I'm Just a Juggalo

Getting down with the clown at Walter's on Washington

The assemblage didn't look all that different from any other rap crowd, save for the age of some of the attendees and the fact that most sported hip-hop fashions about five years behind the times.

Once acclimated to my surroundings, I started asking questions.

Or rather, people started asking me questions, like, "What are you doing with that notepad?" That one was posed by a woman who looked to be about 32, and could have passed for an office worker. I told her I was a reporter, and I was quickly introduced to about half a dozen media-starved Juggalos and Juggalettes who each wanted their story told and their picture taken. After all, 002, Envy Houston and the Chronicle's Shelby Hodge seldom drop by Juggalo gatherings.

Hardco' Juggalo
Photographs by John Nova Lomax
Hardco' Juggalo
Fresh tats
Photographs by John Nova Lomax
Fresh tats

Angela was the thirtysomething woman, and I asked her and her friend Amber what it meant to be a Juggalette. "We're kind of like a family — everybody knows everybody," Angela said. "If you are really into the music that's on Psychopathic Records and the message that they send, that's what it's about," added Amber. "It's someone who truly believes in what's in the music."

"We accept everybody," said Jonah Hexx, a Dallas MC who appeared on the bill. "We are the underground, the dregs of society. Kind of like metal or punk rock. Nobody's excluded — nobody. We're like family, no matter where they come from."

Hexx, like all Juggalos, knows that the band is hated. "Most people think it's just a gimmick, that there's no depth to it," he said. "But I don't agree. There's a lot to it, especially now that I.C.P. has been around for over 15 years."

By this point, an I.C.P.-inspired metal band had taken the stage and was tearing through a doom-laden cover of "Gin and Juice."

Accompanied by die-hard Juggalos Cyrus and Houston Juggalos Web master M-Dirrty, Mike and I stepped outside — interviewing indoors was no longer ­possible.

"You wanna know the perfect description of a Juggalo?" asked Cyrus, an excitable, fast-talking guy. "It's this — a serial-killing hippie."

"This music brings people together," he added. "The scrub kids tryin' to make a vibe, the 95 percent of the population that come from hard times."

"We are the people who don't fit in," said M-Dirrty. "We aren't really gangsters, we aren't really preps."

Out of the blue, Cyrus told me I should have come on Halloween. "This show is nothing like that. Halloween is when we go all out — the face-paint and all that."

I asked them what the Houston crew brought to the fabric of national ­Juggalo-dom. I really wanted to know — this music and scene seems, like a lot of music from Detroit, to be inextricably bound with decay and rot, the sound track to the industrial Rust Belt and blue-collar America's Armageddon. Along with The MC5, Iggy Pop, Eminem and Alice Cooper, the I.C.P. is part of a venerable tradition of Motor City groups that have served as Public Enemy Number One against all that is officially good and decent in America.

But then again, a lot of the group's inspiration came from Houston — especially the Geto Boys, whose splatter-fest necrophilia anthem "Mind of a Lunatic" informs many an I.C.P. tune. (The Geto Boys also were born in a time of decay. The 1980s Oil Bust, Houston's only sustained economic downturn, coincided directly with their rise.)

"You don't know how right you are about that," enthused Cyrus.

"They're based in the Midwest and they came to Dallas all the time, but they skip Houston a lot," added M-Dirrty, jumping ahead. The conversation was all over the map. Maybe they were overserved on Faygo, or maybe they were just starved for attention. A Juggalette screamed "Fuck you!" to some of her friends in the ­background.

"That's why we have the message board and the Web site and these shows three or four times a year," said M-Dirrty. "You come here and meet and drink and see live underground bands."

"We've done this for four years, and you can ask anyone in that club and they will tell you we are the number one fan group in Houston," said Cyrus. A car peeled out in the street nearby. "We've done numbers no other band can touch." Another car peeled out. "A few years ago, we couldn't have gotten two bands up on that stage. Now we've got ten and two down from Dallas. Kids are looking up there and thinking, 'I can do this.' And that's ­something."

So take that, Juggalo haters — it looks like your least favorite band is gonna be spawning imitators for years to come.

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