Editor’s note: Xpress A&E intern Joseph Chapman has embarked — his idea, not ours — on a trip to the Gathering of the Juggalos. It’s his last project before returning to UNC-Chapel Hill. His dispatch follows.
We’re alive. We finally made it into the Dark Carnival, the 12th annual Gathering of the Juggalos. We had lofty ambitions of broadcasting a live stream from the festival, but it turns out that 3G coverage in Cave-in-Rock, Ill., isn’t so great. Imagine that. For now, we’ll try and update this page as much as we can with pictures and what’s going on.
11:37 p.m. Paul Wall ended up cancelling his 7 p.m. show and pushed the other artists’ time pegs back. Pissing off the juggalos is a bad idea. The crowd eventually rebounded when MC Hammer came on stage, went completely nuts when he jumped off of it and made the wait worth it with a giant dance party stage-rush.
But when MC Hammer left, it was back to waiting. Busta Rhymes’ tour bus rolled through the side-stage entrance around 11 p.m., right as his set should have been ending, and had fans waiting for another hour and a half. Dark Lotus was supposed to close the main stage at midnight – Busta Rhymes came on at almost 1 a.m.
We got hit with a lot of trash in the photo pit. Empty water bottles, full water bottles, crushed beer cans, full beer cans cracked and tossed like foam-spewing flares, glow sticks and various sizes and flavors of Faygo.
A fight broke out in the crowd while we were waiting for Busta Rhymes. As security tried to tackle the aggressor, the surrounding crowd started chanting, “fam-ily,” as if to say, “stop fighting, we’re family.”
9:08 p.m. We have seen an outrageous number of naked women so far. The wet t-shirt contest hosted by Ron Jeremy completely packed the Bomb-House tent. Women took the stage in sets of four or five and strip-teased in their sheer white shirts while men showered them with Faygo 2-liters. “Whoop, areolas” became a chant that riled up the crowd and egged the women into exposing their breasts completely. Several women got completely naked, and every time a pair of underwear came off, the crowd erupted with cheers and more “whoop whoops.” Women were numbered, and the winners of each set were determined by how loud the crowd responded when their number was called. When it came down to the vote, booing was frowned-on. At one point, Jeremy stopped to reprimand a man who had jeered at one of the heavier contestants.
We got some new neighbors during the day. They snuck in without passes and set their camp up right next to ours. We introduced ourselves and started talking about the Gathering. One of our new neighbors, Techno, said that this was his third Gathering, and it seemed like they had amped up security since someone got stabbed last year. We asked Techno if people who attend the Gathering tend to behave aggressively, and he told us that fights are frequent, and in fact, two years ago, he had to beat a guy up with pad locks in handkerchiefs. He came by and showed us a stab wound later. Before Techno left camp to go check out one of the festival’s side shows, he put on a Hannibal Lector muzzle. We decided that we are going to stay on Techno’s good side.
Tonight we’re planning on catching MC Hammer, Busta Rhymes and Dark Lotus, the Insane Clown Posse, Twizted and Blaze Ya Dead Homie supergroup. One thing that sets the Gathering apart from other music festivals is the fact that it’s designed so you can catch all of the headliners. The only music playing from 6 p.m. till midnight each day is at the main stage, and there’s barely any overlap for the acts that run into the morning. It makes for easy planning and has me wishing other festivals used this strategy for lineups.
Insane Clown Posse owns Psychopathic Records, a label that hosts 8 different horrorcore artists (including Vanilla Ice). The Gathering serves in part to be a label showcase. There’re several supergroups and a lot of collaborations between the artists: besides Dark Lotus, we were told to check out the Psychopathic Rydas, a label conglomerate that doesn’t name its members (but everyone knows that it’s Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J from ICP, Twizted and Blaze). They dress like an terrorist outfit and rap over stolen beats, which is why they don’t have any official Hatchmen releases. Andy, the press manager for the festival, explained on our golf cart tour that the Rydas were more of an extra treat for fans.
