Photos by Brad Troemel
"What is a Juggalo? A dead body / Well he ain't really dead, but he ain't like anybody that you've ever met before / He'll eat Monopoly and shit out Connect Four." –ICP, "What is a Juggalo?"
With the possible exception of the Jews, no other group has eaten as big an amount of shit over the course of its existence as the Juggalos.
From the earliest reviews of the Insane Clown Posse's singular brand of circus-themed swear-rap, the general contention has been that there is no way music could possibly sink below this point. This is the bottom. It's almost as if ICP intentionally cherry-picked the worst aspects of goth, punk, gangsta rap, rave, nu-metal, and real metal to create a sub-culture so universally repulsive as to forestall any attempts at outside involvement. Basically, they trumped all previous claims of FTW, and then wrote a nearly unlistenable song called "Fuck the World" just to hammer the point home.
But while everybody else was busy acting like they were above gems such as "Bugz On My Nutz," Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope were forging a media empire for their base of extremely devoted followers, the Juggalo Family—sort of like a rap-alliance between Deadheads and the KISS Army. The Family spread rapidly across the poorer swaths of the Midwest and established a huge and more or less self-sufficient underground with its own distribution network, porn, churches (seriously), charities, file-sharing services, anti-drunk-driving coalition (JADD), initiatory secret society, GLBT activist, pro- and backyard-wrestling circuits, and two MySpace variations (ninjaspace.net and the possibly defunct myjuggalospace.com).
If you want some scope of their national coverage, just plug the word "Juggalo" into google. Wait, actually I just tried that and it really wasn't that impressive, but trust me, they are big and forever getting bigger. I know, because I just spent the weekend with a good 6,000 of them.
The Gathering of the Juggalos is like the horror-rap equivalent of the Hajj. ICP started it in 2000 as a two-day festival in their native Michigan to showcase the bands on their label, Psychopathic Records, but over the next few years it metastasized into a four-day-long acid-tit-and-rap binge, drawing thousands of Juggalos from across the country and featuring performances by outside rappers such as 2 Live Crew, Three 6 Mafia, and Vanilla Ice.
Except for a lucky three-year spate in northern Ohio, the Gathering has been forced to move every year due to crowd issues (the second one in Toledo resulted in a full-scale indoor police riot), and up until the third year, ICP had yet to make it through a complete set on account of audience overenthusiasm. This year's was being held at a biker camp just outside the 350-person townlet of Cave-In-Rock right on the southern border of Illinois, an hour's drive in all directions from anything approaching civilization.
I'd been hesitant to dive into the Gathering on my own, but at the last minute a Welsh Juggalo named Daff I'd emailed at juggalonews.com called me and offered to be my guide. I bought my tickets through ICP's website, and two days later I was Juggalo-bound.
"What is a Juggalo? A fucking lunatic / Somebody with a rope tied to his dick / Then he jumps out a ten-story window / [slide whistle followed by breaking glass] Oh." I wanted to arrive by Friday afternoon, in time to get situated and catch Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony's evening set, but shitty traffic caused me to miss the boat (like, literally—the last ferry across the Ohio River left an hour before I got there). After driving up and back down the river for two hours in search of a bridge I gave up and crashed in the back seat of my rental car next to a cornfield. DAY ONE
"What is a Juggalo? He ain't a bitch, boy, / He'll walk through the hills and beat up a rich boy / Walks right in the house while you're having supper, and dips his nuts in the soup… bwoop." As I pulled up to the gates of the campground the next day, two well-dressed older men shoved a couple of Jack Chick tracts through my passenger window while a group of Juggalos super-soaked them from across the street. Based on my later run-ins with crowd-sprayers, it's safe to assume that the substance being rained down on the preachers was at least partially Faygo, a Detroit-based bargain soda ICP has elevated to the level of Juggalo sacrament—arguably keeping the business afloat for the last decade). Starting right when I got there and culminating in several full-scale drenchings on the final night, I was personally subject to no less than eight separate Faygo showers over the course of the weekend. In spite of their hosing, the two Christian guys stood their ground with strained smiles. During the month leading up to the Gathering, another minister led a campaign to ban the Juggalos from Cave-In-Rock which ended up doing little more than providing fodder for the local paper and turning its message board into a hilarious shouting match between residents, Juggalos, and