It was inevitable, given the viral spread of the Gathering '09's infomercial last year, that some enterprising and well-vaccinated media types would show up and see it for themselves. I wish I could have gone. What I really wish is that David Foster Wallace could have gone so I could read a 45,000-word treatise on the horror-rap version of his Ticket to the Fair.
Instead, we have to settle for a couple of stories from the Village Voice and Vice. Settle isn't fair exactly, because the Voice piece is good and the Vice one OK, but when your sights are set so high, everything feels like settling. The writer for Vice, as one might expect, trades analysis for the experiential view, and throws in a gestures, like trying to buy acid himself, to show that while he may not be "down" in the ICP sense (See the articles), he is "down" in the Vice sense. The Voice goes anthropological, viewing the ICP and the juggalo paracosm they've created as an outlet for alienation and poverty. That generates some surprising sympathy for the army of clown-face-paint-wearing lunatics -- or misunderstood victims of society -- that descend upon a patch of mud each year to take drugs, run around naked, and throw things at each other for an extended weekend.
Certainly, the Voice article adds some critical nuance to the Juggalo phenomenon, although it does seem like it steps a little too far towards buying the line that the whole thing is one vast, reassuring self-esteem workshop. As the Vice writer put it:
I was having a bit of a hard time reconciling all the weird spiritual and individual-empowerment business with the general adolescent dumb I’d been basting in all day.
But while the Vice writer sands off a bit of the hooey about Juggalo family, his story offers no alternate theory, or any kind of takeaway. Either way, both pieces are worth reading, if only for the vastly entertaining litany of details, each more insane than the last, my favorite being:
There is the Spazmatic Hangout, a dry saloon serving Faygo and the official Juggalo energy drink, ICP's Spazmatic!™, which tastes like a melted freeze-pop mixed with cough syrup (text on the can: "Insane Clown Posse's Frothy, Freaky, Frosty, Refreshing Energy Freshness Can of Shazam!"). At seven in the morning, watermelon-smashing comedian Gallagher will be found there nearly passed out, smoking a joint.
He’d also been witness to two of the Gathering’s finest open-mic sessions, the first a band called the Jumping Ninjas whose deaf frontman rapped in sign language while dressed in full ninja gear. The second was a rapper from New Jersey named Daville, who after declaring his set the opening of “Krunk Fest,” proceeded to chuck full cans of beer point-blank into the audience, then ran through the crowd stealing people’s joints, returned to the stage smoking four joints at once, cried, barfed, then descended into the crowd one more time to brain people with a plastic folding chair. The best I’d seen was a fat guy in clown paint who couldn’t think of anything to rap besides the line “You want fries with that?”
Now I really do wish I could have gone.