Insane Clown Posse
October 12, 2016
Twenty years ago, a Detroit rap duo released an album.
That album, Riddle Box, catapulted the career of that group, the Insane Clown Posse, and turned its fan base into a subculture all its own.
And so, the Juggalo was born.
Years later, Violent J (born Joseph Bruce) and Shaggy 2 Dope (Joseph Utsler) would pen the lyrics to "What Is a Juggalo?" and "Down With the Clown," emboldening a fan base whose members would eventually come to refer to each other as family.
But Wednesday night, 21 years and two days removed from the original release of Riddle Box, ICP took the crowd on a trip down memory lane, treating its longtime fans to a nostalgic performance of their third studio album in its entirety.
Nostalgia notwithstanding, Wednesday night's show combined these older cuts with the group's infamous live antics.
Halfway through "The Show Must Go On," the second song of the evening, four other clowns joined J and Shaggy onstage, accompanied by a half dozen bottles of Faygo — the group's beverage of choice — which were sprayed on concertgoers like champagne.
Seconds later, the family was soaked. Half-empty bottles were hurled into the crowd, where Juggalos and Juggalettes recovered them from the floor or snatched them out of the air, taking a sip or two before tossing them back above their heads.
Spirits were lifted; clothes were ruined; and whoop-whoops were shouted.
During "Chicken Huntin'," J and Shaggy tore apart a scarecrow onstage. Its feather stuffing was then thrown into the crowd, essentially tarring and feathering fans. Oversized toys were brought onstage for "Toy Box," and ICP even TPed the rafters during "Cemetery Girl."
A legion of Juggalettes was brought onstage for an impromptu dance session/wet T-shirt contest during "Lil' Somthin' Somthin'," and J later invited fans to celebrate their abnormalities during "Three Rings."
"If you're a motherfucking freak show and proud of it, put those (hands) in the air," he yelled as the crowd roared.
"People love to point and stare," they chanted along. "It's the same as everywhere."
Despite the 21 years that have passed since the release of Riddle Box, at least half the crowd in attendance Wednesday night looked to have been born after 1995, a testament to the unique staying power of ICP's music.
It would be fair to assume that the performance didn't generate any new fans for the Posse, but it would also be fair to assume that no one in attendance Wednesday night was there by accident. Those of us who made our way inside Warehouse Live knew exactly what we were getting into.
Even the venue was prepared for the show, with trash bags lining the walls, covering speakers and shielding screens from the inevitable Faygo shower that has become a staple of the duo's live performances.
And although the Juggalo subculture isn't for everyone, it should be celebrated for what it is.
It's beautiful in its own way, just like many other cultures (and genres of music) that might not tickle everyone's fancy but resonate with others. As was the case five years ago, when I last experienced ICP in all its glory, I was surrounded by a fanatical but friendly fanbase unlike any other.
Leave it to a professional Juggalo to articulate it best.
"The question is simply this," Violent J said near the end of the show, "Are you down with the clown?"
Every once in a while? Absolutely.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.