Juggalos pretending to be residents. He also supposedly converted an Arizona Juggalo who accidentally showed up a week early and was stranded in the woods without any sort of vehicle, as the Southern Illinoisan dutifully reported. Following a lax security check by a pair of girls in lawn chairs, I drove down a short gravel path and parked on a hill above a sea of early 90s Mercurys and minivans, makeshift tents, and luminescently pale skin. From my vantage point I was one of maybe two guys and three girls I could see wearing a top. The creeping sensation of culture-shock reminded me of going to my first concert in middle school, but a lot more dread-y than exciting. Not only did I look nothing like anyone I had seen since I crossed the river, but I was also a good five-to-ten years older than most of the kids milling around, thereby abrogating my right to not have the shit beaten out of me should things turn ugly. After finding a good plot to park and pitch my tent, I hopped back in the car and thumbed through the surprisingly well-printed festival guide. There were an ridiculous number of activities scheduled around the performances: Wrestling matches, autograph sessions, movie screenings, a magic show, a talent show, poker tournaments, foxy boxing, foxy wrestling, carnival rides, helicopter rides. Each day officially ran from 1 PM to 6 in the morning. I decided to check out one of the hour-long "artist seminars" to get things started. On my way from the camping area to the seminar tent, I was overtaken by the Love Train, a tractor-drawn flatbed trailer which slowly circles the campground—essentially your typical hayride, but with more trash-throwing and tits. One of the passengers nailed me with an empty plastic bottle and shouted "Woot woot!" the call of the Juggalo, I quickly learned. During one of our crackly phone conversations a few days earlier, Daff had told me he'd be hanging out with friends of his in the Detroit Hatchet Rydas Car Club. I figured that by canvassing the participants in that day's car show, I'd have a fighting chance of tracking them down. As it turned out, their three cars were the sole vehicles in a huge cordoned-off field. Two of the Rydas, a heavily pierced kid named Kent and an older, spider-dreaded guy named Bill—both dressed in loose gangish reds—led me up to a pavilion where my host was seated at a picnic table with five other dudes playing a board game called The Quest for Shangri-La. It's sort of a cross between D&D and Clue, but for Juggalos. After wrapping up his game, Daff led me on a tour of "Hatchet Landing," the official Juggalo name for this year's campsite, and filled me in one what I'd missed so far. Not only had Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony played a mostly un-booed set (the traditional reception for non-Juggalo bands—the first to crack and leave the stage is the winner of that year's "Bubba Sparxx Award"), they'd been followed by one of Psychopathic Record's two ICP-led supergroups, Dark Lotus, who wear Sunn 0)))-style monks' robes and are otherwise vaguely "mystical." The other one, Psychopathic Rydas, is a 90s-gangsta-rap pastiche composed of roughly the same members. They played the other stage that night at two. We caught the tail-end of a show by Liquid Assassin and Killa C, who were dead-on a rap version of Yogi and Boo Boo. Following the last song, C made some cryptic remarks about being tailed by "the feds" and hurried offstage, leaving Liquid Assassin to gush over their reception: "I don't know if you guys realize, but it touches us to know we've got so much support out there and that we're all a part of the same Juggalo family—" The fact he was saying this to a crowd of maybe 50 people in front of a park pavilion in the middle of the afternoon didn't strike anyone around me as funny. Actually, the majority of them took the sincerity and ran with it, cutting him off by chanting "FAM-I-LY! FAM-I-LY!" It was the first of many, many, many times I'd hear that specific chant over the next two days. Then Killa C used his wireless mic to do a shoutout from the bathroom. That part was actually pretty classic. Daff and I crossed a gravel path to a little tent compound where he introduced me to Scottie, a Texan ninja who runs Juggalonews's chief competitor, faygoluvers.net. Scottie explained for me the difference between the terms Juggalo and ninja (ninja's more casual and familiar, like dawg or nigga—but there's also a weird sense in which it refers to real ninjas) and then elaborated on the "real" meaning behind the J-word. "For all the kids you see who are into it and are wearing the same clothes or face-paint or whatever, that's not all being a Juggalo is," he told me. "It's actually more about having a certain mindset, and understanding who you really are without getting bogged down with what the rest of the world feels. Violent J has said, you don't even have to be a fan of ICP to be a Juggalo." I got roughly the same answer from everyone else I asked about the nature of Juggalodom. As we left the tent, Daff remembered