Psychopathic Records Shockfest
with Insane Clown Posse, Da Mafia 6ix, and Mushroomhead
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Juggalos aren't cool in the mainstream sense, but what they lack in cultural capital they make up for in passion and loyalty to the family. Strip away all the clowning and the rituals that seem so odd to outsiders, and an ICP crowd is one of the most involved, appreciative, and music-focused audiences you'll find anywhere.
This crowd at Myth was saturated with lights, spectacle, and Faygo. Toward the end of a lengthy set, Insane Clown Posse dropped "Fuck the World," their joyfully misanthropic nursery rhyme listing all those who should eat shit and die. Spoiler alert: It's everybody. In a succession of increasingly absurd lines, Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J cursed the Dali Lama, the Beastie Boys, both sides of the Berlin Wall, chickens, ducks, Violent J, and of course all 52 states.
I wasn't spared myself: "Fuck critics, fuck your review/ Even if you like me, fuck you!" It was reassuring, and put my place in this whole circus in perspective. I can't think of anything less relevant to Juggalos than what I think of them, but here it is anyhow.
Slideshow: Insane Clown Posse Rock Myth
Next, Mushroomhead were somehow even more theatrical than you would expect a nine-piece metal band to be. All the members wore a neon pastel monster mask over formalwear, and the stage was flanked by two drums on each side throwing off luminescent fluid. A barrage of strobes made watching the mosh pit a surreal experience. Their industrial / nu set was tightly run, with every cue perfectly in place, almost detracting from the destructive vibes they sought to inspire.
Before ICP hit the stage, chants of FAM-I-LY and "Dead Dirty Carnies, Dead Juggalos!" filled the air in anticipation. Four cauldrons full of two-liter bottles of Diet Faygo were wheeled onto the stage.
Then, slowly, the curtain opened, revealing the carnival inspired set -- a massive robotic clown face, Suess-esque signage and tents, and lollipop trees. The two MCs swaggered on stage and began with "Night of the Chainsaw." It seemed like everyone in the crowd except me and perhaps five other non-Juggalo attendees knew every word.
By the next song, all that soda started to see some use. Beyond just spraying it like champagne into the crowd, Violent J shook up the bottles and shot them over the crowd like missiles. A few people got hit in the face, but not as many as might be expected.
It can't be overstated how important Faygo is to the whole experience. I hope ICP have some kind of ownership stake. At two points in the set there were Faygo breaks, where five clown-suited backup dancers dumped buckets of the stuff on the crowd to an appropriately over-caffeinated soundtrack. It was great self-parody, at least I hope so, but the central ridiculousness still remained.
They were at their strongest when they could fully harness the spectacle -- like when they performed the warped dating show story "Neden Games," which seems to be the ICP "Lodi Dodi." The teen clowners seemed particularly hype on the "Fuck you" to parental figures in a way that only someone who lives at home can be.
When they tried to mix it up, with an extremely broad parody of televangelists or a heartfelt ballad, the show felt a lot more typical. It's possible that I missed some key details as a novice to Dark Carnival and Shangri La mythology, the quasi-spiritual belief system of good and evil and a juggalo afterlife that plays a role in much of their music. But I got the sense that it's not the most rigorous ideology.
The entire Shockfest crew came onstage for the finale, "Bang! Pow! Boom!" The song details a bombing of the Dark Carnival, where they've gathered all the dregs of humanity -- racists, wife beaters, and the like -- to receive their just reward. For the subject matter, it's surprisingly cheery, set to a bopping carnival beat.
As it played, there was an all-out Faygo deluge from the stage. Bottles whizzed through the air constantly, some making it all the way back to the sound booth. By the end of it, the entire club was soaked. The chorus went like this and repeated for almost five minutes: "Turn your whole fucking world into a mushroom cloud / And a boom / It's your inevitable doom / Nobody escapes and everybody's consumed."
It felt like a sock-hop at the apocalypse, with everyone sliding across the floor, dancing and throwing the remains of the aspertane barrage at each other. I saw a Juggalette make a trash angel. The whole scene was straight-up beautiful. There was no encore, because nothing could follow that.
Personal Bias: I can't pretend to be down with the clown -- doing so would be dishonest. I went because I've found Juggalos interesting for years. At the same time, I tried not to use irony as a crutch any more than I absolutely had to.
Random notebook dump: My first encounter with Juggalos was eventful. It involves switchblades and you can read about it on page 3.
Night of the Chainsaw
The Show Must Go On
Halls of Illusions
Amy's in the Attic
The Neden Game
Boogie Woogie Wu
Dead Body Man
Under The Moon
Let's Go All the Way
Fuck the World
Don't Fuck Wit Me (w/ Da Mafia 6ix)
Surprize (w/ Da Mafia 6ix)
Down With the Clown
Bang! Pow! Boom!
My first interaction with Juggalos:
It was the summer of 2009, and I was at a summer program for humanities nerds in Austin, Texas. We were specifically focused on nonfiction writing, and we all had to complete a project about something out in the city. My group and I chose to interview people at Barton Springs, a large outdoor pool that's been a community centerpiece and tourist attraction for decades.
We were headed back -- the pool had closed for the night -- when we see five young people up ahead. They looked interesting. There were two girls and three guys, wearing either bikini tops and loose capris or baggy black jean shorts and band T-shirts, and were decked out with the full array of wallet chains and studded leather wristbands. I came up behind them and started to give my usual spiel: "Hey guys, we're doing a project on the pool at the University and we were wondering--"
"Woah man!" Before I could finish, the closest group member to me whipped around and looked at me with wired eyes. "You can't just walk up behind people like that, man," he said. "All surprising and shit. I don't know you, man! You know what happens man? You get SHOT, you get STABBED."
And at this point it got scary. He, one of the juggalettes, and a portly teenage dude all whipped out and opened switchblades they had in their pockets. "You get MOLESTED, homes!"
"Molested, homes," forever burned in my memory, I was terrified. Looking back, I could have noticed a few key details: They were holding the blades up as if they were magic markers, and seemed more amused by the situation than homicidal. But still, knives are knives.
My friend Patrick was unfazed. He had spent the previous summer hitchhiking and train-hopping from New York to North Dakota. Patrick just looked the knife-wielding Juggalette right in the face, which was starting to break into a smile, and said "Honey, are you really gonna stab me with that thing?" They all laughed, and we had a great interview. They told us about the Juggalo family, the gathering, and the joys of being down with the clown -- as well as their very pedestrian day jobs, like being a cable guy. I gave the chubby kid a snow cone; it was his birthday.
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