Among the Juggalos, Discrimination and a Peculiar Kinship
Photos by Jack Gorman
Insane Clown Posse, DJ Paul, Young Wicked, Dope D.O.D., Downfall 2012
The Ballroom at Warehouse Live
October 16, 2015
As a rule, it’s probably not the best idea to send a writer who is entirely unfamiliar with a band’s discography to cover that act’s live show. The credibility of the review is instantly undermined. The whole enterprise can be called into question by the fans who truly know and love the music.
Few fans know and love their favorite act’s music the way the fans of Insane Clown Posse do; before Friday night, I couldn’t quite call myself a fan. I didn’t know a single song, to be frank. But since I don’t neighbor with roly-polies and earthworms, I had an awareness of ICP’s fans. Many casual music fans fall squarely in this category. We know who ICP is, and we know who the Juggalos are, but we don’t know the duo's music.
So, I went into Friday’s ICP show at Warehouse Live with every intent to focus on the music. It was exciting thinking I could somehow shut out the circus of humanity that surrounds the band’s live sets. Besides, the Press’s Cory Garcia had already written a quintessential piece on the Juggalos following ICP’s 2014 visit here, one filled with humorous observations and zero shots taken at the storied fan base. And really, how does applying face paint and carefully choosing an outfit make a Juggalo much different from the fans who did more or less that same thing for Taylor Swift only weeks ago at Minute Maid Park?
So, this was the course I charted for this adventure. I’d stay on track by sticking to the music, a plan that derailed before we even got into Warehouse Live. We stopped next door at Lucky’s for a pre-show drink. Walking into the bar, we saw a stark, bold-font sign posted to the door that simply read: NO PAINTED FACES. I realize the establishment can apply whatever rules it needs, but it smacked of some sort of judgment of the Juggalos I didn’t care for. Already, I was finding an affinity with ICP’s fans.
Not that I wasn’t a stranger in a strange land at my first ICP show. We arrived halfway into the set from locals Downfall 2012. The metal act had already provoked a mosh pit at half-past-eight. If you get a chance, see them somewhere soon. They did a brilliantly metal takeoff on Blue Man Group, featured a hardcore didgeridoo in a song and growled out a wicked version of “Folsom Prison Blues” for the set closer.
The music, ah yes, the music. Downfall 2012 was just what I needed to train my tunnel vision on…and then, a couple and several preadolescent children trailing them passed by, some in the favored and familiar black-and-white face paint. I had to know if they considered this a family-friendly show. I talked with Michael, the adult male in the group, who eschewed any outward sign that he identified as a Juggalo.
“I always tell my kids it’s entertainment. It ain’t nothing more than that,” he said. “They come here, they enjoy it, they have fun, everybody shows them love and we’re all together.”
What’s not to love about that, I thought, then walked back into The Ballroom, hoping Dope D.O.D. would help me regain my music bent. Aside from the lead rapper draining a handle of whiskey, there wasn’t anything truly memorable about the set. Or maybe the pull of the Juggalos was just too strong. Its gravitational yank seemed stronger than the moon’s. I wanted to hear what Dope D.O.D. was sharing, but the band couldn’t keep me from wondering about the Harley Quinn-like Juggalette in high stockings and erect pigtails sauntering by with a look of true mayhem in her eyes.
Fortunately, Young Wicked was up next. The solo rapper is a member of Psychopathic Records’ Axe Murder Boyz and recently released Slaughter, a solo effort. His deft rhyme skills ensured his raps were delivered clearly, which was nice since his song themes on subjects like alcoholism brought some real-world urgency to a night high on make-believe. He was followed by Three 6 Mafia’s DJ Paul, whose brief but welcomed set salved the wound left when Stitches dropped from the bill. I was ready to get a “Brick In Yo Face,” but what self-respecting rap fan wouldn’t trade up for snippets of “Sippin on Some Syrup,” “Poppin My Collar,” “Ridin Spinnaz” and other songs so G there are no g’s left over for the song titles.
The show seemed to speed by so I wasn’t prepared for the moment of truth when Insane Clown Posse bounced onto the stage to Michael Buffer’s “Let’s get ready to ruuuuumble!” and demented Faygo advertisements. By the time I could bring up Google to search some of the lyrics Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope were trading, they were into song two, “Chicken Huntin,” which was well-received, as all the songs were. For those who aren’t familiar, the song champions the slaughter of redneck hillbillies. Another tells the tale of a young fellow who happens upon his grandfather’s WWII arsenal and destroys his neighborhood with a rocket launcher (“Bazooka Joey”). I liked that one quite a bit.
By contrast, “In Yo Face” and “Fuck the World” didn’t need Don Draper’s advertising help to promote a feeling. These songs sound cartoonish, ultraviolent but outlandish and bordering on ridiculous, like that “Singing In the Rain” scene in A Clockwork Orange. Those are my thoughts until ICP gets to misogynistic, depraved stuff like “Bitches.” By that time, we were ready to call it a night and leave it to those who choose to inhabit ICP’s world. In the end, it was more or less like any other place I’ve ever traveled to — most of the people were nice and the sights were interesting. It was a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.
Personal Bias: I’d prefer diet root beer in my cup and not splattered on my face and clothing, but geeked out a little when some droplets splashed on me all the way at the back of the room.
The Crowd: Whoop-whoopers. Fam-uh-lee. Curious gawkers.
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Overheard In the Crowd: “Y’all the deadest Juggalos I ever seen in my life” — DJ Paul trying to get the crowd hype 30 minutes ahead of the headliner.
Random Notebook Dump: I’m still not sure how I feel about this show or ICP as an act. On one hand, I realize it’s horror schlock, no more dangerous than the haunted houses up and running this month for Halloween. If you ask the folks at Lucky’s, who actively worked to keep them out of their bar, the Juggalos are outsiders, and I’m almost always on the side of the disenfranchised. And there’s something to be said for people coming together, who have a sense of family thanks to a music act. But, as I was reminded after the show, Charles Manson was a musician and he had a family following him, too.
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