Insane Clown Posse
There's always a surprise hiding inside a crowd of Juggalos that's just waiting to be discovered at every Insane Clown Posse show: The First-Timer. It might be an excited teenage kid, a nervous parent, or a curious twentysomething hipster who's read enough snarky blog posts about the group's fan base and just wants to see it for themselves. No matter who it is, there's likely a face painted Faygo fanatic who will sniff them out. But usually it's with the intention of recruiting instead of ridiculing.
When a fan at an ICP show asks if you're about to have your Juggalo cherry popped, just be honest and say yes. Chances are it'll open up a flood gate of fist bumps, hugs and "whoop whoops!" Because the reality is that Juggalos actually are a family in the most non-traditional sense of the word. Painting your face or throwing on a Hatchetman jersey basically says "there's a part of me that no one else in the world can understand except someone who is wearing the exact same thing." And any virgin who at least shows up to a gig is only 90 minutes away from being a part of that.
As Detroit rap duo Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope took the stage flanked by twin tubs full of Faygo Cola (the Shasta of the Midwest), the tribal spirit in the Observatory was already at a fever pitch among OC locals and IE dwellers while piled into the party. Probably the only people not whooping it up were the front row security guards covered up with ponchos. They'd obviously drawn the short straws among the staff that evening.
The show was opened by San Diego's yep-they're-still-around rap rockers P.O.D. who brought their own raucous crowd, DJ Paul (of 36 Mafia fame), Young Wicked and Dope D.O.D. Though ICP's set opener "Explosions" off their second-to-latest 2015 release The Marvelous Missing Link: Lost fell a little flat (read: it's still too new for Juggalos to memorize), they picked the energy right back up with a salvo of classics like "Chicken Huntin'," The Show Must Go On," and "Hocus Pokus."
At this point in their career, Violent J and 2 Dope are basically the Harlem Globetrotters of cheap soda. Shaking up two-liters with one hand, popping the cap and letting it fly into the crowd like foamy, fructose-filled rockets is as easy as brushing their teeth in the morning. As the bottles jetted through the air (some still pretty full when they hit the ground), the floor of the Observatory steadily became a sticky mess as clowns took turns baptising themselves with the excess, dumping it on each other and ruining their makeup. Even though getting sweat, face paint and Faygo in your eye sounds like a bad combination, it helps when the performers douse themselves as well in between their verses on tracks like "Halls of Illusions" and "Fuck the World."
But ICP made sure to take diabetic donnybrook to the next level with not one, but two "Faygo Breaks" during their set, in which a chorus line of back-up clown dancers in gold jumpsuits hurled buckets of pop onto the front rows. Much like going to a GWAR show year after year, it's easy to forget that this similar schtick has gone on for about three decades at this point, where the group's presence is less of a performance and more of a primal ritual.
As they cut across decades of the ICP catalog, every track seemed to bring to mind memories bygone sounds surrounding them from the boom bap of the golden era to slick club tracks like "Juggalo Party" that yearn to be radio-friendly. Say what you will about the culture they've created, but as rap gets older and ICP age right along with it, you get to thinking about how many trends and rappers haven't. Even performing their song "Bitches" featuring the late ODB is enough to make you realize how long people have been down with the clown.
Are Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope the best rappers in the world? No. But when you can rattle off over two dozen songs and the entire crowd can rap along to every word, I guess it's a moot point.
But even if you just came to snicker and take selfies, there's no denying that the show ended with a bang. A "Bang! Pow! Boom!" to be exact. During the group's final number, a crowd of fans took the stage and fired off what was left of the Faygo into the crowd as air cannons and white confetti turned the venue into a Juggalo snowstorm.
As the crowds shuffled out, almost everyone in the pit looked like they'd been tarred and feathered, with makeup dripping from their faces. By the end of it, everyone virtually looks the same; smeared, sticky and smiling. That's the beauty of going to an ICP show especially for those who didn't walk in wearing the Juggalo uniform. If you went to the show and you were truly there, you walked out wearing it anyway.