Everyone’s got something to say about the Gathering of the Juggalos, the increasingly popular music festival staged by Insane Clown Posse every year in the middle of nowhere in Illinois. Beyond hosting artists from their own Psychopathic Records roster, the Gathering has attracted more and more mainstream attention over the last few years, drawing non-Juggalo acts and journalists to see what the hell has been happening here for 13 years.
We wanted in, so we tapped Toronto’s Psychopathic-approved horror rockers So Sick Social Club to give us their perspective on playing the festival. Their roadie, Sigmond, came back with this decidedly un-Village Voice account of booze, clowns, and sexual innuendo.
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Have you ever seen naked girls in clown makeup making love to soda bottles, people smashing meat piñatas over each other’s heads and the devil himself ride a dirt bike into a lake?
So Sick Social Club had the honor of performing at this year’s most anticipated underground music festival, the 13th Annual Gathering of the Juggalos. After a brutal 17 hour drive across the United States through corn fields and unmarked roads, Toronto’s horror hip-hop metal group arrived at the Insane Clown Posse’s man-made Dark Carnival, held in the remote forests of Cave in Rock, Illinois.
The Gathering’s environment is like no other festival around. Thousands upon thousands of Juggalos from all over the world flock to this event for five days of wild partying, wicked music, professional wrestling, and to be showered in Faygo soda pop. From the moment the tour van rolled onto the camp grounds, the band was embraced by Juggalos and welcomed to the chants of “FAMILY” and “WHOOP WHOOP.”
My eyes were popping out of my head, as I have never seen such a backdrop (ferris wheels, monsters running around with chainsaws, Ron Jeremy playing his harmonica, Cheech and Chong driving a golf cart). The whole setting seemed like the coolest nightmare come to life. Juggalos were rocking out everywhere covered in hatchet man logos and face paint.
After I watched the band do a quick sound check on the Freakshow stage, I made my way down to catch a live performance by Soulfly. Max and the crew tore it up on stage and had the whole crowd chanting, “EYE for an EYE!” The next thing you know, it was 1am and it was time to watch So Sick Social Club represent Canada as they tore up the stage, opening for Mushroomhead.
Their set was a true highlight, as they had multiple zombie strippers get barenaked during their performance and doused the crowd in their favorite drink: Jagermiester. I was surprised to see that they had a huge following in this scene, as at least 100 or so Juggalos were sporting make-shift So Sick masks and shirts in the crowd. Juggalos rocked out to material off their album and started a crazy mosh pit when they played “Sweet Nothing.” They actually had an executioner come on stage and keep a bloody prisoner captive.
Following the set, I watched the band sign numerous autographs and slung merch as they hung out with their brothers, wrestling icons the Headbangers. The group also had the privilege of watching a bunch of Juggalettes play hide the bottle.
Everyone watched Mushroomhead kill the stage with their water drums, and then we made our way over to another stage hidden in the woods. It was surreal to see MH and then immediately catch sets from rap legends Warren G and the Pharcyde. Marijuana smoke filled the camp grounds like a morning fog as Eazy-E’s son Lil E rocked out at 3am.
Insane parties continued all night long as the music of Psychopathic Records blared from over the thousands of campsites. Insane Clown Posse’s new album, The Mighty Death Pop!, was constantly on repeat. I was surprised to see ICP themselves — Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope — kicking back with all of their fans and enjoying all of the festivities.
The one thing I wanted to mention is that for a fan base that is painted with such a negative image, I have never felt so welcome and safe in my life. Everyone was very cool and kept calling each other family. Juggalos are a rare breed; they like all this violent music, yet they have nothing but love for everyone! The band had to leave at 5am to get back to Toronto for their set at Heavy T.O., so my Gathering time was short lived. I can tell you this though, I am dying to get back there next year and be “Down With the Clowns!”