Down With the Clown: ICP Gathering of the Juggalos Diary, Day 4
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.
What do you think of when you hear the word "Juggalo"? And does it come with a positive or negative connotation?
For as long as I can remember, I've been conditioned to ridicule Juggalos and the band from which they spawned, Insane Clown Posse. Though I never sought the music out myself, I was told that it was bland, unimaginative and plain bad, while ICP's fans were nothing more than the bottom of society's barrel.
Don't get me wrong -- I did not come into the Gathering of the Juggalos thinking this way. This is just what it seems like I (and many of the general public, really) was led to believe.
According to Kassandra George, a longtime Juggalo from upstate New York, true Juggalos are not that which give the Family a bad name. "There's fans of the music and then there's Juggalos," she said. "Fans hurt our image. Juggalos are family."
What she means is this: some of those involved in Juggalo culture are fans of Psychopathic Records artists and still come to the Gathering to have a good time. But those people have not prescribed to the culture as a whole, which many who consider themselves to be Juggalos believe would never condone some of the more immoral activities that sometimes occur.
Missouri-based Juggalette Rexanne Greenfeather agrees. "Everyone gets different meanings from the music," she said. "They [ICP] are pushing for a positive light, just through a different avenue. They turn negative concepts into positives."
"They don't show our good deeds," said Greenfeather of the mainstream media, adding that she believed many news outlets came to the Gathering this year for a day and left once they had some dirt. She went on to speak about a local Juggalo group with which she volunteers. Her group was among those who, after the devastating tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri, ventured to the city to help rebuild homes. "You have to have an open mind."
To include all such interviews I was able to conduct Sunday would be a bit lengthy, but the claims set forth by George and Greenfeather were universally echoed. Yes, this is a subculture, but it can be a way of life as well. And I don't think anyone out there is in any position to tell others that the way they live their life is wrong or, well, not a way of life at all.
Sure, the Gathering still has its share of questionable activities; I've reported on quite a few this week, and added another to my arsenal upon hearing Nicholas Mindek's story involving a beer bong, gin and copious amounts of hot sauce (let's just say his throat was still shot). But there's nothing wrong with others having a little fun, especially if it isn't hurting you. I'm not saying that there are no grounds to persecute Juggalos for their actions at the Gathering, but I am saying that things are not as intense as some might lead you to believe.
Flavor Flav, embracing his inner Juggalo, hosted Sunday at the Gathering.
Sunday night's music lineup included quite a few relevant acts, including the heavy-hitting rap rock of Saliva, the backwoods-bayou rap of Boondox, Mystikal's dirty Southern rap and a crowd-pleasing set from Xzibit. Insane Clown Posse headlined the night, and quite frankly, I was not even prepared for what was about to happen, despite warnings from various Juggalos.
Video: Xzibit, "Alkaholic," The Gathering 2011
Say what you will about the music of ICP, but their live performance is truly a spectacle, especially at the Gathering. Here's one concept about Juggalos that ISN'T a misconception: Juggalos heart Faygo. And during ICP's set, hundreds and hundreds of bottles of Faygo were sprayed into the crowd and all over the stage. I honestly never thought I'd be able to say that I was covered in Faygo and could say that I enjoyed it. But I loved every minute of it.
Faygo bottles poppin' during ICP's set.
Final reflections: I think it's quite obvious where I stand when it comes to Juggalos. This culture is truly a way of life, and in order to experience it to its fullest, you have to be invested in what they stand for. This year, I felt like a tourist in a strange land, an outsider -- ironic enough, because I get the feeling that many Juggalos may feel the same in "normal" culture. But I can't say I didn't have a great time learning about and spending time with these people in what I guess could be considered their natural habitat. I'll never be able to become a Juggalo no matter how many times I attempt to crudely paint my face (see photo above), but I sure as hell respect them.
Insane Clown Posse has truly built an empire, with the Gathering as its Mecca. As Louisville native Josh Phillips, 25, told me, "They are the underground. They're smashing everyone." And he's right. When it comes to the underground movement of hip-hop, ICP may considered the most hated band in the world (an award they boldly flaunt), but no one throws a better party.