call 346-6204.

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