something he had been trying to tell me during Killa C's set before a barrage of garbage from the Love Train broke his train of thought. "A lot of the lyrics can seem dark when you first hear it, but if you listen to them in their proper context it's really quite a positive message that ICP are trying to get across. There's some cartoonish violence going on, but generally the people on the receiving end are the types of people who deserve it—racists, child-molesting priests, those sort of folks. Mostly though, the music's all about unity, and looking out for the members of your Juggalo Family. Really more than anything, the feeling of being at the Gathering every year is like being at a reunion—except in this case it's a family of your own choosing." I felt like this was sort of the same deal as with any fan-centric band, but then he clued me in to ICP's central credo. "The biggest part of the Insane Clown Posse up until recently has been the six Joker's Card albums, which are based on a revelation Violent J had when he and Shaggy first formed the band," he told me. "The first card was the Carnival of Carnage, which established this idea of the Dark Carnival [kind of their personal metaphor for life or society]. Every few years they'd put out another Joker's Card album revealing a new aspect of the Carnival—first Ringmaster who was kind of the Carnival's overseer and a manifestation of people's sins, then Riddlebox, The Great Milenko, The Amazing Jeckel Brothers, and then they announced that for the sixth and final card, there would be two releases. "When the first one came out, The Wraith: Shangri-La, it was totally different from anything they'd released up to that point," he went on. "There'd been hints of the direction in which they'd been heading if you followed the lyrics closely, but here they laid it all out straight and said, 'The Dark Carnival is God, we're not sorry if we fooled you—we've always followed God and want all Juggalos to find him.' The second part took a while to come out, and there were rumors that ICP were sort of reluctant to make it. It was called The Wraith: Hell's Pit and is all a warning about the perils of Hell." As I was digesting all this, we passed by a small, fetid pond in the middle of the site where several ninjas were lounging on a floating dock. There were about four or five large upside-down fish at the surface of the water near our end, and three more flattened and covered with flies in the surrounding grass. "Every year there's some sort of swimming hole at the Gathering," Daff told me, "The guys from Twiztid dubbed it 'Lake Hepatitis.' I'm not sure what happened with the fish, but they weren't floating like this the first day." Maybe runny face paint had thrown off the ph balance, I suggested. "Maybe. Folks were slapping each other with them when they first started surfacing." I was having a bit of a hard time reconciling all the weird spiritual and individual-empowerment business with the general adolescent dumb I'd been basting in all day. The few people I'd talked to so far had been really well-spoken and thoughtful, but it seemed like everyone around me was inarticulate to the point of it being sort of endearing. Daff was able to put it into concrete terms: "The thing with ICP is there are very few sort of 'casual fans.' I'd say people who like the music but don't consider themselves Juggalos make up maybe five to ten percent of their overall fanbase. The rest are the type of kids you see here." I was momentarily distracted as we passed by a pavilion full of ninjas bouncing a beach ball to the strains of "Help Me, Ronda." "Oh, that's Violent J's Beach Boys Blowout Beach Blast, or some other alliteration," Daff informed me. "He's really into the Beach Boys." After I regained my composure, he resumed his explanation. "Then there's five or ten percent of Juggalos at the other end of the spectrum who are the sort of people I like to hang out with. They're the type who really think about the whole Dark Carnival and are into things like the Quest for Shangri-La and Morton's List." He took a minute to choose his next words. "There's sort of an opinion about Juggalos, that a lot aren't very bright—" There was a sudden eruption of cheering down the hill from us, where the Love Train had just rolled behind some trees. "You know what that is, right?" Daff asked me. "Titty-flash?" I hazarded as a guess. Daff nodded gravely. NIGHT ONE
