Getting to the Gathering
Well folks, we are deep into June. That means something different for me than it does for all of you, I would imagine. For me, the beginning of June means that I have about a month and a half to put together all of the various pieces for my yearly visit to the Gathering of the Juggalos, Insane Clown Posse’s yearly festival of arts and culture.
The Gathering is enormous fun but it is also an enormous pain in the ass. The two go hand in hand. I think part of the reason have such a blast at the Gathering is because they need to justify the considerable expense, inconvenience, travel and irritation involved with going to a crazy multi-day music festival in the middle of nowhere.
There are many components to my yearly Gathering adventure. Generally speaking, I need to find all of the following in order to make the yearly Ninja magic happen:
Transportation to The Gathering
Lodgings for the Gathering
An assignment from a reputable publication or assignment
People to hang out with at the Gathering
Obviously the first is most important. If you do not physically get to the Gathering, you are going to have a very difficult time partying with your Juggalos homies there unless you have some manner of teleportation device. It’s particularly been a pain in the ass for me because I do not drive and Gatherings are often held places only reachable by car, and then, only to a certain extent.
The second is generally the easiest to figure out, as there are many sketchy motels sort of in the general vicinity of the Gathering. The third is perhaps the trickiest. Despite the public’s enduring fascination with Insane Clown Posse, and my close to a decade of experience chronicling their music and culture, it’s always an enormous pain in the ass to find someone to pay you money to cover the Gathering.
True, I haven’t really started the process of pitching yet this year, so I’m just gonna throw this out: if you’d like to have me cover the Gathering for you this year, holla at ya boy and I’ll see what I can do about making the magic happen, as I’ve had all manner of frustrations in the past.
In 2013, for example, I wanted to show what a good company man I could be so I only approached Pitchfork Video about covering it for them. They said they were interested and would get back to me. About a week before the Gathering, the head of Pitchfork video came to Chicago for some festival and told me, “Yeah, it’d take months to get something like that set up” so was a no-go.
Last year I felt like I had not only the best Gathering pitch of my life but maybe the best pitch of my entire career: I would not only go to the Gathering and the Republican National Convention in the same week, I’d do it with my long-lost Juggalo brother. So I felt confident enough to pitch a very big national publication that had showered praise on my Juggalo coverage in the past.
They said they were interested and would get back to me, about a month and a half before the Gathering. Three weeks later, when I still had not heard back from them, I asked them if they’d made a decision and they said they’d get back to me. Then, about a week before the Gathering, they emailed to say that they didn’t really do ambitious stuff like what I was proposing, just interviews, lists and reviews, but thanks for the pitch.
At that point I was convinced it was too late to make The Gathering happen so I flew to Cleveland last year with no assignment and the very real possibility that I’d spend about 1500 dollars I did not have to do work no one would pay me for. Thank God an assignment from MEL magazine happened at the last minute and I was able to throw together a GoFundMe minutes after touching down in Ohio.
Flying into Cleveland, I had no idea how the Gathering trip would go. It went on to be one of the best experiences of my personal and professional career. I got a great book out of it, I was able to bond with my brother and sister-in-law and I made enough money from everything to afford to buy a computer and move out of my in-laws’ basement.
My plans for this year are not as ambitious as last year’s, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t intent on making my sixth Gathering happen. I’d love to do the Gathering with my brother and as much as his family as possible this year, and I also would not mind having a concrete assignment from someone other than myself, although I think Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place would be the perfect home for the most extensive and intense Gathering coverage ever. But it never hurts to have a back-up, or a plan B, C and D.
Because while it’s always an enormous pain to get to the Gathering, it’s always worth it.
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