This weekend, music’s ultimate outsiders, the Insane Clown Posse, found themselves in the unlikeliest of situations—on the brink of mainstream acceptance—as tens of thousands of fans, plus a surprising uptick of press, flocked to Cave-In-Rock, Illinois for the 12th Annual Gathering of the Juggalos. Detroit’s second-most successful rappers have garnered more mainstream exposure of late than than have since they left Island Records ten years ago, largely thanks to the Gathering, a festival of music, comedy, wrestling, and enough drugs and nudity to make it the spiritual successor of Woodstock, and enough rage to make it the spiritual successor of Woodstock 1999 (at which Insane Clown Posse, incidentally, performed).
The group’s return to prominence began in 2009 when the YouTube advertisement for the festival’s 10th Anniversary went viral online and sparked a Saturday Night Live parody. Last year’s festival garnered a Village Voice cover story, in which Camille Dodero claimed that “For nearly two decades, MTV has ignored Violent J and his partner-in-clown, Shaggy 2 Dope,” which at the time was debatable but today is refutable, as MTVHive sent Chris Weingarten to cover the entire festival this past weekend (see his coverage of Day 1, Day 2, and Days 3 and 4).
The growth of interest in the festival organized by the “World’s Most Hated Band” allowed Violent J to book a surprisingly talented roster of rappers and other artists, in addition to the roster of the band’s own label Psychopathic Records. Early reports (from MTVHive, linked above, and the Village Voice) indicate that the festival was a success. The weekend’s disappointments were no-show Paul Wall and New Orleans rapper Juvenile who, unaccustomed to the Juggalo tradition of pelting performers with bottles of water and Faygo, ended his set early and stormed offstage. Those who weathered the storm of projectiles, though, were warmly welcomed by the crowds. Even Busta Rhymes, who, the Village Voice reported, arrived at the Gathering an hour after his set was slated to begin, then refused to leave his tour bus for ninety additional minutes because of pizza- and alcohol-related failures to fulfill his tour rider, had the crowd going wild once he finally took the main stage late on Thursday night.
Both Violent J’s love of hip-hop and his courting of controversial figures for the Gathering (see this year’s booking of Charlie Sheen) have led to bookings that have annoyed or angered the fiercely in-group Juggalos. Remember the barrage of trash that met Tila Tequila and Method Man last year? But the inclusion of more mainstream acts has proven to have gone more smoothly than one might anticipate. There may not exactly be a community of artists behind the scenes (the impression we’ve gotten is similar to the Busta Rhymes story above: the artists roll up to the stage, do their thing, and roll out) but the Gathering continues to grow. And remember, if you have a highly-publicized flame-out sometime in the next year, there will be a place for you at the 2012 Gathering of the Juggalos.