Photos by Clare O'Kane
I saw Insane Clown Posse perform at the Oakland Metro Opera House recently, and believe it or not, I had a good fucking time. It was nice to be around people going crazy and having fun without preening or being concerned with worrying about whether they were having the right kind of fun or if they were being judged. Everyone was getting wasted, dancing, and socializing. It was a refreshing change compared to the shows I usually go to, where apathetic people try their best to avoid talking to one another.
Holy shit, I thought to myself, maybe I can be a Juggalo. Then Violent J announced to his minions, “Last night there was way more titties in the crowd. You ladies got to step it up. Show some titties.” Well, let me think this over some more.
But my flirtation with the thought of becoming a Juggalo, however brief, got me thinking, Were there "ordinary" people like me who had taken the leap and gone all the way down with the clown? Surely not all Juggalos fit the mean-spirited stereotype of rednecks who huff glue in between shifts at shitty convenience marts and cut loose by flashing their saggy, pierced bodies at strangers for bottles of Faygo. There are likely millions of Juggalos, after all—some of them must be prosperous, white-collar types who've never stepped into a trailer park in their lives. Where were those Juggalos?
As I surveyed the sea of tattoos, clown makeup, and baggy jeans, as if on cue, I caught the eye of a tall African American gentleman wearing a V-neck shirt and skinny jeans who was clearly digging the concert. I had to talk to him, and ask him what he was doing there—maybe he could explain Juggalo-dom to me.
His name is Jamal, and he's a self-proclaimed "black, hipster Juggalo." He agreed to let me interview him, despite the potential embarrassment associated with letting the world know that he attends events where people spray soda on one another for fun.
VICE: So you're a fan of ICP?
Jamal: For many, many years.
When did it start? How old were you?
What inspired it? Just hearing a song, or what?
It was just something really different, and I mean this is like in the mid-90s. It was really different at the time. It was kind of hard to come by. I don't know. I never would have seen myself ever listening to a band like them, but I kid you not, they just get in your head.
Is there a Juggalo community out here in the Bay Area?
Not that I've seen. Every now and again, I'm on the bus and I see someone who's obviously a Juggalo, and then I will go out of my way to be like, “Dude, it’s so nice to see you.”
Do you feel embarrassed to tell people that you’re a fan?
No? You sure?
I don’t think I’ve ever felt embarrassed.
So what does it mean exactly to be a Juggalo?
A real sense of bonding with a group of people who are all witnessing something really creative and awesome.
Do you attend a lot of ICP events?
This is I think my ninth show. I’ve skipped years, but I go whenever it’s convenient. I’ve gone to Chicago and Detroit to see them, because it had been years since I had.
Have you been to the Gathering?
No, I haven’t.
Do you plan to?
Maybe, but I don’t know. I’m older, and honestly I do find myself having to justify my presence at most ICP shows.
Really? Why is that?
Well, because I’m a six-foot-tall hipster black guy.
Actually, that’s something I’m interested in hearing about. Have you experienced racism from other Juggalos?
I’ve definitely gotten my fair share of confused looks, and I’ve definitely had confrontational people come up to me at shows. Pretty much all I have to tell them is my Juggalo bona fides, like how long I’ve been listening, what album, what Joker’s card brought me in. Once people realize that, I’m family. Then again, it is awkward because I do have to do that every now and again. At the same time, I’m not sure how many black people are into ICP. I never see that many at any of the shows I go to.
So when you meet people at these shows, they become friends?
It always takes a minute or two, but especially during opening bands' sets, or when you’re in line, there’s a sense of, Oh my God I’m so happy to be here. These are my family. They don’t even know it yet. In between the opening band and when ICP starts, everyone just kind of syncs up. Everyone’s got that same excitement. Everyone is one, and one in a way that I don’t experience with any other band. Most of the music I listen to is for me alone, but I love the experience of being at these shows. I do love their message of "your other family [are Juggalos]."
What other kinds of music do you like?
My favorite band is the Pixies. I grew up loving Counting Crows. In general I’m like a Brit pop, old Cure kind of guy. David Bowie is my God.
This is a drastic contrast.
Yeah it is.
Would you put these guys up there with the Pixies?
Yes, right up there with the Pixies and XTC.
For more on Juggalos: