Somewhere between the moment someone threw up on me and the moment I realized it had happened, I received first-hand evidence that membership in the juggalo family comes with a small price. Last night's Insane Clown Posse show began and ended with liberty, fraternity, misogyny and Faygo -- which, it turns out, is great for washing off vomit. Whoop whoop? Psychopathic Records is less a music label than it is a well-documented subculture, which means that though there's only one capital-letter Gathering, each of the label frontrunner's shows is a small gathering of its own. It takes a lot of time to apply the face paint more than half of the Ogden's packed and united crowd sported, and it takes even longer to get a tattoo.
More Photos: ICP at the Ogden
The show's structure, amped up by Blaze and Twiztid before Insane Clown Posse announced its presence, applied even to the crowd organization. The farther up you were, the more likely you were to sport a tattoo, be considering another and leave the theater with even your underpants soaked in Faygo. But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter where you're standing. Wherever it is, that's where the moshpit is. Backed by an unsettling mix of the national anthem deranged cackling, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope took to the stage just as the crowd's cheering began to make it quake. From the start, the guys betrayed all the stage presence you wouldn't expect from their names. (You could say they're as magnetic as the items they don't understand.) And for the latest stop in the American Psycho Tour, one that corners the market on musical and psychological unrest, their aggressive and somehow strangely charming control is key. It's perhaps fitting that "Down With the Clown" was played, with all the band's carnival-themed glory, on the same night as the circus opened in Denver. But if there's any irony here, it's hard to apply it to ICP. It took 27 seconds (I counted) for the guys to unleash their first can of Faygo (and therefore their first ritual) on the crowd, and it took about a minute after that for the glitter-garbed clown dancers to appear behind them.
Taken without context, without its meaning, ICP's music is attractive, culturally propulsive, and in some ways, even compelling. The beats are acerbic, often verging on the border between rap and electronica, while the two men who front the act divert so much of their energy into the crowd that it's almost disconcerting. To your left is a man dressed as Uncle Sam shredding the guitar. To your right are hooded figures staring at the ground in silence. Behind them are a group of broken-down clowns refilling the Faygo, always adding more Faygo. All around you the soda is raining from the heavens like Manna for a new generation of lost people.
More Photos: ICP at the Ogden
But front and center is the content, not so much lyrics as it is a string of blatant, unromantic misogyny twisted into a series of nightmares and wet dreams. ICP has three tracks with corpses in their titles alone -- "Bodies Fly," "10 Bodies" and "Dead Body Man" -- the last of which is lyrically the most poetic: "I just ate my first dead body last week/Still got the fingernail caught in my teeth." The band's last show in Denver was marked by a stabbing, and the lasting memory of that event provoked a reference drawn from Violent J, in bad taste, as the intro to "Stab People." "You motherfuckers are SERIOUS tonight," shouted Shaggy 2 Dope, who, like his partner in rhyme, always sounds like he's speaking in all caps. The more kinetic half of the duo, Shaggy is an outgoing performer who remains in constant motion as he emits most of the energy required for the duo's banter-style vocal structure. Larger, scarier and deeper (at least vocally) is Violent J, who is both ICP's emotional core and its strongest presence. What the guys lack in finesse, tact and an understanding of modern gender roles (See "Bitches": "Girl you know I love you/But you gotta die"), they make up for in range and pure, unadulterated entertainment value. You might not identify as a juggalo or a juggalette -- maybe not even under duress -- but for approximately two hours, you are a part of the world's most mainstream underground family, one formed in shopping malls and chatrooms and concerts baptized in weed and confirmed by blood, sweat and face paint, just like this one. Someone will offer you a joint, and when you say no, he will know, if he couldn't already tell, that you're probably not a juggalo. But he will not care because, after all, you're here. You're family.
More Photos: ICP at the Ogden
As the night continued, it devolved in the way only a show predicated entirely on causing a ("motherfucking") ruckus really can: Middle fingers were demanded from the audience, and they were happily procured. The band transitioned through freaky dance jams ("Zombie Slide") and then the world's eeriest ballad ("If I Was a Serial Killer"), a song devoted almost entirely to the sentiment echoed in its chorus over and over in a somber sing-a-long: "I don't know who I am anymore." And then: "I don't know who I am anymore." And when it seemed like the guys were letting on more than we expected, when it seemed like the show would end on a telling note, it didn't. "We don't want to end it like that," Violent J shouted to a crowd still reeling from the words they had repeated. "We love you, motherfuckers." In a more predictable but perhaps more appropriate ending, the night concluded, then, in carnage. Faygo-soaked front-row juggalos crawled onto the stage with every member of the Psycopathic Records family in attendance and legitimately freaked out until there were no more lyrics to shout and there was no more point in spraying Faygo on every possible inch of space. And then they left. On the way back to our cars, muffled by the traffic, the shouts of "Whoop whoop!" lasted seven blocks.
Click through for the full setlist:
Personal Bias: I'm a single white hipster who watches ICP documentaries, but it's unclear even to me what that means. By the way: Where were all the bespectacled people? In a crowd the size of a small army, I didn't see a single co-glasses-wearer the entire night. Note to self: Look into the ocular restorative effects of becoming a juggalette. Random detail: The number of times I was addressed as "ninja": fourteen. Number of times that word was accompanied by a polite request for me to "get out of the way": eight. Number of times I felt honored to be accepted: fourteen. Overheard: "Violent J is like fat and P-H phat at the same time, you know? That ninja is dope."
01. "In Your Face" 02. "Hokus Pokus" 03. "Dead Body Man" 04. "Bitches" 05. "The Show Must Go On" 06. "Murder Rap" 07. "Everybody Rize"
08. "Tilt-A-Whirl" 09. "Birthday Bitches" 10. "The Neden Game" 11. "Let's Go All the Way" 12. "Juggalo Homies" (with Twiztid) 13. "Marsh Lagoon" (with Twiztid) 14. "Assassins" 15. "Stab People" 16. "Fuck the World" 17. "Zombie Slide"
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18. "Chicken Huntin'" 19. "Miracles" 20. "Down With the Clown" 21. "If I Was a Serial Killer" 22. "Bang! Pow! Boom!"