Dispatch from the Clown Show: Shaggy 2 Dope in Atlanta
When I wrote You Don’t Me But You Don't Like Me and Weird Al: The Book I decided that I would try to make Phish, Insane Clown Posse and “Weird Al” Yankovic permanent parts of my life and career. I vowed that for as long as possible, I would take in as many Phish, Insane Clown Posse and “Weird Al” Yankovic shows as I possible could.
I was fortunate to experience seven shows on “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour but that was a special case that dovetailed beautifully with the second book I’m writing about the American pop parodist. Ideally I would love to see Phish every Halloween and New Year’s Run in addition to my hometown shows. Hell, I’d love to experience Phish’s residency in Mexico during the Winter. But nobody seems remotely interested in paying me money to ever write about Phish again and I sure as shit cannot afford to see them for pleasure outside of Atlanta shows.
Insane Clown Posse is a different story. I’ve made writing about them a cornerstone of my career even though it remains a goddamned struggle finding an outlet to write about ICP every single time. It never gets easier, it just gets harder. I missed that headache last year when my son’s birth made going to the Gathering under any circumstances a no-go but I really, really want to return to the Gathering for a seventh time to experience and write about the 20th anniversary of the Gathering. Real talk: if you’d like me to write about The 20th Gathering for you, email me at email@example.com . It’s never too early to start preparing for Gathering coverage and I think I can say confidently that I’m pretty qualified to write them about this at this point.
To help make up for an ICP-less 2018, after experiencing The Gathering, The Juggalo March on Washington and Canadian Juggalo Weekend in 2017 (truly, my Faygo cup runneth over that year!) I not only bought a ticket to see Shaggy 2 Dope perform in my hometown, I splurged for the VIP Meet and Greet package for the first time in my life.
It certainly did not hurt that even with VIP included, the night still only cost me seventy dollars, which is about a hundred and twenty dollars less than a seat to see David Byrne, the last concert I attended.
There were four components to VIP: a meet and greet (perfect for people with paralyzing social anxiety like myself!), VIP laminate, exclusive Gloomy Sunday EP and an opportunity to be onstage with Shaggy for the final song.
Upon entering the venue I learned that onstage access was not happening this tour, and also that the exclusive EP, we’d been promised wasn't there either, but we’d be sent them, possibly, at some point in the future. Oh, and as for that Meet & Greet? They said Shaggy hadn’t even gotten into his make-up yet, so there was no saying when, or if that might happen, but we were encouraged to loiter by the merch booth in case the Southwest Strangler did meet and greet his fans.
There was a sign at the merch booth saying that all the tee-shirt and album and poster money for the evening would be going to a fund to save Shaggy 2 Dope’s hopelessly sick dog, who was lingering on death’s door at home while Shaggy entertained the masses. They acted as if there was a very direct relationship between how many tee-shirts were sold and the dog’s chance for survival and while that didn’t entirely make sense to me I was nevertheless touched by Shaggy’s love for his dog and sent out a hearty “Woof Woof” to my furry Juggalo colleague, who I hope is out of harm’s way and not in Shangri-La.
It was the Insane Clown Posse experience in a nutshell: that feeling of elation, community and excitement upon entering a simultaneously sacred and shabby Juggalo space followed immediately by a surge of anxiety and concern over poor planning and sub-par organization. That wonderful, welcoming sense of “This is it! I made it to the carnival!” is followed by, “Are they gonna pull this one off?”
It’s a little like a WWE match. Things look so dire for so long that it seems like there’s no way the good guys are gonna win, but hot damn if they don’t pull it off at the last minute 11 times out of ten.
On a similar note, my VIP evening with Shaggy 2 Dope did not get off to a great start. The openers, with the exception of Psychopathic artist Ouija Mac were a dreary lot and I cannot say that I was overjoyed at the absence of many of the things I had paid an exceedingly, even perversely modest amount of money for.
Then, about a half hour before the show began it was time to meet the clown so me and four other folks who were VIP in this context and most assuredly not in any other, went to a room behind the stage where an animated Shaggy 2 Dope was waiting for us.
I’m fascinated by the idea of Meet & Greets largely because I wrestle with intense social anxiety and the idea of having an unstructured conversation with a stranger is a little terrifying to me. People have suggested Skype conversations as a potential reward I could offer to patron but my anxiety fears talking to me would represent a punishment rather than a prize anybody would actually want.
Thankfully folks like Shaggy 2 Dope and “Weird Al” Yankovic have literally decades of experience making awkward, nervous, overwhelmed fans feel as comfortable as possible in their presence.
Shaggy proved enormously gregarious, laughing and joking and taking pictures and signing autographs and being social around some seriously awkward human beings.
I had Shaggy autograph my CD of the Golden Goldies ‘Gimmie Dem Fuckin' Nuggets Bitch, Or I'll Punch Your Fuckin' Face, an intentionally terrible, amateurish EP supergroup project that I got at the 2017 Gathering. The Juggalo in me was way too proud that Shaggy seemed impressed by the obscurity of the disc I asked him to sign, although the surface was too goddamn slippery to be autographed smoothly.
The real prize of the VIP was the opportunity to get your picture taken with Shaggy 2 Dope. On that front the evening was a huge success. Then came Shaggy’s climactic performance. At this point I’d experienced ICP in myriad forms. 6 Gatherings. Hallowicked. A haunted house in suburban Chicago. A strip mall in Canada. The Juggalo March on Washington. This was my first opportunity to see a Shaggy 2 Dope solo show. I was not disappointed.
As a solo artist, Shaggy commands the stage just as forcefully as ICP as a group. If you lie awake at night worrying about whether Shaggy is as dope solo as he is with ICP I can confidently assure you that the answer is "Hell yeah, ninja!”
The evening was devoid of much of the spectacle and ceremony associated with ICP and Juggalo culture. There was no Faygo armageddon and a minimum of chanting but Shaggy put on a hell of a show all the same, combining ICP classics like “I Fucked a Cop” and “Bazooka Joey” with selections from 2 Dope’s two solo albums, 2006’s F.T.F.O (for Fuck the Fuck Off) and 2017’s F.T.F.O.M.F. (for Fuck the Fuck Off Motherfucker).
I was hoping Shaggs would cheekily reference his unsuccessful attempt to dropkick Fred Durst by covering A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It” but that did not happen, alas.
At the the end of the night, I had received roughly half of what I paid for and was promised when I splurged on a VIP package. Yet in true Juggalo fashion I went home not just happy but borderline ecstatic all the same.
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