You down with ICP? The perils and wisdom of being just a Juggalo in 2010

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By Zach Ritter

Do you remember the first time you heard of Insane Clown Posse? What was your reaction? Did you laugh? Recoil in horror? Or did you thank the trickster gods of pop culture for allowing such a band to exist?

Now, when confronted with a pair of sneering rappers in greasepaint who call themselves Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, most people are going to resort to mockery. It’s really the only reasonable response. At the same time, though, it’s beginning to seem as if the whole cottage industry of ridicule that’s sprung up around the band has jumped the shark. Yes, ICP are absurd. Yes, the elaborate “Dark Carnival” mythology that surrounds their albums is profoundly stupid. These are facts, and few non-Juggalos would dispute them. At this point, though, even SNL is doing ICP-themed sketches, which I think is a pretty good indication that the joke has run its course.

So instead of mocking ICP, I instead invite you to consider the implications of their fame. There are few American bands that can lay claim to a fanbase as dedicated as ICP’s Juggalos. It’s possible that this has something to do with misery loving company — the more critically scorned a band becomes, the more its fans close ranks, drawing defiant strength from their shared marginality. But I think there are other forces at work here. ICP can be justly accused of a lot of aesthetic sins, but insincerity isn’t one of them.

This is a bigger deal than it might seem. “Legitimacy” in music has become an increasingly fraught concept, especially in the irony-suffused world of indie rock. A lot of music fans seem to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out whether or not their favorite bands are pulling one over on them. Juggalos don’t have that problem. Juggalos know that J and Shaggy mean, with all their hearts, every last word of the goofy shit they spout on their albums. Case in point: the following video. Either these guys are the most sincere lunatics ever to rock a mike, or they’re the greatest surrealist comics of our time.

So when ICP rolls into San Francisco on June 5, and the Juggalo legions descend upon the Warfield, you might want to actually check out their show. I’m not saying that you’ll have an unironic good time, but you might figure out something that everyone else has missed.

INSANE CLOWN POSSE
With Kottonmouth Kings, Coolio, Kittie, and Necro
Sat/5, 7 p.m. (doors 6 p.m.), $32.50-$35
The Warfield
982 Market, SF
(800) 745-3000
www.ticketmaster.com

 

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