“How many people think Paul Wall is a b****?”
Hosting the first night of the 12th annual Gathering of the Juggalos (read Hive’s interview with Insane Clown Posse’s Violent J here), Dustin Diamond, Saved By the Bell’s Screech and star of bone-chilling sex tapes, openly questioned the manhood of Houston’s grillmaster general Paul Wall. The response from the audience was overwhelming: cheers, hollers and chants of “F*** Paul Wall.” For the next six hours you couldn’t avoid hearing “F*** Paul Wall” as you walked through the sprawling, dusty campgrounds at Cave-In-Rock. You would hear people even greeting each other with “F*** Paul Wall” like neighbors saying good morning. Wall never showed up to his scheduled sundown performance, sufficiently pissing off the most passionate group of music fans on Earth. Or to put it in Juggalo parlance: You f***ed up.
With a reputation for pelting Andrew W.K. and Tila Tequila with garbage, the Juggalos have become notorious for their fickle nature. But, given the warm, ecstatic reception they gave a diverse slew of rappers on Thursday night, it really just seems of the essence to put on a good show and do your homework.
• Busta Rhymes talked openly about having to do his research before the event, and seemed generally awestruck, even a little misty-eyed by the reaction. He also seemed to have more fun than anyone there, the Gathering giving him free reign to let loose and go crazy and coat every song with cartoonish levels of energy. Knowing there’s no wilder fight music in existence than M.O.P.’s “Ante Up,” he opened with his remix verse. His version of “Scenario” was Arsenio-performance levels of adrenaline, eventually devolving into more screams than words. Busta was funny, he dedicated a song to “Juggalette titties,” he consistently had heavy-metal levels of energy, he guzzled Patron and got stoned on crowd-sourced joint — in other words, he was family. “In my 20 years of recording, this is one of the first times I’ve ever felt so thoroughly embraced,” he said. “I play a lot of shows. Motherf***ers act like they’re too cool to have fun. If you ain’t f***ing coming out to party, y’all ain’t f***ing family to me.”
• Sometimes fireworks erupt in the crowd. Sometimes they just do.
• Bay Area rap legend E-40 left spaces for the crowd to sing the chorus to 2006’s “Yay Area” — it was mostly filled with the chant of “woop woop,” (an omnipresent Juggalo word ejaculation) which the veteran performer just vibed off of. Drinking Carlo Rossi from a Gatorade bottle, E-40 made a point to add his own chants of “woop woop” and “family” — as important to the Gathering as getting “Hello, Cleveland!” correct.
• Protip: Port-a-john urinals may fill up after a day of use. The bass from a P.A. is just the right frequency to cause a gentle hailstorm of piss to wet your shins. This is not what E-40 meant with “Sprinkle Me.”
• With a phalanx of 10 spandex-clad dancers in tow, Hammer was given a hero’s welcome. I was wondering which Hammer would emerge — puffy-pants era? Pumps and a bulge era? Pastor Hammer here to teach us about God? Instead it was 1988 energy with 1991 Sgt. Pepper look for a tight, seven-song set. Hammer was elastic, a seemingly endless fountain of energy. More than anyone, he wanted to connect with the Juggalos face to face — for “It’s All Good” he snaked through the crowd like F***ed Up frontman Damien Abraham; for “U Can’t Touch This,” he invited maybe four dozen fans on stage to share the moment with him. He got totally lost in the crowd up there and it didn’t matter — he knows this night is for the fans. With almost no space on stage left for him, he even somehow, magically, amazing did the dance from the video.
• Every concert should have carnival rides like the Scrambler, especially ones close enough to the main stage where you can sing along as you zip around, especially ones which girls can ride topless, especially ones which are BYOB.
• Talking to Revolver magazine, Insane Clown Posse’s Violent J said, “Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t think R&B could ever be played at the Gathering, but someone like [Bobby Brown], who always has the finger pointed at him, might be able to make it.” In my head, this sort of set the show up to be a trainwreck, but when Brown hit the second stage at 2:40 a.m., it was a blast of pure passion. He played to a tent of 150-or-so Juggalos like it was an arena of thousands, not afraid to sweat in his sports coat in the Illinois heat until smoke starts pouring from his body. Before Brown, the only ones at the Gathering who could safely pull off a ballad were Psychopathic Records supergroup Dark Lotus. But here was dudes with wicked tattoos poking through sleeveless shirts singing along to the proudly soft “Good Enough.” There was even a tiny moshpit for “On Our Own” — and yes Bobby still performs it with the Ghostbusters II rap in the bridge.
• I was offered a knife-cut line of coke off the snowcone booth and had to duck bottle rockets all night. I can’t believe I’m friends with people who think seeing Sufjan Stevens at Prospect Park is some idea of fun. Thank you for an amazing first day, Juggalos!
Christopher R. Weingarten is the author of Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, and Hipster Puppies. He Tweets record reviews at @1000timesyes.