"What is a Juggalo? He just don't care / He might try to put a weave in his nut-hair / Cause he could give a fuck-less what a bitch thinks / He tells her that her butt stinks, and all that." At around seven, people started migrating from the campground to the main stage en mass. There was a lot more face paint and fake blood than during the day, as well as costumes ranging in complexity from basic jester get-ups to Faygo Man suits improvised out of empty 12-packs to full-on ensembles of kids in matching face paint and blood-stained aprons with the Psychopathic Records "hatchet man" logo (sort of a reworked kokopelli with a meat cleaver). As the evening performances began I started picking up on the nuances of Juggalo trash-pelting. It, like the Faygo drenchings, seemed to be more a measure of general audience enthusiasm than any sort of commentary on the target being pummeled. For instance, during Anybody Killa's set, the throwing dwindled down to just a few wayward bottles and was replaced in some segments of the crowd by ninjas facing away from the stage while giving a backward double-bird—the apparent result of an old beef between ABK and the rest of Psychopathic's talent pool. When Mushroomhead took the stage afterward, the fusillades began picking up steam, finally reaching a fever pitch by the time that night's headliners, Twiztid, started playing. Once the performances had ended, the herd made its way over to the wrestling ring for Bloodmania! a tournament pitting amateurs against professionals from ICP's Juggalo Championshit Wrestling league. By this point I'd grown more or less inured to the "Woot woot!"s and the "FAM-I-LY! FAM-I-LY"s and the "SHOW YOUR TITS! SHOW YOUR TITS!"s. I was even starting to get into the throwing shit. The guy in front of me was really giving it his all on this front, dropping to his knees after each lob to scrounge up more ammo. Even though it was massively interfering with all the matches I assumed everybody outside the ring was cool with the perpetual garbage shower. Suddenly, out of the blue, an anti-pelting contingent sprang up behind me and began chanting "STOP THROWING SHIT! STOP THROWING SHIT!" It was the first time I'd ever seen a crowd chastise itself. The guy in front of me shrugged it off until one of the chanters singled him out and yelled, "Hey asshole, I just want to see some fucking wrestling, all right?" Furious, the shit-chucker spun around and faced his accuser, bellowing, "And I just want to see some fucking wrestler get nailed with some fucking shit!" I was certain someone was about to get clocked, but before punches could be thrown two dudes in huge shorts ran up panting like they'd just discovered gold. "Dude! We're going to go get a dead fish to throw up there!" I didn't catch the anti-throwing guys' reaction to this announcement, but pro-throwing guy yelled louder than I've ever heard anyone yell in my life. At around three, my exhaustion from a full day in the sun started to compete heavily with a burgeoning sensation of titlust. I held out for one last set from the girls who hold those number cards between rounds, then made my way back to the campground, where most of the surrounding tents were blaring hip-hop. I thought briefly of trying to make some night buddies, but I was way too zonked. The second I zipped my flap shut, somebody came by and tried the doors of my car. DAY TWO
"What is a Juggalo? Well he ain't a phony / He'll walk up and bust a nut in your macaroni / And watch you sit there and finish up the last bit / Cause you're a stupid-ass dumb fucking idiot." I awoke the next morning around ten to the sounds of fireworks and an argument between two groups of campers over whether or not Canada is stupid. Since activities didn't start until one, I decided to drive into town and see if I could find something other than carnival food for breakfast. Granted it was church-time on a Sunday, but Cave-In-Rock looked like the whole town had decided to take the weekend off. At least two restaurants boasted large, hand-lettered signs announcing that they would be closed for the exact dates of the Gathering, although the real prize I was searching for, a "Juggalos Not Welcome" sign I'd heard rumors of, had either come down or never happened in the first place. When I got back to the campground, a mousy girl in glasses and a bikini top approached and cheerfully asked "Titties for a dollar?" I stuttered for a couple seconds trying to figure out the right answer, but she just shrugged it off and moved on to the next tent. After checking on my stuff, I started to circle the grounds in search of Daff, but was waylaid by a pair of guys and a girl who looked like they were pushing maybe 14 and were offering titties for a cigarette. I took another pass (although I ended up scoring a freebie when some passing ninjas woot-wooted us), but did sit down for a little while to see how this year's party was going for them. "We all took some ecstasy the first night," the guy without a shirt on told me. "Then me and her did some acid when we were coming down and now we're just getting ready for ICP tonight, which is going to be amazing." "You can get absolutely anything you want out here," the shirted guy added. "Acid, shrooms, K, opium—all you have to do is shout and people'll come right up to you and offer it." "Yeah, everyone here's so accepting and nice to each other," the tit-girl said. "When I first got here, I was really shy." As soon as I left them I gave the acid-calling thing a try. Within seconds two Juggalos emerged from separate crowds offering to take me back to their tents. I have the feeling they were both on the level, but for some reason their eagerness totally triggered