It’s an especially cold evening, even for February in Michigan. Tonight, I’m the designated driver. I have a truck packed tight with seven drunk ‘los and ‘lettes, faces painted, spirits bright, and all gone off that Juggalo-Day pregame, screaming and laughing. Nothing but straight gangster rap is bumpin out my speakers. Tonight it’s Beanie Siegel—the perfect road trip music—aggressive enough to block out backseat driver babble, yet energetic enough to keep the mood hype for tonight’s adventure.
Tonight, we take a trip back to 1995. ICP’s Riddlebox Show is sold out. St. Andrew’s Hall is the place. And the entire juggalo world is watching. We are the lucky ones, and we know it. The energy is through the roof. Even as the “responsible one” I can’t help joking and laughing at the backseat antics.
“Calm down, y’all. This is serious clowny business!” A can of Moon Mist knocks me in my head. Forget it. I’ll never be able to wrangle in the chaos. So I just go with it.
Getting to the venue was an adventure in itself. The streets of Downtown Detroit are laid out like a giant wheel with spokes (hence “Motor City”). In my hometown Philly, the streets are a grid, straight up, so I’m literally thrown for a loop. A few wrong turns and one daring “wrong-way-on-a-one-way” later (to the sheer horror and outrage of the screaming drunks in the back), we arrive at the venue. I lock up the truck and move double time for the doors, leaving my drunk homies to collect themselves. They feel nothing at this point, but me? I’m fucking COLD. Regardless, I leave the jacket in the car and head for the doors as fast as possible. It’s going to be one of those nights…
“Please step up, ma’am.” The lady security guard, who was about as short as me (at barely 5 foot) began the normal pat down. She traced my hips and squeezed my pockets. She then motions for my bra. “I’m going to have to grab and shake that. Is that OK?”
I look her dead in the face. Maybe it was the Moon Mist can to the head or one drunk backseat driver too many, but at that point, I’d had enough. “I know you’re just doing your job. But, no. That’s not OK. I don’t have anything on me, and I’m really just trying to get warm. You can spare me the titty grope. Besides, I’m the designated driver. No party favors for me tonight, thanks.”
Now, in Philly venues, these kinds of überparanoid, invasive pat downs are standard protocol, especially at juggalo shows. But tonight, I have no time for it. I’d heard many bad stories about St. Andrew’s security, and though I hadn’t experienced any issues during previous trips to Detroit, I wasn’t in the mood tonight. Give them an inch, they take a mile. So I stood my ground. “Nope. I’m good. I’m going in now, OK?”
She seemed stunned and at the same time she understood. She stuttered. “F-f-fine. Go ahead.” Her eyes glanced down to the bottle opener on my key ring. “Just put that away, OK?”
And with that, I strolled through the doors a little less violated than I otherwise would have been and headed straight up into the rafters. The plan was to wind up on the balcony, stage left. At this point, it was still all business (clowny business, of course). I was as serious as a can of Moon Mist to the dome, and I made my way, weaving through the crowd to stake my claim. I wanted the perfect spot for ICP. I didn’t want to miss a thing. Not tonight. And in my travels, I’ve come to find that different clown towns require different strategies. Detroit pits are too vicious. They’ll punch you in the face, straight up. For this little lady, the balcony is where it’s at in the D.
And low and behold, my karma must have been on point. I took a spot right next to the stage. It was the perfect view, and I knew at least 5 or 6 ninjas along the barricade, who started shouting at me almost immediately. I waved my green and purple bandanas at them like a lady leaving on a train. Oh, this was happening. We were going places. A smile came across my face. It was like old times. I couldn’t wait to see ICP. I felt like a kid again.
I propped myself up on a little ledge along the railing and watched what was left of Project Born’s set. They had at least a dozen homies on stage with them and performed a lot of old favorites: “Graveyard,” of course. Gazing across the crowd, I could see a lot of familiar faces, and a lot of different people in the mix: all colors, all sizes, all shapes, and genders. There was a lot of colorful outfits and even a dude in a purple and green suit, cape, and top hat, painted like Riddlebox. The energy was high enough, but still low…you could tell it was one of those shows where everybody was drowning in anticipation, waiting. I found myself more focused on the crowd filing in than the stage itself: the mass of people in such a small space, the colors, the sounds, the carnival. Tonight would be one to remember. It was about to explode like a shook up Faygo. At this point, the bottle had yet to pop. But, soon enough, it would be time to pop the top. Soon.
I glanced at the speaker stack in front of me, and my mind started to wander, killing time. I wondered if the speaker stack could support my weight if I hopped onto it during the finale. I put my foot out and nudged it, testing it. It shook a little. I started to rethink it. If the speaker fell under my weight, it’d have the potential to seriously injure at least a dozen people. So nah. I decided against that move (though later in the night, a ninja DID climb that speaker amid the chaos—and fortunately nobody got hurt). In place of climbing the speaker, I started to think about jumping off the balcony itself during the finale. I knew enough ninjas would be down to catch me if I actually had the nerve. I could use the huge sheets of plastic draped over the sides to climb and support my weight and, and…
“DOWN. GET DOWN NOW.”