12:51 p.m. We finally found the press area. Last night went surprisingly well — after some confusion about parking passes, we set-up our tent, built a tarp canopy and met our neighbors. Juggalos have been extremely friendly and outgoing and we’re finding that the notion that Insane Clown Posse fans are belligerent or aggressive is just not true. For the most part. Sticking a camera in their faces doing illegal things, we’ve learned, is not a good idea. The Juggalo hailing call — “whoop whoop” — is an all-purpose greeting that identifies oneself as “down with the clown” and can be used as an introduction, an exclamation, a Marco Polo-style homing agent or a rallying call. In some ways, it’s a test. When someone calls out “whoop whoop” in your direction, you’re going to get mean looks if you don’t respond. But if you do, you’re instantly a friend.
There seems to be a general animosity toward the press, and understandably so. The third Juggalo we talked to on the “drug bridge,” the Gathering’s not-so-secret black market, ended his rant about the constant mockery and misjudgment of Juggalos with a please: “Please don’t write anything bad about this place.” So far, there’s really not much bad to say.
7:20 p.m. Today’s afternoon activities offered a mix of violence and voyeur. On the schedule was a lingerie contest at the Bomb-House, ladies oil wrestling, Juggalo Championship Wrestling, odd ball wrestling and Flec’s Bizzaro Circus Sideshow.
The first two JCW matches we watched pit domineering male figures against gay people like the “Butt Pirates.” Parts of the intricate slapstick were funny, but honestly, we were scared to laugh, because no one else was.
1:58 Techno came back to camp last night brandishing a combination lock tied to a white bandana. He saw a light on under his canopy and was worried that someone was trying to break in. We made a new rule to never go under Techno’s canopy.
My shoulder rig for my camera snapped in half. I wish we had some epic story where a 2-liter of Faygo dropped out of the sky like a mortar and exploded on the rig, but it just fell off Neil’s backpack walking back from Lil Jon’s tour bus. We went out of the camp and across the ferry to Marion, KY, to attempt a repair job at the local hardware store, but it was a no-go.
We were stopped by security on the drive back in. They explained to us that police were stopping and searching festival goers coming in and out of the main car entrance, so they were rerouting traffic through a parking lot to avoid them. We talked to a security guard at the entrance itself who was giving tips to people leaving the festival: don’t leave anything dangling in your window, buckle up, don’t bring anything illegal with you and don’t speed.
There are no laws here. As long as you’re not setting off fireworks or firecrackers, you’re pretty much free to do whatever you want. Everyone has a story ready for the craziest thing they’ve seen so far at the Gathering, and it’s usually in close proximity to the drug bridge.
3:32 We were watching Tech N9ne get showered with the audience’s liquor from the photo pit on the far right side of the stage. I heard a loud thud at my feet, looked down and picked up a full, ice-cold Busch Lite. One of the crew members turned to me and asked, “Did that hit you?” Standing there, holding the unexploded mortar, I didn’t really know. Was I dead? Is this how I died at the Gathering of the Juggalos? Getting hit in the back of the head with a Busch Lite?
I woke up this morning to some of our neighbors trashing George Clinton’s set from last night. A lot of the acts we’ve seen so far at the Gathering have been, for lack of a better word, karaoke. Rappers and their DJs or backing tracks. Clinton and P Funk brought a full band with an oversized, bug-eyed skeleton smoking an even larger joint, and the instrumentation and added stage presence was a nice change of pace. But our neighbors hated it. They thought Clinton didn’t do a good enough job as P Funk’s hype man.
Rain came during the day before Clinton’s show. By the time Clinton and his band got onstage, the area behind the mixing booth was a lake and mud was everywhere. But the rain held off. It would take a lot more than just water to stop the Juggalos from listening to their music, and if anything, now that all semblance of cleanliness has been denied, there’s a “screw it” attitude and everyone’s even more amped-up. The crowd for Tech N9ne’s show was intense. Bouncers/Crew members were dancing just as hard as the crowd, and most of them knew
the words to N9ne’s raps.
Besides the liquor, Tech N9ne and the 816 boys got the audience to pull out their lighters and breasts. There was a song about smoking and the true crowd favorite, “Areola,” the song that gave way to the “whoop areola” Juggalo chant. So. Many. Naked. Women.
And then Twiztid opened his show with a short video skit projected on a giant sheet hung behind the stage. We didn’t really understand the skit or the performance. It was extremely loud, and audience involvement, in terms of singing along, jumping and dancing, felt like it was at 100 percent on songs like “Diemuthafuckadie.” But compared to Tech N9ne, there wasn’t really that much interaction between the Psychopathic artist and the audience. It was kind of weird. He just jumped around the stage and moved between songs.