Over the weekend: Insane Clown Posse at the Fillmore

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Insane Clown Posse, The Dayton Family, (həd) p.e.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Fillmore Auditorium
Better Than:
The spectacle of a white trash cult on parade that many expect.

Standing in a line around the block for this show with people randomly chanting things like, "Magic, magic ninjas whut!" and "Faygo! Send yo' momma straight up to the sto'. Tell that bitch to get some Faygo!" didn't exactly instill confidence in me that the ICP show would be anything less than an empty spectacle with the trappings of an aggressive pep rally mated with professional wrestling. But the fans of ICP are wildly enthusiastic and curiously really cool to each other.

Opening act, The Dayton Family, perpetrated lines like "Your house is lynched" and otherwise underwhelmed with a brand of hip-hop akin to the faceless rock bands that appear in low budget movies. Even though the foursome worked well together, it was like seeing a caricature of hip-hop with dunderheaded songs such as "That Ain't Yo Bitch." They made Luther Campbell seem like Noël Coward by comparison.

(həd) p.e. sounded like a weird hybrid of hardcore and reggae. The band's bass player was phenomenal, and the guitarist shredded with the best of them. Even Jared Gomes was a commanding figure but between songs his rhetoric consisted of hilarious asides and anecdotes like, "We got so much clown love," and "This is the Family that's going to change the fuckin' world." In a particularly ironic moment, a good while after making deservedly arch comments about former president Bush, Gomes, in classic bully fashion, picked on emo kids because nothing signals the lameness of one's insecurity more than beating up on those weaker than yourself. Nonetheless, the outfit got the crowd riled up and ready for being down with tha clown.

Someone in the ICP organization knows a thing or two about set design and lighting because those were immediately striking throughout the performance. When the show got going, an announcer came on stage to inform us that Ape Boy would be on the stage in a cage and on the other side of the stage, caged as well, was Many Faces. Apparently this was the return of the "Dark Carnival." A few hundred gallons of Faygo went into the audience before the show was over and the crowd loved it. The music was like a sillier version of Cypress Hill and House of Pain, but it was not the ICP I was used to hearing. It was an ICP gone super catchy and even eerily uplifting. Yes, there were songs about dead bodies in the yard and lyrics extolling the nihilism of "I don't give a fuck," but there was also a song urging the audience, "Don't do it" with Violent J and Shaggy pointing pistol fingers at their heads, after J told us a story about his personal weakness and that of his longtime compatriot. It demolished my image of the band as being nihilistic and negative at its core, promoting a self-destructive message. What emerged as the set went on was that these guys were having fun with some of the more ridiculous lyrics but that at the root of the band's agenda was unity against the oppression of the under class via divisions through drugs, racism and buying into the petty hatreds between people.

The music still struck me as derivative and superficially exciting, but when even Jared Gomes remarked on how there weren't any fights in the pit, "Not in this Family," it's hard to dismiss as ignorant and retrogressive a micromovement like this when I've seen stupid violence go down at punk, metal and even indie rock shows. Maybe ICP and its kith and kin aren't breaking musical ground but any group that encourages its audience to treat each other and themselves well can't be all bad.


Personal Bias: I always used to hate ICP because I thought they were the underdeveloped, goofy children of King Diamond.
Random Detail: While standing in line outside, some trashed juggalo approached me and asked if he and his friends could jump me.
By the Way: ICP has written some spectacularly stupid songs but generally gets a bad rap from people who like to think of themselves as being sophisticated.

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