POZ Contributor Blog: Thomas Gutches
PropertyOfZack is happy to have Thomas Gutches back with a Contributor Blog. Thomas is a manager for The Artery Foundation and currently manages The Amity Affliction, Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!, Handguns, and Woe, Is Me, among others. Thomas’ new blog is an incredibly interested read on Juggalo culture and the way in which ICP’s fan base opperates and continues to help them grow stronger in their own respective part of the overall music scene. Thomas’ blog is not so much about ICP in the big picture as it is about a community of fans having a cult-like care for their leaders. Check out the full and informative blog below!
When I was in elementary school I had a friend named Kyle. We shared a pretty rad bond while we were younger, we both liked aliens and music. Not that much to like when you’re in Elementary School. One Saturday afternoon he came over to my house and as we sat in my room and played Mortal Kombat on Sega Genesis (which I might add is still the best video game ever and Donkey Kong still sucks) He pulled out of his backpack a book of CD’s so secretive and quiet you would’ve thought he snuck over cigarettes or Playboy magazines. He looks to me and says “Hey man, you got to hear this stuff, I took it from my brother.” I wasn’t too much into music at this time and my choices of music were limited to hip-hop and R&B, which he told me I was a wuss for listening too. He pulls out a CD and the cover is a green and purple evil looking clown on it with a Parental Advisory sticker on it, so my initial thought was “Oh, this must be cool”. As we pop the CD in JVC boombox, Kyle goes to my door and shuts it. After I question him as to why he was doing that, his initial response was “Just wait…Also turn it down a little bit, don’t want your mom to hear this, we could get in trouble”. We were listening to Insane Clown Posse’s “Riddle Box”
As we continued playing video games and I am near a flawless victory with Scorpion as my character, Kyle is singing along word per word of the record. Keep in mind we are maybe 7 or 8 years old at the time. He is loving every single minute of it and I am sitting there indian-style staring at my game going “Welp…Alright”. That moment on I had 50/50 thoughts on ICP, I loved how they had a comedic/evil approach to their music but at the same time I couldn’t just get into it. I never really followed Insane Clown Posse as I got older but then one year I found out that they we’re going to be hosting their annual “Gathering of the Juggalos” festival in my hometown. For those who don’t know what “The Gathering” (in short) is. It’s a multi-day festival thats put together by Insane Clown Posse. Imagine Coachella and Bamboozle but for fans of the groups self owned label Psychopathic Records and the Juggalo lifestyle. My mother and I went out for breakfast one morning at a Cracker Barrel restaurant near the site of the festival and we saw numerous vehicles with the “Hatchetman” logo (ICP’s mascot) on the back of multiple cars covered in mud as if they just gotten out of ditches. We walk into the restaurant and I see people in baggy bondage pants, ICP t-shirts and smeared face paint sitting at their tables hungover as they were partying for 4 straight days. I was exposed to ICP’s core fan group and what they have developed known as “The Juggalo”.
A Juggalo is a label thats given to fan of Insane Clown Posse and other artists on their Psychopathic Records roster. It’s cultural phenomenon cult-like following that reminds me of The Grateful Dead and their “Deadhead” movement from the 1970’s. If you’re unfamiliar with what a “Deadhead” was, chances are your parents were involved or knew someone who was. They were fans of the jam band, The Grateful Dead. Often traveling thousands and thousands miles to the bands shows, developing their own style and slang and worshipping the bands fearless leader, Jerry Garcia. This movement took over jam music during the 60s and 70s, a culture was created from music and it gave a whole new meaning to what a fan could be. You were living in a world where your focus was music and a lifestyle was based around it. Fast forward some years and you have the next movement, Juggalos. Many unique characteristics and activities come with being a Juggalo. You listen to horror-themed rap music that is similar to ICP, you wear face paint portraying yourself as a clown, you greet a person or express joy by chanting “Woop woop!” and you endorse all things related to Juggalo lifestyles such as wearing the groups clothing brand “HatchetGear” and drinking a brand of soda known as “Faygo” in which one of the activities a Juggalo partakes in is known as a “Faygo Shower” in which you take a two-liter bottle of the soda, shake it up and as you open the bottle and it spews the fizz, you drench yourself almost in a baptism like fashion. This core group are fans are also known to spend anywhere from $40-$2,000 in a single ICP show in concert tickets and merchandise.
This my friends is what you call a true dedicated individual to music and the culture that artist establishes themselves with and probably is the most dedicated group of fans in the world and that is something that we clearly need more of in this music community. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “music is my life” or “I live my life by ‘this band’” and then 6 months later, they are off doing something else entirely different and don’t support the music scene anymore while the average Juggalo has been involved in his/her culture for nearly 20 years. It’s absolutely mind blowing the kind of support ICP receives from their fans. They really treat each other like a community and family. I don’t think I have ever heard any of my friends who run music venues across this country say “Oh this fight at the ICP concert was out of control” or “Holy shit dude, I had to have the riot police here” Once again, a true dedicated fan base of people who actually support to anything and everything that artist pushes and will back up and defend anyone who supports the same things they do and ultimately friendships are made from their likings. These fans will always go out and buy ever album, every t-shirt, every shot glass, every sticker, every hat, attended every concert, every festival and support every up-and-comer on their label. Again, something you don’t see enough of. That is of course you listen to Justin Bieber, than you get older.
