They're coming. When Insane Clown Posse's tour comes to LC Pavilion Sunday, the outdoor amphitheater will be invaded by the most peculiar of subcultures, the bastion of ICP super-fans who self-identify as "juggalos." (And for the ladies, "juggalettes.")
When Insane Clown Posse's tour comes to LC Pavilion Sunday, the outdoor amphitheater will be invaded by the most peculiar of subcultures, the bastion of ICP super-fans who self-identify as "juggalos." (And for the ladies, "juggalettes.")
They'll paint their faces black and white in tribute to Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, the Detroit-based rap duo they so admire.
They'll wear Psychopathic Records apparel - T-shirts, jerseys, shoes, jeans and chains adorned with the "Hatchet Man" logo. They'll greet each other by shouting, "Woop woop!" or perhaps, "What's up, ninja?" They'll punctuate sentences with gratuitous profanity. They'll spray each other with Faygo.
Juggalos are a rare breed, to put it lightly. Mostly poor-to-middle-class white folks who view themselves as cultural outsiders, they've banded together into a community they view as a family - a support group as much as a fan base. They have their own lingo, their own music scene and their own fashion lines.
ICP had already developed an intense fan culture and signed several fellow "horrorcore" rappers to their Psychopathic Records roster by the late '90s, when Violent J coined the term "juggalo" during a performance of "The Juggla."
By 2000, Psychopathic hosted the first Gathering of the Juggalos, an annual outdoor fest featuring the label's full roster and sideshow entertainment like stilt walkers, helicopter rides and, um, seminars.
"The best thing is to try and go to one. There's no way I could put it into words," said Justin Tinney, a 22-year-old North Side resident who books juggalo concerts at venues like the Alrosa Villa and performs in the rap group Northside.
Ask a juggalo what appeals to them about the culture, and they'll invariably tell you that juggalos are a family and they watch each other's backs.
"You feel you're in the right place," said Kyle Jones, a 16-year-old Hilliard Davidson student. "You're around people of yours and you belong somewhere."
Juggalos view each ICP concert - and especially the Gathering - as a family reunion, even as they rap along to lyrics about murder, rape and other acts of aggression. Like gangster rap fans, many juggalos claim the glamorized criminal activities are a cathartic way to blow off steam. ICP has repeatedly denounced violence and called their shtick nothing more than an act.
Still, some who identify with the culture have made the dark fantasies a reality. In 2006, a gang of juggalos assaulted and robbed visitors to Seattle's Fort Steilacoom Park. A series of murders charged to juggalos left the group categorized as a gang in Utah, Arizona and Monroe County, Pennsylvania.
"Some people do ruin it for others," said Michelle Riggle, 21, Tinney's fiancee, who self-identifies as a juggalette.
While police have become alarmed by a segment of the juggalo population, the internet merely laughs. A 14-minute infomercial for last year's Gathering became a prominent object of ridicule; even "Saturday Night Live" parodied it.
When ICP released a wide-eyed single "Miracles" featuring lyrics like, "F---ing magnets, how do they work?" SNL struck again. For juggalos used to being derided as the scum of the earth, getting mocked in the same context as celebrities and politicians is validation.
"That's an honor," Tinney said.
So who qualifies as a juggalo, exactly? They'll tell you it's about being an individual, somebody who doesn't conform to society's rules. Some juggalos seem oblivious to the contradiction that they've traded one codified social group for another. Others, such as Tinney, explain that there's no initiation or definitive set of criteria other than an appreciation for the Psychopathic roster.
"I'm going to listen to it forever," Tinney said, though he acknowledged most juggalos are teenagers. "Some people grow out of it. It's a rare thing when you see 30-year-olds, 40-year-olds."
One big exception is Dan Ramey, a 44-year-old juggalo cab driver who records "adult rap" under the name The DoughMaster. Inspired by the no-holds-barred lyrics of ICP and 2 Live Crew, Ramey began rapping five years ago and has performed at the past four Gatherings. His albums include "The Loose P---- Compilation" and "Shock and Awe." His motto: "F--- Censorship!"
The DoughMaster tests out his lyrics on his passengers, who are often appalled by the graphic content of songs such as "D.P.L. (Designated P---- Licker)." He performs in a chef's hat and jacket. He used to wear makeup but stopped because he's allergic.
Ramey lives in a tiny hotel room in Dublin, surrounded by kittens, cigarette ash and empty vodka bottles. He doesn't see much of his parents or three siblings, so sometimes it feels like the juggalos are the only family he's got.
"I would say we're just regular people," Ramey said, "except I don't think of myself as regular."
Jones, the Hilliard teenager, turned to his fellow juggalos for support when his father died five years ago. He's only missed one Columbus ICP concert since 2007, and only because the show sold out before he could buy a ticket. Last year he attended the Gathering for the first time.
Jones' mom, Annette Howard, encourages her son's enthusiasm for the culture, pleased that he's found something to be passionate about. She helps with the 45-minute paint job before concerts and taught Jones how to do his hair in spiky vertical braids, Coolio-style.
His room is decked out in ICP posters, Violent J's autobiography atop his dresser. He loves getting tossed around in mosh pits and doesn't even mind getting doused with Faygo, one of the stranger juggalo traditions.
"I usually smell like it a few days afterwards," Jones said. "It takes four or five showers before it goes away."