Ninety-six hours and a trip to the future. That’s how one Juggalo describes The Gathering to me after releasing a plume of smoke and smearing the end of a glass pipe against his clown makeup. You come here for the fuckin’ family, but you see more en’ just that. You fuckin’ see er’thang there is. Whoop! Whoop!
It’s difficult to deny the panoply of cultural offerings which The Gathering lures to Cave-In-Rock. Yes, ICP headlines the event and many of the tertiary stages host similar acts but the lineup transcends simple horrorcore. There are stragglers from every genre and each concert exudes the qualities of an unorthodox mash-up as styles collide. The stages seethe with a motley crew of performers; some lip-sync while others belch out their pain. There are smashed mics, wails and banjo solos. In The Gathering is music reconceived as a super-genre: an uneducated and heavily tattooed Cronos, who has devoured his own children and who now clings to his throne. Though the concerts are hardly mellifluous, the experience is breathtaking in the sense that it is historic. The discordant future.
When I attend in 2010, I take in dusty members of the West Coast Hip-Hop Pantheon like Warren G and Tone L?c— “Funky Cold Medina” will never sound so melancholy.
Afterwards, there’s the grand exhibition of slimy and stale comedy which showcases treasures like Ron Jeremy and his seemingly infinite supply of dick jokes. Overwhelmed with laughter, the woman I share a bale of hay with during the performance actually starts coughing up hunks of pretzel as the man, celebrated purely for the length of his penis, sets up another zinger: So An Elephant Is Fucking A Rhino… While I’m there, Jeremy graces the same stage as Gallagher’s exploding watermelons and a chubby Tom Green, whose latest ploy for attention elicits a few more chunks of Rolled Gold from my seatmate.
Then, on two separate evenings, I witness Method Man and Tila Tequila experiencing Juggalo sensibilities the hard way.
Ninjas throw things. That’s just how it goes. Remember that scene in The Blues Brothers when the band performs at Bob’s Country Bunker? Now remove the chicken wire, stand back and try not to wince as you watch half-empty bottles of Faygo project through the air beside bricks and wads of human excrement, scooped from a nearby Porta-John. Even before both performers are beaned in the face, the crowd howls in delight and a half dozen lawsuits enter their nascent stages.
Ultimately, both are bleeding as they finish their acts before unimpressed crowds. Confused, Method Man pleads with his audience: Illinois! Illinois! Why you so fuckin’ mad? But Illinois doesn’t respond. It’s the Juggalos he’s there to please and, after committing such a serious faux pas, he and his partner-in-rhyme, Red Man, flee the stage to a chorus of furious booing. Fuck that fake-assed Method Man! Whoop! Whoop!
The mob of Juggalos is even less forgiving to Ms. Tequila, whose alien sound and alleged penchant for cosmetic surgery directly conflict with ninja family values. Who does this bitch think she is? She knows we don’t listen to her shit. She’s just here to stuff her fake-ass tits with our money! Ms. Tequila ends up taking a brick to the face and threatening to sue the audience. 
More performers appear in the advertisements but no one seems particularly disappointed by the omission of Lil’ Kim and Slick Rick. Absenteeism is both common and understandable at The Gathering, especially considering what happened to Ms. Tequila: jagged scars just don’t compliment album covers very well.
So why are the Juggalos so angry? Having to spend most of the year as a socio-cultural outcast tends to plant seeds of bitterness and alienation in people. Deliberate in their rebellion from the mainstream, Juggalos, just like authentic bohemians and hipsters, seek a haven from the oppressive insipidness of pop culture. For whatever reason, they choose to veer in the opposite direction of the organic chai tea sippers, towards institutions which are deemed garish and unsophisticated. But, it is in this environment—not Williamsburg or the Mission— that the ninjas find solace. This is where the dissimilarities end.
The Juggalos flock to The Gathering in search of belonging just as so many flock to the city from the suburban neighborhoods of their childhood. They crave ephemeral pleasures and the whole event is devoted to promoting this raucous joy and “[giving] everybody that bomb-ass experience,” says Violent J. In this contained environment, which serves the same purpose as the independent cafes and bookstores which Thought Catalogue readers relish so dearly, there remains only tolerance and adoration for those who respect and embrace the Juggalo mentality of honesty and kinship.
In a delivery synonymous with monster truck rallies, an online promotion for last-year’s event proclaims that at The Gathering, “you’ll make best friends and you’ll probably get laid!” When this covenant is broken and unkind interlopers appear, it’s only natural that feces will fly. It’s the Juggalo way. And, maybe next year, I’ll be back at Hog Rock slinging away the pain.