Editor's Note: To describe the Insane Clown Posse's Gathering of the Juggalos as one of the more outrageous music festivals is, perhaps, an understatement. To fully grasp the infamy surrounding the fest and the entire Juggalo subculture, one must experience it. So we sent Billboard.com contributor Kevin Rutherford to Cave-in-Rock, Illinois to fully emerse himself in the Juggalo "Family" this weekend (August 10-14). He'll provide daily updates on his travels and catch up with Gathering of the Juggalos performers... assuming he survives. Stay tuned.
To say that the Gathering of the Juggalos becomes a different place at night would be an understatement. Now, I'm not saying that things get drastically crazy or dangerous, nor am I going to make the seemingly easy joke that the "freaks come out at night."
Understand this about the Gathering: the day really doesn't begin until 1 p.m. here. Sure, people are awake before then (it's near-impossible to sleep in one's tent after 8 without it becoming a sauna), but nothing really happens until the afternoon. As a result, things go a lot later into the night. How late? Try 5 or 6 the next morning.
To be a full-fledged Juggalo, you sort of have to stay awake this late. Being a Juggalo doesn't just stop at 2 a.m. so everyone can go to sleep. Long after the main stage has ceased its sets for the evening -- usually around 1 or 2 a.m. -- the party is only beginning.
So that's what I set out to see this time around -- the party. What happens, where it happens.
Ice, ice baby: Vanilla headlines the Gathering on Saturday.
Just traversing the grounds at night is an event in and of itself. Once it's nighttime, there's a whole lot more yelling and calling to one another, and I daresay the chants have become raunchier. The annual infomercial for this event promises that "you will get laid," and let's just say that most Juggalos are very open about their yearning for this. I'm not saying they WANT it anymore than any other group, they're just far more vocal about it. Especially if they're of the male gender.
Much of the main wrestling happens in the late night as well. I walked over to the wrestling stage for an event known as Bloody Mania.
Here's something else to know about Juggalos, if you didn't already: Juggalos love wrestling. In fact, they even have their own Juggalo Championship Wrestling. Bloody Mania was a part of this, and the best match I saw featured a big, crazy-eyed Eugene and a man named Gowen, who has one leg.
Video: Bloody Mania teaser from the Gathering 2011 mainstage
Spoiler alert: Gowen won after literally bouncing around the stage and kicking Eugene in the face a number of times. Eugene proceeded to knock out Gowen AND the referee afterward an d then beat the former with his walking cane. One Juggalo in particular affectionately referred to Gowen as "IHOP," and then, laughing, questioned what kind of asshole would say such a thing.
Two stages, the Freakshow Tent and Underground Stage, also feature live music at this hour. The former features far more rock-leaning bands, while the latter contains more hip-hop, in line with much of the main stage's lineup. My personal favorite of the evening was the band MicLordz & Sauce Funky, who I perceived to be a very close cousin of Rage Against the Machine if they had somehow cloned Zack de la Rocha. They proceeded to play a cover of "How I Could Just Kill a Man" right after I wrote down that comparison.
One of the more intriguing events of the late night is the comedy stage, which takes place where yesterday's ICP seminar happened. While past nights featured actual comics, this night's itinerary included a few famous wrestling legends trying their hand at the sport, including the Iron Sheik and Rowdy Roddy Piper. Not only is this a pretty funny touch, it's not every day you can walk around the backside of the tent and find Ron Jeremy just sort of chilling there like it's no big deal.
The Gathering isn't all about accessibility, but if you're a talent that wants to be visible often to the crowd, you can be. Many of the Psychopathic artists in particular take advantage of this, and still others, such as Ron Jeremy, can be seen wandering amongst the crowd. And since all these people are fairly down to earth, just shooting the breeze with them can be… well, a breeze.
Lake Hepatitis on the Gathering Campgrounds
The final thing I'd like to touch upon when it comes to the Gathering late at night is something I've mentioned very briefly prior to now. One of the reasons the Gathering is such a world away is, quite simply, the open drug use. Never have I found a place with so much of this, nor have I found one that is so OK with it either.
Know that I'm judging no one; drugs don't bother me one bit. But coming from a small town with little-to-no drug use to a place where being offered ten different types of drugs isn't out of the ordinary is a bit of a culture shock. The Gathering is truly so shut off from the outside world -- as they seem to like it -- that this is neither out of the ordinary nor a problem at all. You get used to it. In fact, there's even a bridge within the grounds on which both sellers and buyers congregate to dispense their product.
I'm telling you, we're not in Kansas anymore.
You'd think, too, that the next logical step after talking about drugs would be to touch upon Charlie Sheen, who was the host of Saturday night's main stage. But to be quite honest, Sheen was the most lackluster part of Saturday's schedule. He showed up late and left early, staying for only two acts and a combined minute onstage. Not very #winning if you ask me. Though he did catch a Faygo that was chucked at him from afar, which I gotta say was pretty badass. Watch below.
Saturday night's music rundown included quite a few Psychopathic Records artists, including its newest signee, Vanilla Ice. Appearing to a sea of cheers, Ice ran through quite a few crowd favorites, and also debuted a few new songs from his upcoming record. The songs were steeped in the electronic dance sound dominating the Top 40 right now, and while I quite enjoyed one called "Turn It Up," I'm not sure much of the crowd was feeling it.
In one of the more unexpected performances, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic showed up to incite Juggalos to get their groove on. A highlight of the entire festival to date was Michael Hampton's transcendent guitar solo on "Maggot Brain." Seriously, I may never use the word "transcendent" to describe music again, because that was the definition of the word. Also killing it on the main stage was rapper Tech N9ne, whose robotic dance moves and rapid-fire rhymes were immediate crowd pleasers.
Video: Parliament Funkadelic, "Atomic Dog," The Gathering
Sunday begins the final day of the Gathering of the Juggalos. We'll have a lot to discuss, from misconceptions about Juggalo culture to reflections on the festival as a whole. Don't miss it.