We Fucked Up!/Too Shitty for the Shitter People: Day Four at the Gathering of the Juggalos

The Oklahoma City Gathering of the Juggalos was even more about Juggalos than most Gatherings, as evidenced by an impressively hideous program cover that broke with tradition and showcased a writing mass of Juggalos instead of the artists performing at the event or Insane Clown Posse’s Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J. 

But Saturday, the final and climactic day of the Gathering, was all about Insane Clown Posse. They were the headliners at the day’s big two events. One provided an almost excessively intimate glimpse into the psyches of the wicked clowns. The other showcased the men Juggalos know and revere as Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J as artists. 

The first event was Insane Clown Posse’s annual “Seminar”, an eagerly anticipated State of the Juggalo address where Shaggy and Violent J, but mostly Violent J (J is so outgoing and gregarious that he makes Shaggy 2 Dope seem like a silent partner) have a heart-to-heart with the sum of Juggalo nation in an overflowing and rowdy tent filled with irritable Juggalos in folding chairs. 

Like so much of the Gathering, the seminar did not go as planned. Insane Clown Posse’s seminar is one of the only Gathering events worth getting up before two in the afternoon for, and Juggalos who already had a lot to grumble about were so irritated that Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J didn’t arrive on time that they started setting off fireworks. 

I don’t blame Violent J or Shaggy 2 Dope for not wanting to race into the buzzsaw of resentment that was awaiting them in the tent. Juggalos always have questions for ICP but this year those questions had a bit of an angry, indignant quality to them. Instead of “What freshness do you have in store for Juggalos this year?” the questions were more like, “What the fuck is going on?” “Why the fuck are we in Oklahoma City?” “Where are all the drugs? Where are all the drug dealers?”, “What the fuck is going on with the March and how come seemingly nobody at the Gathering is talking about it other than Journalistalos like myself?” and, of course, “What the fuck happened with Twiztid, and Boondox, and Blaze Ya Dead Homie and all the other Gathering staples who opted out of the Gathering this year, as well as the March?” 

Violent J had to know how much anger and resentment he was facing, so after finding his extensive notes, Violent J did something both enormously ingratiating and weirdly frustrating. 

Acting in his role as the dorky, absent-minded dad of Juggalo nation, Violent J said that he had a series of long, rambling personal anecdotes to share, but that they aren’t really all that interesting to anybody other than himself, and when he’s shared them with people in the past, their eyes glazed over and they tuned him out. 

J asked if we wanted to hear these long, rambling, pointless stories and the crowd essentially responded, “Hell yeah, ninja! You do you! Nothing you could say would bore us.” J wasn’t kidding about having long, rambling, digressive anecdotes that didn’t really go anywhere or have a point. The crowd was equally sincere in digging whatever J had to say, especially when it deviated strongly from official business involving Psychopathic Records. 

J began by talking about getting up early a few weeks ago to drive his kids to school following his split with Sugar Slam. J and his longtime partner aren’t together anymore, but don’t worry: they’re still good friends and their split was amicable. Then J got into a car accident but rather get an ambulance, he simply walked away until the pain finally became so overpowering that he went to a hospital. 

He didn’t have any ID on him, however, so even though he had clear-cut physical injuries, the doctors didn’t want to give him medication out of concern that he was a junkie who had stabbed himself solely for the sake of procuring painkillers. Now, there were a couple of places J could have gone with this story. He could have used it to decry the lack of good public healthcare but instead he used it both to highlight the desperation of addicts and to articulate how this brush with death gave him a new perspective on life. 

It is entirely possible that J was trying to disarm a frustrated crowd and win sympathy points for having recently endured such a painful and potentially life-changing experience, but it also felt like this story, and this experience, and the things he took away from it, were all extremely important to J, and he needed to share these experiences with as many people as possible, even if they weren't necessarily interested in what he has to say. 

Then J told a story about his truck getting stolen recently (he's had a rough month, clearly), and an even longer, even more rambling anecdote about a time he got arrested many years earlier for stomping the shit out of a radio personality who disrespected him. The seminar began to feel like Violent J’s self-indulgent Story Hour more than an actual speech. Everybody seemed strangely onboard with that.

Even when J was teasing future projects, he got deep in a way that made it seem like talking to the crowd was a form of therapy for J, that it was cathartic to be able to share with his fans the things that matter most to him. 

J promised both a book and an upcoming documentary about John Kickjazz, Shaggy 2 Dope’s brother and the third member of Insane Clown Posse during its Carnival of Carmage days. Kickjazz doesn’t figure very prominently in Behind the Paint, Violent J’s epic, 600 page memoir, and onstage at the seminar, a visibly emotional J said that he downplayed Kickjazz’s contributions to the group out of anger that Kickjazz left the group, something that obviously affected J deeply.

J talked about attending Shaggy 2 Dope’s wedding and seeing Kickjazz in a wheelchair, lost to drugs and sadness and bitterness. Kickjazz died a few years ago, an early death following a hard life and J clearly feels like he has a moral responsibility to honor Kickjazz in death as penance for not appreciating him, or valuing him, sufficiently during his unhappy and abbreviated lifetime. 

This wasn’t just an entertainer hawking an upcoming project, this was some grown man shit. This was a moral reckoning. This was a man taking stock of his life and trying to atone in the present and the future for the crimes of the past. Like everything in the seminar, it was almost overwhelmingly emotional. J was baring his soul, and because this was important to him, it instantly became important to the crowd as well. 

