When Insane Clown Posse came to Columbus on Tuesday night as the headliner for the “Slam Fest” tour, it served as more than just a performance, but a gathering of loyal fans driven by a pair of cultural leaders.
The horrorcore hip-hop duo consisting of Violent J (Joseph Bruce) and Shaggy 2 Dope (Joseph Utsler) were the pinnacle performers in a five-hour, five-act showcase that also featured performances from Attila, Sylar, Cage and Lil Toenail, as well as Lyte and Ouija.
All the opening acts had similar angst and pent-up aggression that seemed to resonate with the Juggalos in attendance –– a name Insane Clown Posse fans have come to embrace. The group’s influence could be seen in most of the opening performances.
While the openers played, anticipation was building for Insane Clown Posse. Fans were eager — chanting “ICP!” at any dull moment — but never seemed to grow discontent, despite the lengthy lineup. Instead, it served as a sort of reunion for a community.
When Insane Clown Posse finally took the stage after an hour-long, anticipation-building transition following Attila’s performance, the scene went from one full of angst and violence to one thrown into chaos, horror and disorder — with a bit of comedy mixed in.
The stage consisted of two backdrops, both resembling popular Milton Bradley board games, such as “The Game of Life” and “Operation.” One read “The Game of Death,” while the other read “Autopsy.” In front of the backdrops were various enlarged carnival props including an Icee cup, which read “ICP” instead.
The duo arrived in front of its audience in large, gift-wrapped boxes, brought out by stagehands dressed as postal service workers while joyful, yet earie, carnival music played. After a few minutes, what appeared to be two audience members arrived on the stage and ripped off the wrapping paper, revealing Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope in clear boxes, as if they were action figures.
Moments later, the pair busted out of the boxes and the absurdity began. For the next hour, Insane Clown Posse led its fans into a set list of obscene, violent and oftentimes nonsensical bouncy rap songs all while the duo and a cast of costumed creatures continually doused the crowd in a seemingly endless supply of Faygo soda.
Unlike most concerts I’ve attended, the fans did not wait until the group performed its hits to come alive. In fact, based on crowd reaction alone, I couldn’t even tell which songs were the hits. It was like every song played was everyone’s favorite song, and it was a high-energy atmosphere from start to finish.
The environment of dancing clowns, enlarged carnival snacks and dark board game parodies seemed surreal. It didn’t feel like just a concert, it felt like I had somehow stumbled into a different realm of reality that was more like a Tim Burton movie than it was everyday life.
Most of the Juggalos, many of whom wore white face paint similar to that of the band, seemed to recognize each other from previous concerts or gatherings. They greeted each other like long-time friends, recognizing each other not by their real names, but by obscene and explicit nicknames. It was a sense of community I was not quite prepared for and never before experienced at a concert.
Upon leaving the show and stepping back into reality, I felt like Alice returning from Wonderland –– I would never be able to adequately explain what I had just experienced, and even if I could, nobody would understand anyway.
The entire experience was somewhat repulsive yet absolutely enthralling. I’m not sure I’d ever go back, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t glad I came.