Every summer there are literally dozens of music festivals all over the country. While each have their own vibe, after a while they kind of all start to run together. Eventually there just needs to be a festival that rises above all others and acts as a beacon for all the freaks and weirdos out there. That’s where Gathering of the Juggalos succeeds.
Held each year in August in the desolate woods of southern Illinois at the hot, dusty Hogrock Camp Grounds, the Gathering acts as much as a family reunion as it does as a music festival. Beyond the near-constant chants of “FAM-IL-Y,” the Juggalos look out for each other more than any other group of festival attendees. With police not allowed on the camp ground -- Hogrock is private property -- the fans police themselves. When a rare fight breaks out, the Juggalos step in themselves to stop it. Drug sales are rampant on the now infamous “Drug Bridge,” but dishonest dealers are dealt with swiftly and severely, often locked in the strangely placed cages of the Underground Stage.
This year one of the highlight moments was a Juggalo caught stealing food from campsites. Once the other attendees figured out who was responsible for the crimes, they descended upon the thief’s car. Justice was served.
While past years have been marred by controversy, the 2012 Gathering went off with fairly few problems. As a veteran (read second time) reporter at the Gathering, this reporter received little to no harassment from Juggalos this year. This is not to say however, that Gathering was without news. In fact, ICP dropped something of a bombshell.
At their Friday afternoon seminar -- a press conference geared toward fans -- Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope announced they are suing the FBI. The lawsuit is in regards to the FBI placing Juggalos on their 2011 Gang Watch List
In a press release, Violent J stated, “[W]e’re not attacking the FBI, but they got this wrong. The Juggalos are not a gang and that needs to be fixed.”
In order to help with their case, ICP has started Juggalos Fight Back and are asking Juggalos who believe they have had a negative experience by the FBI’s gang distinction to leave their story on the site.
While the Gathering has many facets, it is first and foremost, a music festival (and definitely not a gang rally). Even if you’re not down with the clown (or Twiztid, Blaze Ya Dead Homie or Anybody Killa) Gathering of the Juggalos stands tall as one of the best hip hop festivals around. This year’s lineup included giants like George Clinton, Master P, Three Six Mafia, Geto Boys, and Danny Brown. Both DMX and The Game were scheduled to perform as well, but were no-shows. On the metal front, '90s favorites like Soulfly and Fear Factory graced the main stage.
Aside from the main stage, there was also the Underground Stage, which features primarily smaller rap acts. Late at night the Bomb House featured hip hop legends like Warren G, Raekwon, Biz Markie (who performed two songs) and The Pharcyde. Also back this year was the Comedy Tent featuring icons like Cheech and Chong and Bobcat Goldthwait.
Despite past controversies and the now uphill fight against the federal government, this year’s Gathering showed Juggalos are not a group to be trifled with. Between die-hard loyalty and a sense of right and wrong that is enforced without an established system, they are here to stay and mainstream America has to deal with it. Perhaps it is Violent J himself who said it best:
“The Wicked Clowns will never die!”
All photos by Jason Hite