A light shined in my face. A security guard must have heard my daydream or something. He shined his flashlight right in my eyes and started screaming. I snapped back into reality.
“GET DOWN OFF THE LEDGE. I need you a few steps back from the railing. NOW.”
Shit. He probably HAD heard my thoughts. He must be psychic. But could he at least keep the flashlight from out my eyes? Damn. I stepped back just for the sheer fact that I wanted my sight back. I was seeing spots everywhere. He proceeded to go down the line and do the same thing to all the other ninjas leaning on the railing. Hmm. Maybe it wasn’t so personal after all. Close call. He was acting pretty funny. Power trippin, I guess.
Moments later, I overheard his conversation with another guard: “Yeah, I’m feelin it tonight. My homie DJ Clay keeps feedin me shots. Everytime I turn around I’m gettin handed drinks and blunts…I knew I wanted to work tonight. I said, ‘Hell yeah.’ It’s a party tonight.”
Huh. Well. That explains a lot.
Drunk security guard then proceeds to shine his flashlight on someone smoking a cigarette in the pit. Two other guards grab him and lead him out, still in the spotlight, and a chant of “YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!” ensues. He laughs, “Funny thing is? They’re just taking him to the smoking section. Nobody’s getting kicked out tonight if we can help it…”
Hmm. OK. Maybe I misjudged the man’s character.
I edge my way back to my ledge. A little lady like me needs a booster if she’s going to see the stage. I had decided against the speaker stack tactic. But it was time to use my aerial view to figure out a better way onto the stage during the finale. Clowny business, once again. Very serious. Keep in mind that “over the barricade” doesn’t exactly work for a midget lady like me: I’d get trampled or my ribs broke or something. It just isn’t safe. But I pride myself on always making it to the stage, ninja style. I’ve been doing it for years. So I was once again scanning the crowd and stage set up. After a short while, I finally found my “angle,” made a mental note, and saved it for later. This was just as Myzery hit the stage.
I’ve always been a Myzery fan. The whole crowd was screaming “Para la isla! Boriqua!” Hell yeah. Where my Boriquas at? “Witching Hour,” as always, got a great reception. “Stimulated Dome,” one of my favorites, was good to hear. During other songs, I gotta admit, the crowd’s energy was pretty low considering, but once again, the bottle was just starting to shake up in the place. Everybody was just anticipating the main event. (Or maybe I’m just jaded. After seeing Myzery, Shaggy, and Clay rock the Gathering side stage after my personal favorite, Raekwon the Chef? Nothing beats that. It’s one of my all-time favorite concert moments to date.)
Myzery left the stage and then…the waiting started. ICP chants echoed throughout the building. The crowd swayed and shifted as people braced themselves.
Just then, a ninja on crutches (who I later learned was named Frank) was led by security to the balcony. They set up a chair for him, and in classic juggalette fashion, I knew I had to make good room for him. I cleared the area and helped him into his seat, and after a few minutes, got him some water from the bar, making sure he had what he needed, all settled in. There’s just something about handicapped ninjas at shows yo! I can’t explain it. I always make it a point to go out the way to make them homies comfortable, especially if I’m close by. Gotta give props to ninjas who leave their comfort zone to come join in on the party. That’s what keeps you going. And Frank was old school. He hadn’t seen a clowns show since the 90s. “I’m looking forward to hearing a lot of songs I haven’t heard in like 15 years,” he said. I knew I was in good company. And my intuition proved right. Frank soon became the buffer between me and the security guards who kept showing up with those flashlights, half drunk. With him sitting next to me, I was free to dance and move around as I pleased. Karma. Straight up. I could watch the show without worry. I set myself up on my perch along the rail, next to Frank. We waited for ICP together.
And then, after a long wait, the show started…
“OH MY GOD LOOK OUT THE CARS COMING!!!!!!!!!”
The curtain opened to a stage bathed in silver light as the synthesizers and chimes rolled out over the venue. The set? Just palettes and palettes of Faygo in EVERY flavor, stacked up about 10 feet in the air.. Moon Mist, Grape, Peach, Orange, Rock and Rye, Cola, Root Beer, you name it. Talk about a Faygoluvers Heaven! I don’t think I saw any diet, either. Everyone flipped. “OHHH! SHIT! LOOK AT THAT FAYGO!!!!!” There was so much of it that there was very little room on the stage. It looked dangerous. Straight up hazardous. (But we’ll come back to that later…)
Mike Clark stood alone, dead center, arms outstretched with a sinister grin. And, after all, why shouldn’t he? These were HIS beats. HIS magic bursting out the speakers. The Riddlebox album has an incredibly innovative hip hop sound. It’s frankly untouchable. Nothing out there ever sounded like it in the history of rap and nothing ever will. Clark is a genius. It was great to see him front and center as the scattered shouts of “TURN THE CRANK!” started pouring forth from the audience. “TURN THE CRANK!” I demanded. As we screamed and yelled, it was almost like we were invoking something. Coaxing something. Challenging something.