The crowd was dying to hear more about the current state of ICP’s relationship with Twiztid but the closest they came to addressing the schism came when J said he sent out invitations to attend the Gathering to longtime friends and allies Twiztid and Tech 9nine, who opted out of a sense that the FBI gang issue is not something affects them or their fans personally, and consequently isn’t of interest to them. At least, that was ICP's take. 

Twiztid was conspicuous in its absence, as was talk of the March on Washington before the seminar. The crowd was apoplectic about the overwhelming presence of security and police officers. Their mere presence had a chilling effect on the Gathering. It made what supposed to feel like the freest place on earth a lot less free. 

J argued persuasively that the increased police presence at the Gathering illustrated why the March was necessary. At the Gathering, we didn’t have to be told that the police treat Juggalos differently than everyone else. We could see it with our own eyes. We didn’t have to be told that law enforcement was all up in our business because we were seeing it every day. 

That said, subtlety doesn’t always work with Juggalos. I would amend that to subtlety never works, which helps explain why Insane Clown Posse’s lyrics are blunt instruments to beat listeners over the head with. So it would not hurt to pursue a multi-level approach of both illustrating why the March is necessary but also continually telling Juggalos why the March is important, and why it’s about them and Civil Rights and freedom of expression and not just a pair of small businessmen trying to pull off an audacious publicity stunt. 

J said he was assured by the down-ass ninjas who ran the venue that it would be a safe space for Juggalos to Gather but that the head ninja at the Oklahoma Police Department probably Googled “Gathering of the Juggalos” and decided to crack down on the debauchery and hedonism that have historically made the Gathering the Gathering. 

Last year J promised a Gathering in the legal weed haven of Colorado. Why didn’t that happen? Well, as J forthrightly confided, it didn’t happen because they fucking failed. They tried to pull off a West Coast Gathering but they just couldn’t make it happen. On a similar note, J earlier addressed chatter about him messing up some of the lyrics to Shangri-La by saying that, yes, he totally did fuck up the lyrics to Shangri-La, but that’s because it’s real fucking hard to remember all the lyrics to an entire album when you’re performing it for the first time.

That pretty much was the overall theme of the seminar talk: we tried and we failed. The honesty and candor of ICP’s approach was disarming. There’s nothing wrong with failing, and as I’ve written before, the Gathering is, on some level, an epic celebration of failure. 

At the Gathering, a common mantra, heard almost as often as “Family!” and “Fuck Oklahoma” was “You fucked up!” Well, the theme of this year might as well have been “We fucked up!” To their credit, Insane Clown Posse owned that failure. That made a huge difference. 

There very nearly wasn’t a Gathering at all this year, and for a very Juggalo reason. When you’re putting on a live festival, Port-A-Potties are of the utmost importance. You can’t really have an outdoor festival without Port-A-Potties. This is, of course, something I imagine that all carnies know, and when you go to the Gathering of the Juggalos, you become a carny in spirit. 

Violent J said that the Port-a-Potty people have a circuit, that they talk to each other and have a hierarchy of preferred customers. 

As you might imagine, Juggalos rank at the very bottom of their list of desired customers and very high on their list of people they want to stay the hell away from their super-gross vessels for defecation. It got so bad that at one point it seemed like they wouldn’t be able to find a single Port-A-Potty company willing to work with them, and consequently they’d have to cancel the Gathering due to insufficient/non-existent shitters, but finally they found one company willing to take a chance and accept Psychopathic Records’ money. 

Think about that for a minute: people whose livelihood involves helping people shit and piss in gross ways, in an invariably gross environment, were looking down at Juggalos and ICP as people they weren’t willing to work with. There’s unpretentious and then there’s “Even the shitter people think we’re shitty to want to continue to work with."

So the 2017 Gathering very nearly got cancelled due to some pretty shitty issues. It’s always a small miracle that the Gathering comes together at all but after a rough start, and a deplorable lack of vice, drugs and naked boobs, the Gathering came together nicely. 

At the 2017 Gathering, ICP and Juggalos did what they always do. They took a bad situation, full of ugliness and tension and oppression, and transformed it into something positive, even life-affirming. They took all of the crap that Oklahoma City threw at them, from dangerous heat to sandstorm-like conditions to cops lurking, and made something wonderful and inclusive out of it all the same. 

Like Vanilla Ice, Insane Clown Posse performed alongside a writhing mass of Juggalos overjoyed to be onstage with their heroes for the grand finale. ICP’s set began with a crowd-pleasing flurry of popular favorites before segueing into some less rapturously received new songs and finally closing with “Down with the Clown.” It was the perfect song to end the concert and the Gathering.

Juggalos will do extreme things to illustrate that they’re down with the clown. They will endure four drug-free days in the staleness of Oklahoma City. They get Hatchet-Man tattoos. But it remains to be seen whether they will travel to Washington D.C and get involved in politics for what would probably be the first time in their lives. I hope to God that they’re willing to make that sacrifice, and that effort, but getting Juggalos to D.C to party for their rights remains a challenge that makes pulling off a Gathering in a conservative city with a police force with a hard-on for busting Juggalos seem like a breeze by comparison. 

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