In 2011, I took a business trip over to East Rutherford, NJ for The Bamboozle Festival to see some clients who were performing during the weekend. Some of the dominant names performing that weekend were New Found Glory, Wiz Khalifa, Taking Back Sunday, A Day To Remember, Attack Attack!, Lil Wayne’ Motley Crue and of course Insane Clown Posse?! During a brisk morning walk on the festival grounds several hours before the gates opened, I walked over the stage where several clients of ours were playing only to see three (3) twenty foot letter props on stage. The letters were ICP. They were the headliners of our particular stage. As I walked backstage my judgement is clouded by fascination to the 100 cases of Faygo stored off of stage right, the giant 50 x 50 prop tent specifically set up for costume changes and a semi-truck full of un-used ICP production.
I found myself talking to a gentlemen who I thought was a local crew guy for the festival. I expressed my fascination with all of ICP’s props to him only to be given the response “Yeah, we roll pretty good”. His name was Bill and he was ICP’s manager. One of the nicest guys I’ve ever met and definitely one of the more humbling managers in this industry. As a fellow manager myself, I introduced myself to him and what I was involved in. He told me all about the business of ICP and the success they’ve received from it. He went into detail of the groups business on how they owned literally every single thing pertaining to their name and let me tell you, the group really are a massive cash machine in terms of business. They own everything from their music, their DVD’s, their merchandise, their production trucks, their buses and their production props. During this time all I am thinking about is “Holy shit, how much money is this business generating? Where does it come from?” Then I realized where it all came from, the fans.
The people who kept them alive. One of the many topics circulating that weekend in New Jersey was if ICP were going to have a crowd considering the competition of A Day To Remember on the main stage during their set time and with a Bamboozle ticket for one day varying in the $80-$100 range, not a single Juggalo was seen in sight during the day. I ventured over to the stage later on during their set with some colleagues to see what kind of crowd they brought and surely enough the Juggalo community were out in full force as ICP had the largest crowd of the day on that particular stage which was rather impressive due to the fact that the group were not billed as a headliner and the only way you knew they were on the festival was from if you read the line up and caught them towards the bottom with the buzz bands. Not to mention they were going up against A Day To Remember so it’s highly doubtful the attendance of their set were just spectators wanting to see what they were all about as some people were stuck in that crowd awaiting the arrival of Lil’ Wayne to close the night. They really did take over that section of the festival for that 60 minutes.
One of the many misconceptions with this core group of people is some of them are often being mislabeled as criminals and thugs. Although there has been no relation or proof to any forms of organized crime, in 2012 the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Gang Intelligence Center and several states across America classified the Juggalos as a street-gang. I sat back and thought to myself, “Why? How is this group dangerous to anyone?” Some people either don’t understand the culture or are just simply annoyed with them being different than the average music listener and in my opinion? that’s really the only “threat” this community sends out. Annoyance, no different than a fan of any other music. I run a music venue in Sacramento, CA and a couple of our security guards label themselves as Juggalos, they have the tattoos, wear the jewelry, sport the tattoos, you name it, they proudly flaunt with their to the Juggalo community.
Every time we host a Juggalo-style show at the venue those particular security guards express joy as it’s Christmas morning. These employees are some of the hardest working and nicest dudes I’ve ever met, you wouldn’t think they were involved in the Juggalo community after talking to them for 10 minutes. One night during a load out from a show we were hosting someone was heckling the employees for being Juggalos after seeing one of their tattoos on their forearm that clearly expressed their passion for the lifestyle. As I stood there watching this individual take a verbal beating and not doing anything about it besides holding back his emotions, I stepped in to ask the person why was he poking fun at someone over his dedication and expression over something? What makes him different than him and his passions? His reaction? “Uhh. They’re dumb” So initially there was no accurate answer, only a smart ass comment.
I sat back and did something I never thought I did, I defended a Juggalo and praised him for keeping a style of music alive and I was admiring him to the fact that an artist had effected his life so much to the point where he is proud to be labeled as a Juggalo and informed him that in reality he is keeping a form of art alive. We live in a world where fans are often labeled as the backbone for the band and are the walking billboards for them. I feel ICP have also influenced and changed the game of the meet & greet industry of concerts by labeling the fans, fans that show that true dedication that other bands wish they would have what ICP has in terms of having a true devoted cult-like fan base, not too bad of a lending hand considering the group have sold nearly seven (7) million albums in the United States and Canada. If bands like The Grateful Dead can have “Deadheads” (who are still out in full force even when the groups frontman passed away nearly 18 years ago), and if Slipknot can have the “Maggots”, if Woe Is Me can have the “[S] Army”, if KoRn can have “KoRn Kids” and KISS can have the “KISS Army” Why can’t ICP have “The Juggalos”? As I close this blog I can only hope that one day all music fans can rejoice in this same exact matter that the Juggalos have done and can help make the music they know and love bigger and better and they can ultimately sit back and truthfully say “music is my life”. A friend of mine once said “Make it about others, not just about yourself. That seems to work”. It truly does.
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