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On Monday night, Pop’s hosted the Juggalo Christmas Bash, a multi-act bill that didn’t feature the night’s spiritual godfathers, the Insane Clown Posse, though the group’s presence was felt everywhere in the room. Long since moving from a pure cult act and into an exurban-based movement, ICP and its legion of Juggalos don’t win many critical points, but they can fill a room on a given night.
Admittedly, Monday wasn’t exactly one of those nights. Featuring a lineup of Juggalo-centric groups with local and regional roots, the acts were able to put a couple hundred people into Pop’s, though they shared the smaller, side stage, with the upstairs mezzanine closed. On the main floor, the fans responded to acts that fell into a pattern of: between two-seven members, all male, most of them performing to pre-recorded tracks, as opposed to live backing, or even DJs.
The lack of instrumentation, though, meant that the groups just kept coming, with the start time of about 8 o’clock and the curtain closing nearer to midnight. In between, over a half-dozen hip-hop groups performed, with area acts like Local Kings and Terror Troopaz bringing enthusiastic fans to the front of stage; though few moments would compete with the brief bedlam brought on by P.O.W. (the wheelchair-gliding Pimp on Wheels), who called out for the ladies to take the stage, a plea that was answered by at least two-dozen female fans.
Like the old-fashioned, barnstorming tours of early rock ’n’ roll, the acts were kept to a tight timeframe, with sets clocking in at around 20-25 minutes apiece; more than one act seemed to note the quick passage of time by flipping to their last cut, rather than sticking to the playlist. At times, an emcee would come out to the rally the troops between sets. But just as frequently, one group would head stage right, with another batch of cats coming out almost simultaneously, their first track dropping and the whole show starting anew.
As you might expect, the ICP aesthetic was heavily infused into all the sets, from the props onstage to the clothing in the crowd; seen were a handful of masks, several painted faces and a whole lot of ICP gear, as well as tons of merch from Twiztid, who recently landed at Pop’s, themselves. Chants of “Fa-mi-ly” were tossed out by multiple groups, symbolizing the notion of peace and a sense of familia among all Juggalos.
Interesting, though, was that there was some concession to current events. There’s no secret that Juggalo acts frequently embrace violent lyrical content; songs tend to track along a few, familiar pathways, from the legalization of cannabis to vengeance fantasies, with the latter getting no small amount of play. Last night, a few emcees were still spitting rhymes about committing damage to their enemies, and a couple pulled cross-neck slashes, the same kind banned in the NFL. But some offered quick asides about “what happened in Connecticut,” while pulling away from their most-graphic tracks. Interesting, indeed.
But if that was a bit surprising, here was the real unexpected treat: walking into Pop’s, with the first band already on-stage, you could easily hold a conversation. This can be a loud room and the acts suggested a night when the earplugs would get work. Instead, the music was at a volume that allowed Juggalo wrangler Misty Rose Martin to persuade a number of fans and acts to come upstairs, for quick photos set against a bright red wall on the club’s second floor. She never even had to yell.
We thank Martin and the super-accommodating staff for help with the attached photos.
For larger versions: http://www.flickr.com/photos/51252573@N00/sets/72157632275456228/.
Photographs by Thomas Crone