Gawker's resident expert on Juggalo culture, Camille Dodero, is attending the annual Gathering of the Juggalos, a five-day music festival hosted by Detroit's horrorcore rappers Insane Clown Posse, who proudly advertise themselves as the "Most Hated Band in the World." This is the first of her dispatches.
At the Gathering of the Juggalos, it doesn't seem odd that you're contemplating a meal from a food stand called the Oh Shit!!! Kitchen that serves the $10 Oh Shit!!! Onion and the $7 Oh Shit!!! fries. It registered amusingly yesterday, when you saw a couple taking turns deep-throating a pickle here, casually partaking in a game heralded familiarly on the menu as "The Pickle Challenge Is Back!!" like McDonald's Monopoly. But today, you don't even blink at the topless girl asking for a Faygo Float until you hear the guy behind the counter yell, “I need two Oh Shits with chicken!”
That brings you back.
It's not even the sentence's absurdity that captivates you, it's the person who said it. The man who hollered the order is wearing a purple Jimi Hendrix shirt. He's bearded with a crew cut, a Midwestern James Murphy. Pleasantly average, the guy at your older cousin's BBQ who breaks the silence by saying that it's probably time to trade in his truck. You see his type so often in the daily fog he's become a part of the mist. But here, he's so oppressively present it's uncomfortable. He's from out there.
Out there is not HogRock Campgrounds, 115 privately owned acres in the rural village of Cave-In-Rock, Illinois, a 317-person town whose local laws do not require any sort of permit for this 5,000-person festival. Out there is not enclosed by serene farmlands and the Ohio River. Out there is not a sprawling psycho-porn shantytown with an open-air drug market where you can buy doses, mushrooms, Xanax bars, Oxys, mescaline, molly—whatever, really. Out there, they don't know why you'd want to take these drugs when they're so clearly not safe. Out there, they have no idea how extremely fun it is to launch a bottle of cheap Faygo soda into the air and just not give a fuck.
Out there, they think identifying as a Juggalo merely means you are a fan of the band Insane Clown Posse, that it is what you like, not who you are. Out there, they think everyone in here wears clown make-up. Out there they don't think you're capable of nuance. Out there, they don't have an RV converted into a food truck called Titty Burger, where burgers cost $8 if you don't show your boobs and are free if you do.
Out there, they don't see their contradictions.
Out there they think everyone here is gross. Out there is where people frown. Out there is where there are cops and bills and bosses. Out there they will look at pictures of you on the Internet and laugh—ah they will laugh—and they will think you don't know.
Out there, they don't know.
Out there, they don't know why someone who was molested growing up would want to disarm their angry impulses by channeling them into silly revenge fantasies about killing child predators. Out there, they don't know why two clowns would actually have to say, explicitly, that beating your wife is not OK, in a song. Out there, they don't know what it's like to have your alcoholic dad refuse to fix the toilet for so long that you'd regularly have to walk two miles to take a shit. They don't know that the same dad then tried to kill himself one night upstairs, a night your little brother had a friend sleeping over and YOU had to handle all of it and take the kids away calmly and call the ambulance and be the man. They don't know why, given that household option, you chose to be homeless for the rest of high school and live in your car. They don't know that you graduated and married the girl of your dreams at 20 and had a Faygo bar at your wedding. They don't know this is a true story and that's why you have a candy-apple-red Hatchetman tattooed on your right hand.
Out there, they don't know about Blaze Ya Dead Homie or Zug Island or Axe Murder Boyz or Boondox. Out there, they don't realize that having the murder-rap duo Twiztid leave Insane Clown Posse's label Psychopathic Records after more than 15 years was an enormously emotional and structural upheaval—the Juggalo version of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore splitting up.
Out there, they don't know that ABK stands for Anybody Killa and that he is a Native American rapper with a severe lisp. They don't know that when he sings the chorus of his track that’s main refrain is “Superkillafragelistic," it comes out "Ttth-uper-killa-fragil-ittthtic." They don't know that the Detroit native is missing part of his middle finger, which he lost while working in an automotive-parts factory years ago. They don't know that’s why he’s so good at Faygo rockets, the uniquely Juggalo skill of launching furiously-shaken two-liter soda bottles into crowds. They don't know that he just sticks his stub in the uncapped mouth and they fly.
[Art by Jim Cooke; photos by Nate "Igor" Smith; more of his photos from the first day of the Gathering are here.]