Has any band or artist been more demonized by modern mainstream society quite like the Insane Clown Posse? Since their formation in the early 90s, the success and fandom of the clown faced rappers seems to have been almost eclipsed by the hatred of the group and its fans. And the dislike isn't merely among the contrarian hipster elite of music appreciators (that bands like Creed and Nickleback garner); even the mention of their name to even the most casual observers earn sneers and groans. Existing in this climate would make anyone defensive, and it seems that now being a fan of the Insane Clown Posse comes with the duty of always being a Juggalo apologist. The Juggalo Culture (whatever that may be) has been mocked and ostracized for years, sometimes for justified reasons and sometimes unfairly.
by Brian Nac
Full disclosure: I am not a fan of the Insane Clown Posse. In fact, I have been in the previously mentioned contingent who has mocked the group and its fans from afar. But I went into Friday's concert with a relatively open mind; I wanted to experience a Juggalo event, and a Halloween time gig at Stage AE sounded like the perfect opportunity. I felt a bit like a stranger in a strange land on this relatively warm October night. I arrived shortly after the doors opened at 7 and was surprised to hear that the show was not a sellout. There was plenty of empty space to wander the grounds throughout the night. The band didn't hit the stage until about 10:30, so what follows is a collection of random observations on the good, the bad, and the ugly of a Pittsburgh ICP show,mostly from the smoking area outside the venue. With events of this type the music often takes a backseat to the experience of the crowd and vibe, so forgive me if I don't do a song by song analysis of the setlist.
-2 things that were not present at this show: modesty and irony. Looking good or fashionable takes a backseat to celebrating being a Juggalo. I'd say 75% of the crowd was either wearing an official t-shirt and/or was donning make-up. Random acts of nudity were also present during the build up to the actual performance.
-Most unlikely attendee: a 70 something woman who looked like she wandered in by mistake from a bingo night. The average age of the crowd on this night was about 25, so seeing a woman who is old enough to have seen Frank Sinatra during his heyday is an odd sight. I wonder if she has a hatchet man tattoo.
-Unexpected overheard conversation: 2 fans in full makeup discussing the different budget plans of the presidential candidates. Direct quote: "I'm sorry bro, but I make way too much money to be votin' for Obama again."
-I know I'm late to the game on this one, but Juggalos sure do love chanting. Does any other band have such good chanters?
-While stories of Juggalos being violent are quite popular, I found all the representatives at this show to be relatively peaceful. At most you'd witness an ass smacking contest where the rules were vague and both sides claimed victory.
-There were 3 opening acts on this tour and the crowd didn't seem to very interested. Besides the crowd who never left the front of the stage all night, most in attendance seemed content to hang near the bar.
-Since the venue had a policy against serving alcohol to those in face paint, many non make-up'ed people ending up buying drinks for the full clowns. One Juggalette offered me $3.50 "tip" to stand in line for a beer for her and her boyfriend.
-I think the pre-show excitement wore out most in the crowd. By the time the show started at 10:30, the air had been let out of the balloon. I also get the impression that most of the fans who come to these shows have been coming for years and have the performance all but memorized. There were moments earlier in the evening where I thought that I've never witnessed a group of people so genuinely excited to experience a performance. But when the show finally started, it felt like the peak of the party had already taken place. The band dumped gallons and gallons of Faygo soda on the crowd (a constant and familiar gag that even the most rabid of fan seemed to lose interest in after the first few songs) and almost noone was left unscathed by splash back from the carbonated treat. The crowd stared on in surprisingly muted appreciation for the entire set (which didn't last much longer than an hour)
So in closing the Insane Clown Posse came to town and played Insane Clown Posse songs to Insane Clown Posse fans and things went about as can be expected. And while I think the energy of the room would have been better if the band played a few hours earlier, it still can not be denied that the spirit and passion of the Juggalo Nation, for better or worse, is alive and well in the Steel City.