my sketch alarm so I pretended I'd left my wallet back in my car and fled. Eventually I crossed paths with Daff, who had just won the Quest For Shangri-La finals and wanted to introduce me to a Tennesseean ninja named Brad who was deeply involved with another of the Juggalos' more cerebral offerings, Morton's List. The way Brad broke it down for me, ML is basically a mystical fraternal order as determined by an RPG-version of truth or dare. You roll a thirty-sided die three times, match your numbers to an entry in a big book of quests, and then have one hour to complete your assigned quest or at least give it a decent effort. If you're successful you ascend to different degrees, like in Freemasonry. Brad had a bunch of the degrees he'd earned tattooed on his arm, and was going to do the rest as soon as he got the money together. While he was showing me his quest-log and gear, a guy in basketball shorts and a t-shirt hanging from his head came up to us and asked if I worked for a magazine. I'd been upfront with everybody I'd talked to and was holding a tape-recorder in my hand, so I didn't see any sense in trying to deny what I was up to. "Oh man, I really need to talk to you when you're done," he said, with an unsettling smile on his face. I thanked Brad for giving me the scoop on the List, then turned to face my new pal. "We are the only two people who know the emperor isn't wearing any clothes," he whispered through his teeth. "I'm Brad Troemel. I'm a photographer from Chicago doing a project on the Gathering and you are the first non-Juggalo I've talked to in days." It was like I'd just run into Dennis Hopper's in Apocalypse Now. After taking off my shirt so as not to "blow his cover," Brad and I retreated to the corndog tent to swap notes. While I'd been more or less limited to a nerd's eye view of the proceedings, Brad had been immediately accepted as a member of the Family and thereby given a more up close and personal perspective. "I was stuck on the Ferris wheel with a girl simultaneously on PCP and acid," he told me. "She kept alternating between quiet mumbling and lucidly threatening to hang me from my entrails. That was a little intense." He'd also been witness to two of the Gathering's finest open-mic sessions, the first a band called the Jumping Ninjas whose deaf frontman rapped in sign language while dressed in full ninja gear. The second was a rapper from New Jersey named Daville, who after declaring his set the opening of "Krunk Fest," proceeded to chuck full cans of beer point-blank into the audience, then ran through the crowd stealing people's joints, returned to the stage smoking four joints at once, cried, barfed, then descended into the crowd one more time to brain people with a plastic folding chair. The best I'd seen was a fat guy in clown paint who couldn't think of anything to rap besides the line "You want fries with that?" Per Brad's recommendation, we went to ride the Tempest, a tilt-a-whirl variation being tended by a carny with a bent wrench and a can of beer. We stayed in our car for about five go-rounds—every new load of Juggalos who boarded instinctively turned to their right as soon as the ride started and began screaming "Yo, fuck the purple car!" NIGHT TWO
"What is a Juggalo? A Juggalo. Aks what it is well fuck if I know. / What is a Juggalo? I don't know. But I'm down with the clown and I'm down for life, yo." ICP closes the festival each year, and from what I'd been repeatedly warned, their set is the Faygo shower to end all Faygo showers. Bearing that in mind, I changed into an oversized t-shirt with a bloody skull I'd scored the day before and borrowed a steak knife from my neighbors to convert my jeans into shorts. I was now all set. A parade of Juggalos in their Sunday night best began making its way through the gravel trails leading to the main stage. For all the eyefucks I'd been dealt the previous days, nothing prepared me for this stream of amazement. There were clown and serial-killer-clown and serial-killer-victim costumes that must have taken hours to assemble. There were 15-foot-high wooden hatchet-men signs, tits of all shapes and sizes (though mostly pubescent-looking), and at least one naked guy painted half-green and half-red except for his dick. It was like some sort of creepy religious procession for poor Midwestern teens. I met back up with Brad behind the soundboards and we began to work our way through the crowd. After doing makeshift keg stands from a water cooler full of "Juggalo Juice", Brad and I met the acquaintance of a Juggalo named Pyro Blaziac, who decided to take us under his wing. Pyro had one of those ponytails where it's pulled really tight at the top then shaved on the back and sides, as well as several thin patches of white fiber sticking out of his scalp that I think were either stitches or the remnants of a bandage. He also sounded exactly like they make teenagers sound in cartoons—right on the dividing line between surfer and Midwestern pothead. Basically, he was the living manifestation of Juggalodom as I'd experienced