[Ed. Note: We are happy to report that Craig Hlavaty is safe and sound, if a little under the weather. Here is his report from Wednesday's ICP show.]
"Hey man, you look lonely. How's it going?" asks a big jolly Juggalo, face painted in a distorted clown pattern with long wet brown hair hanging down into the white and black smear.
We had been sitting against the wall next to the soundboard at Warehouse Live, silently typing commentary onto the Rocks Off Twitter page. He grasps our hand in that two-handed Baptist preacher hold and smiles politely. We didn't expect kind fellowship at an Insane Clown Posse show that would put a megachurch like Lakewood to shame. "Ah, I'm cool man. Just here checking out your party. This is unreal," Aftermath says a little sheepishly, not knowing whether this is how the night will end. We aren't wearing make-up and we actually may look downright out of place. The polo shirt and Converse probably don't help either. "Cool cool, you are gonna love it. My name is Josh, and I'm from the Houston Juggalos. WHOOP WHOOP!" Josh bellows the last utterance to a friend of his walking by, like so many military cadences from back in the day, and says, "I'm actually from Santa Fe."
"Wow, so did you go to the Gathering Of The Juggalos thing out in Illinois a few months back?" Aftermath asks, now seeing that Josh means well, something that scared us coming into tonight's packed gig at Warehouse Live. We don't get much unbridled aggression where we hang out mostly, and it catches us off guard that a Juggalo would pick us to witness to, a la so many Mormons we knew riding around on bicycles growing up.
"Hells yeah, it's just four days of partying and shit. You should go. It's only like 150 bucks. It's just us ninjas getting shitfaced and fucking around in a field all day long."
Wow, I should go one year and get work to pay for it. Aftermath begins plotting next summers "vacation" in his head, thinking of ways to tell the Village Voice he spent two-hundred dollars on Faygo soda and white facepaint.
"Well I gotta run. Shit's about to get real! See ya mang!"
And with that, Josh the Juggalo is gone into the mass of garishly painted humanity pushed up against Warehouse's Ballroom stage, whoop-whooping into the ether, his calls returned with various female and male hollering. It reminded us of the part in Harry and The Hendersons when Harry goes back to his family and you see a dozen Sasquatches in the distance welcoming him back. Aftermath walks into the studio room of WHL to find a veritable mall of ICP apparel on one wall and a whole mass of parents posted up on the couches holding their children's shopping fruits. One mother's lap looks about six shirts deep, with a few hats on the top. Making our way to the venue's smoking area, we find that someone has just smashed one of the large glass windows. We take out our small camera to take a few pics, and almost immediately a young Juggalo comes up and asks us to take his picture in front of the wreckage. He sports three ICP tattoos on his arms and looks like the young boy from Two and a Half Men gone way wrong.
Back inside, we sit through at least ten minutes of music from the Psychopathic Records family, which ICP owns and distributes. The guys and girls in the crowd grow restless, but most aren't even drinking so it's a purely nervous fandemonium. The older Juggalos are the ones doing the guzzling and look on from the outskirts of the pit area, some with children on their shoulders.
The show starts and the stage curtains open, where we see a twisted-looking circus. What we can only describe as a dwarf sits in a cage dressed up as a monkey, jumping up and down while two comely pin-up girls surround a carnival barker touting the heroics of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope. Then the two rappers came to the stage like conquering heroes, decked out in oversized denim vests with their "ninja" logo on the back. Each song seemed to be a variation of the phrases "suck my dick," "fuck this shit," "fuck you," "fuck the world" or just plain "kill the bitch." Most songs deal with either vengeance or some sort of demented justice. And that's when the Faygo started. Aftermath had only heard of the stuff through the tales of ICP and countless articles. It's a generic soda that comes in all manner of flavors and is a mainly Michigan-based brand, originating from Detroit. Our photographer and his shirt got to taste the diet root beer strain of the stuff while taking pictures.
The two rappers had barrels of the stuff wheeled out to them onstage and began spraying the crowd with two-liter after another, simply ripping the tops off and jetting it out onto the open-mouthed throng. The guys would throw a half-empty bottle into the pit and a fan would grab it, douse themselves or chug the remainder of the liquid, then throw the container back. It was very much like a baptism or communion, and went on for the nearly two-hour duration of the show.
ICP's stage show consisted of people in ghoulish masks, a random group of clowns, a pedophile being thrown through a table wrestling-match style, or Violent J killing a rich jock in letter-jacket, "ripping the fucker's head off." We saw our first set of female Juggalette boobies within the first five minutes of the show, and we spied at least three kids who couldn't have been more than five years old. The whole night celebrated the underclass and the downtrodden, with almost no permanent vision of the future. Juggalos and Juggalettes seem to simply not care, and shun or deny anything in the mainstream. That's why you still saw white-boy dreadlocks, huge baggy pants and other bastardized hip-hop and rave-culture hallmarks. But overall, the crowd wasn't violent or dangerous, at least no more than your standard screamo or metal show. All the Juggs we encountered were courteous and, like Josh, just seemed to want to be our friend.
ICP has a song called "I Found A Body" on their new album Bang! Pow! Boom!, which is about a lonely finding a dead body and befriending him, taking him to the park and to visit his mother in a sort of strange Weekend At Bernie's deal. There were no stage gimmicks for this one, which we sort of wanted to see. ICP skews toward the pooreset and grimiest forgotten kids in the country, the kind of people you grew up with but never quite fit in. You won't find anyone with a master's degree here, or wearing hipsterish clothes. No one knows what the fuck a pair of Tom's is, nor do they care what an Animal Collective is. They don't give a shit about anything but surviving, getting laid and supporting ICP. Hell, we even saw a couple making out in front of us, drenched in Faygo. We are also wont to say that we think we saw digital insertion either happening or about to happen. You just know these things when they occur in front of you. We could make the parallel to punk rock, but punk rockers seem to evolve out of the genre and form new ones, kind of like how Minor Threat morphed into Fugazi. Juggs don't move out of their comfort zone because it offers such a distinct brotherhood. This is no different than your average biker or street gang. Their even seems to be a moral code, with most songs actually just morality tales about treating each other with respect and decency.
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It's very much an impoverished gang, even leading the Houston cops to have a strong presence outside WHL. They made laps around the block most of the night, and a bicycle cop lingered up and down St. Emanuel. They made more than a handful of arrests from what we could see, for various disorderliness, drunk driving and the odd drunken fight. The end of the show saw an almost ten-minute Faygo shower from the makeshift circus up front. Twenty folks onstage spewed bottle after bottle onto the crowd, with some of them making their way to the back of the house. Something came over us and we wanted to be closer to the action. As we edged ever more into the pit, we saw that the ground was at least an inch thick with the soda, with people were sliding in it like trashy little Brian Boitanos. That's when we tasted our first bit of Faygo, an orange-flavored mist. Then came another inundation after another until we held our mouths glued shut in fear.
The show finally ends and the crowd begins to chant "Family!" over and over for at least five minutes as the lights come up and they get their bearings back. The Faygo is thicker closer to the front and smells only of sweat and fructose. The proceedings outside are even stranger. A continuous "whoop-whoop" lingers in the crowd outside and the police have their flashing lights as a precaution or a taunt to the throng. Coca-Cola is giving out free cans, and Juggalos seem to keep the party going by pouring the shit on their faces and over their heads like so much Faygo. A parade of clunkers leaves the back parking lot as we sit across the street watching everything with wide-eyed wonder. We remark to our photographer that I think we are technically now Juggalos, seeing that we were drenched in their communal wine and sweat. We are actually scared a little, like we just got knocked up or laden with an ICP STD. Whoop Whoop?