I am not a Juggalo. I have never been a Juggalo.
I briefly listened to Insane Clown Posse in my friend’s basement during my adolescent rebellion years, but quickly turned to Eminem as my angst-y rap muse. I have no tattoos or piercings. I’ve never owned any hatchet-emblazoned clothing. I’m listening to Tegan and Sara as I type this.
So when I was presented the opportunity to journey to the Mecca for all of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope’s loyal followers, I was initially hesitant. However, curiosity always overpowers fear, and I accepted the challenge. My friends’ reactions ranged from “Why would you do this?” to “Nice knowing you.” So, armed with preconceived notions and a healthy dose of fear, I traveled to Cave-In-Rock, Illinois, and had my mind blown.
Gathering has always been a festival for the Juggalos — not for the outside world. That was never more evident than this year. Where previous installments included famous acts like Three Six Mafia, Method Man and The Ying Yang Twins, and celebrities as diverse as Charlie Sheen and Flava Flav, this year’s festival headliners all came from the Psychopathic Record label. As fun as it is to see Vanilla Ice, no non-Juggalos are going to brave the festival just to see him perform “Ice Ice Baby” in front of a Faygo-soaked crowd. This incantation of Gathering was definitely catered to the Juggalo family, and as such, created a surprisingly peaceful atmosphere.
That being said, even though we stuck out like sore, hipster-y thumbs, everyone at the festival either ignored us or were friendly towards us. The most aggressive any Juggalo got with us was when one guy demanded that we let him pinch our nipples. We politely declined, and he was escorted away by his less-inebriated cohorts.
The first night, we met a lovely Jugalette named Kitty at The Bomb House, who regularly left her post at the neon paint station to fan us down and feed us jell-o shots. Friday, while waiting for oil wrestling to start, we hung out with a group from Portland who offered us shots of vodka and some strange alcoholic concoction that tasted delicious and got us really drunk. Hundreds of nameless Juggalos greeted us with "whoop whoop"s throughout the entire festival and treated us like family, despite our press badges and lack of Psychopathic-related attire.
Oh, and there were a lot of crazy, fun acts and events. From Wolfpac’s insane post-apocalyptic stripper-laden barrel throwing performance on Wednesday night, to ICP’s Faygo hurricane to close out the main stage on Saturday, there was never a shortage of entertainment. We witnessed an oil wrestling competition organized by the only man on earth creepier than Joe Rogan. We laughed our asses off at Jim Norton’s excellent standup set. We danced to everything from Skrillex to Kanye at late-night dance parties filled with half-naked Jugalettes. We watched a midget with no arms jam a screwdriver up his nose. We saw Vanilla Ice perform over dub step beats and Tech N9ne rap about areolas. We saw numerous things that can’t be described, and plenty that shouldn’t be described.
Gathering of the Juggalos was unlike any festival I’ve been to. It could be described as the strangest family reunion you’ll ever attend, and the only one you won’t fake an emergency to get out of. These festival-goers aren’t just here for the music. They’re here to meet other Juggalos, get messed up, and have a great time. The stages were rarely packed, aside from headliners ICP and Tech N9ne, and crowd favorites Psychopathic Rydas and ACK. Parties went on until the wee hours of the morning, more often in campsites than in designated stages. It was an experience unlike any other, and one I hope to replicate every August in the deep south of Illinois. Whoop whoop.