it. After introducing us to his crew, Pyro laid out what we should expect once the music started. "OK," he said. "You want to be looking to the front and to the back the whole time. You're going to be getting slammed with bottles of Faygo from the stage and shit from the rest of the crowd behind you at the same time, and people are going to be riding up on top of you. It's pretty much going to be a full-on warzone." He was literally dancing in place with excitement. Within seconds of the band's opening notes, I was coated in a film of sugar that left me and my glasses residually sticky for days after the festival (I just hucked all my clothes). I've been to any number of intense shows, but never have I felt so completely at the mercy of the crowd as I did that night. It was like being adrift in a churning ocean of skin and soda and fake blood. Onstage, ICP and a small army of clown-costumed assistants fired off two-liter after two-liter of Faygo root beer into the audience, drawing their ammo from huge gallon drums brimming with somehow more bottles. As Pyro had warned me, the onslaught came evenly from both sides. In addition to a steady stream of people, anything too large to fling toward the stage was crowd-surfed in that direction. I ended up getting hit square in the face with boots, fists, chairs, bare tits, other people's faces, and an empty cooler. I also think I gouged some poor girl's nipple with my thumb while trying to push her overhead. I feel bad about that one. Following the longest 20 minutes of my life, I gave up and extricated myself from the maelstrom. I finally broke lose at the far edge of the stage by the space between the barricade and the stage where the crowd surfers were deposited after making it to the front. The folks who came out of this exit-chute did so in full, trance-like rap-dance. It was sort of like a filthy version of the Soul Train Line. I walked to the back of the field and sat down next to a passed out kid as ICP launched into "Juggalo Homies," the closest of their songs to a mainstream jam (it sort of sounds like Smashmouth doing rap). A woman swinging two glowsticks on ropes came up and screamed at me "Why are you sitting there like that!?" I pointed to each of my eyeballs, and she nodded and walked away. After changing/removing shirts, I met up with Pyro and his crew at the Spazmatic Hang-Out tent, named for ICP's new energy drink. Pyro inducted us into the Midnight Wanderers, reciting the group's mission statement: "Every year, at the Gathering, at Sunday, at midnight, we come together and wander until the sun comes up, annoying the living bullshit out of everyone we meet! WAN-der-ERS!" The last part was sung the same way five-year-olds sing "SU-per-MAN!" It was a succinct and well-rehearsed speech I'd hear at least a dozen more times that evening, as we collected new members and followed the changing bearer of the "Wandering Stick" to bonfire after bonfire, through campsite drug dens, through other campsite drug dens being broken up by security, past the ICP foam party, and for one trying hour, onto the floating dock in the middle of Lake Hepatitis. As the Midnight Wanderers marked their course for a pizza break, Brad and I broke away to check out the tent with the Juggalo pajama party, which had either devolved into or always been a stripping contest. To our amazement, the contestant who got completely naked the second the music started and spent the whole song bent over facing away from the audience didn't win. The tall girl did. I left Brad to check in on Daff at the Hatchet Rydas tent, but found him crashed in a lawn chair while the rest of the Rydas were scrambling around in a near panic. Kent stormed into the tent trembling with rage and began dousing his hands in sanitizer. "The camp owners said we're this close to losing this site for next year because of all the trash," he said. "Psychopathic's people asked us if we'd help with the cleanup, because our spot is so neat, but dudes keep kicking over trash cans and being like, 'Yo, why are you picking up all that garbage?'" I started to look around for scraps, but then the Wanderers crested the nearby hill and, momentarily torn between helping out the Juggalos' five-percenters and reveling in the absolute, undistilled essence of adolescent vacancy, I rejoined the ranks of the dumb. At the bottom of the hill three of the Wanderers kicked the living shit out of a garbage can. By 4 AM, we'd made it back to the original Wanderers' campsite where Pyro, who had run ahead, was busy filling a tent with gas-soaked trash (and a table). "The guy who owns this asked me to get rid of it for him, so we're going to set it on fire." He unspooled an entire roll of toilet paper, we thought to use as a fuse, then bunched it up, lit it, and shoved the whole flaming mess under the table. The tent was fully ablaze in a matter of minutes. As the flames and awful-smelling smoke rose into the night, a large SUV pulled up behind us and the tent's owner rolled down the passenger window. "Man… that's tight." THOMAS MORTON