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.
If you've ever seen the movie "Almost Famous," you might understand where I'm going with this.
During Friday's (Aug. 12) Insane Clown Posse seminar at the Gathering of the Juggalos, Violent J casually announced to the thousands in attendance that during this year's Gathering there were, in fact, reporters amongst the crowd, trying to understand what it is that the Juggalo Family is all about. This was met with a chorus of boos, particularly when the words "mainstream media" were spoken.
So imagine all eyes trained on you, as you realize that if most of those in attendance didn't already know that you were amongst them, doing a story on them, they know now. I truly felt like The Enemy, like this was some Cameron Crowe, Stillwater stuff. Covering the story had just become a whole lot more difficult.
But then the conversation took a 180: For after years of denouncing the mainstream media for its, well, denunciation of them, Violent J told the Family that he actually welcomed the press. "Juggalos are news," he said, saying that while the media will never pinpoint what it is to be a Juggalo, that doesn't mean that Juggalos shouldn't get all the attention in the world.
So, sigh of relief. Maybe this won't be so bad after all.
Juggalos to the front.
Friday was a learning day for me. After mainly catching the musical acts the night before, I wanted to delve deeper into what Juggalos are up to when they're not catching live music at the fest's various stages. And while such work is never done, I would like to present the top five things I learned Friday, in no particular order:
1. Juggalos love throwing stuff. Performer Juvenile doesn't like stuff thrown at him. This is not a winning combination.
2. Hepatitis Lake, despite its assurances that it is a safe place to swim, might actually not be. More than a few Juggalos told me that they would never set foot inside. That hasn't stopped quite a few others from partaking in its waters. I know it's ungodly hot out here, but still -- keep them in your thoughts.
3. Selling jello shots at a festival is possibly the greatest idea ever.
4. Every artist performing seems to have his or her own main talking point. Ice Cube has the West. Lil Jon has crunk. The Kottonmouth Kings have a certain natural plant which grows from the ground. And I think ABK just wants to kill everyone.
5. There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's being offered a dimebag for your press pass.
Also among Friday's distractions included a lingerie contest hosted by Ron Jeremy, a Legends and Icons wrestling series which included such stars and former stars as Terry Funk, Scott Hall and many more (seriously, the Gathering might be the spot where old wrestlers go to die), and… well, imagine a hayride, only you're sitting on a hollowed-out school bus that's missing its top half and the only price of admission is to shout "Whoop whoop" as often as humanly possibly, and you've got the Love Train.
Cool shirt, brah. CKY at the Gathering.
Rock band CKY started things off on the main stage, and were a welcome respite from the other acts, all of which could be entered snugly into the hip-hop genre. Lil Jon was a delight, performing all of his biggest hits.
Video: YEAH! Lil Jon at the Gathering
New Orleans rapper Juvenile lasted a mere few minutes before leaving the stage after said stage was pelted by water bottles, Faygo cans and the like (I really don't think it was anything against him, he just seemed to take it the worst).
Ice Cube made you forget that he ever did "Are We There Yet?" And the Kottonmouth Kings stole the show with their punk rock-laced hip-hop, during which legalization was a hot topic. And truth be told, I've never seen so much smoke rising from a crowd at a festival in my life.
Ice Cube keeps his cool. Juvenile... not so much.
It was made official during the festival Friday as well that '90s rapping parody Vanilla Ice has signed to Psychopathic Records and will be releasing an album on the label very soon. Of course, this had been rumored for a while and I don't think came as a surprise to anyone in attendance. But still -- Vanilla Ice! Now all they need to do is sign MC Hammer and the rappers who did both "Ice Ice Baby" and "Can't Touch This" will be on the same independent label. Can you even imagine?
I'd also love to give a shout out to the Greek food stand, for your gyros are divine. And to Toronto's So Sick Social Club, who had one of the more endearing sets of the evening in the Freakshow Tent.
But here's something you may be wondering at this point: what about becoming a Juggalo? Immersing oneself into the culture of this often-ridiculed subculture of the world. Is this even possible?
I want to go back to what Violent J said at the seminar. He said that while he welcomes the mainstream media to put their finger on Juggalo Nation, we will never succeed. He went on to say this: "This is not a fanbase but a movement. This is not a movement, but a way of life."
I would say he's exactly right. The only way to really understand Juggalos is to be a Juggalo yourself -- and I mean a true one, with a conscious decision to do so. He even thinks that the only people that should be reviewing their albums are Juggalos themselves, not a music journalist who doesn't even regularly listen to the material. To some extent, even I can't help but see his point.
All in all, ICP believes that the Juggalo Nation can be chalked up to one word: family.
Michael Gilroy, a 20-something attendee experiencing his first Gathering, echoes the point. "It's all about family," he said. "Everyone's just sitting here chilling with family."
To come to the Gathering is not just about the music -- in fact, sometimes one gets the impression that the music has little to do with it. It's about spending time with friends, making new ones and waiting two hours for ICP to show up to their seminar. Other places, this might have been an outrage.
Not at the Gathering.