Books - J

JUGGALO COUNTRY: Inside The World Of Insane Clown Posse And America’s Weirdest Music Scene - Craven Rock {224 pages, Microcosm}
This is an interesting premise: A Punk writer (Craven has been published in Razorcake among others) with a love of Hip-Hop and a fascination with Horrorcore Hip-Hop duo, INSANE CLOWN POSSE, goes to their annual festival The Gathering Of The Juggalos to investigate first hand what the festival is like and to analyse, beyond the clown face paint, who the Juggalos (the fanatical followers of ICP) actually are.
If you didn’t know, INSANE CLOWN POSSE run Hatchet Records and clothing empire, term their music Wicked Shit, spray gallons of Faygo (a sugary soft drink) at their audiance  and have even created a quasi-religion around themselves in The Dark Carnival which has its own form of heaven in Shangri-La. Their followers are obsessive, listening only to bands signed to Hatchet Records, make themselves up like clowns, shout “Whoop Whoop!” at every opportunity and consider themselves as ‘Family’. They also have a reputation for being drug-taking, violent, misogynistic white trash.
Rock, along side illustrator, Damon Thompson, decide to attend the Gathering in a bid to disprove the myth and find what is behind the face-paint of a Juggalo. Reality makes for a fascinating, often hilarious, frequently repulsive read.
Most chapters start with a soundbite of lyrics from ICP or a Hatchet band, which include such enlightening epithets as “Smack that bitch right across the lips, ‘cause she ain’t nothin’ but a filthy bitch” before exploring further a singular aspect of Juggalo life. Rock befriends a few of the Juggalos at the festival, most of whom seem just normal kids having found ‘their thing’. He experiences all the aspects of the festival, be it the open sale of any and all drugs on the Drug Bridge (the festival is held on private ground, allegedly owned by a biker gang, and self-monitored, so there are no drug busts or cops), the wonderfully named Hepatitis Lake where many wasted Juggalos cool down from the baking Indiana summer heat, sees the exploitation of women in wet t-shirt and mud wrestling contests along with the OCD-esque tendencies of the Juggalos to shout “Titties” at every possible moment of bare-breasted action (there are even Juggalettes offering to flash their titties for money), and observes multiple contradictions in the ethos of ICP. There are also some genuinely disturbing moments, both moral and social, that emphasise the ‘white-trash’ reputation of the Juggalos. Given the reputation for violence however, very little is intimated toward Rock.
Rock’s narrative is highly readable. He’s an insightful writer, looking within the Juggalos to see the individual behind the face paint, confessing to his own discrepancies (and openly documenting some of his moments of drug-fuelled excitement - and the come down) and, most importantly, dissecting the myth of ICP and tackling the hypocrisy within the band - a band that is essentially fleecing its fans for all they are worth. Given I have no interest in the band itself, Rock writes with enough verve, intelligence and humour to hold the attention. There are no photos of ICP or the Juggalos, even though Rock seemingly took a lot of photos. Instead, each chapter features an illustration by Rock’s buddy, Damon Thompson.
So, if an amalgamation of travel journal, music history, investigative journalism and social commentary written through the eyes of a very able writer with a Punk background appeals, then you too may find your morals and emotions stretched to their limits by this fascinating book. (07.10.19)