Then came my favorite moment of the night: “Ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to your DEATH!”
And, if you can, just imagine about 1,000 people screaming every word: “Hahahahaha. The jokes on you. Riddlebox!” And “Tell me sir what can you do?” Or “Step right up and seal your fate!”
The Intro/Riddlebox tracks were my favorite songs of the night, just because it was so fucking cool to hear them live and sing along. I heard my own voice and I straight up sounded like Harley Quinn from the Batman cartoons. J and Shaggy each came out in the spotlight when it was time. Chaos reigned. I threw my green and purple bandanas up in the air to the music. I guess the security guard had a problem with my dancing, because he went to reach over Frank at one point. (Usually bouncers have a thing for picking on small chicks, straight up. I’m completely sober. How much damage could I really do?) I put my hand up and made a gesture like “Stop, don’t ruin it,” grabbed Frank’s hand and boogied, and that was that. Security must have instantly known to leave me alone. How could he even reach me? In my eyes, he wasn’t even there. This was the JUGGALO’S house, straight up. It was time for security to resign themselves and let us have our fun. This was our night.
“The Show Must Go On.”
“AW SHIT YO! Check it out maaaan. ICP back in the hauuugh maaaan…” Everybody in the entire place singing that? Dope. The energy went through the roof. The juggalo chants were on point. Just total insanity. I looked down and watched the sea of people swaying and rolling back and forth on the floor from my bird’s eye view. It was nuts.
No sooner was “The Show Must Go On” over that it was time to go “Chicken Huntin.” They didn’t do anything with the skit (or any skits from the album), which I was kinda on the fence about. It would have been funny to get some actors involved (like with Mr. Johnson’s Head on the Bang! Pow! Boom! tour) OR to just have everyone screaming along (“WHAT ABOUT FAT, FUCKING CHICKEN GIZZARD THROAT?!?!”) But stage space was totally limited and I’m sure the clowns thought it best to keep up the onslaught of energy.
Once the classic feathers and the dummies were out and about, I started to realize that the clowns play a LOT of songs from Riddlebox live all the time. But the great thing about this album is the way the songs all fit together. Hearing them in the exact order? It was great. Normally an ICP set is spaced out to play on the energy of the crowd. You’ll have a fast or upbeat song like “Assassins” followed by something slower like “Truly Alone” to balance things out. We had no time for rest this time, though. As with the album, it was one classic horror fest after another. Once we got started, we didn’t stop moving and singing for a long, long while.
“Toy Box” was greeted with clowns on the stage with huge teddy bears and hula hoops (think of the props for “Play With Me”). I thought to myself about how bad those teddy bears must smell after they’re doused in Faygo and thrown in an equipment bin somewhere. Or do they just throw them out right away? Seems like a waste. Throw em into the crowd next time, road crew. C’mon. Sheesh.
The energy dropped off a little for “Cemetery Girl,” since it’s a dark, slower song. Out the wings comes this ballerina. Literally, she is dancing on her toes in the Faygo, in classic ballet shoes and a torn up tutu. Having danced ballet for years (insert stripper joke here, yeah yeah), I couldn’t get over how talented she was. Toe dancing is HARD. But toe dancing in a Faygo shower? Sticking to the floor? With feathers and confetti and all kinds of crap on the stage? Priceless. You could tell she was a serious ballet dancer, too. She kept making all these crazy moves and rolling with the music. I didn’t take my eyes off her the whole time, and towards the end of the song, you could tell she had found a groove, moving out into the center of the floor and weaving in and out of the vats of Faygo. The lights went down and she disappeared as soon as she’d shown up. That was some DOPE shit.
And then it was time to move. Our little break was over as “3 Rings” played. The whole place was screaming “People like to point and stare! It’s the same as everywhere!” Mike Clark scratched and the juggalos screamed and shouted at the top of their lungs to match him. It’s pretty cool how Riddlebox has so many songs that completely rely on crowd participation. The juggalos truly do become part of the act.
Then, during “Headless Boogie,” the entire balcony leaned to the left and slid! It was one of the best moments of the whole show for me. I’ve always wanted to do that! And EVERYbody was down to boogie! All that was missing was the dismemberment…I wonder what security would have done?
Then came one of the songs I think everyone was waiting to hear: “The Joker’s Wild.” It was too funny. I just remember everyone screaming along with the “Four Questions” and laughing their asses off. It kind of felt like the first time ever listening. It was awesome to participate and sing along. Earlier in the night, I had heard someone say something along the lines of “I have a yellow suit and purple tie! I didn’t bring it! I should have!” Epic fail, ninja. Epic fail.
“Dead Body Man” played and…well…ICP plays that at every show. Lol. Dope nonetheless! During the song, my homie starts pointing and yelling at Billy Bill, who had been standing in the wings all serious-like amid the fun and antics. We tried to catch his attention, pointing and yelling “YO! SMILE! WHAT’S UP? WHY SO SERIOUS!!!! YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE FUNNNNN! WHAT’S GOOOOOOOD? SMILLLLLLEEEEEE!!!!!” I can’t be sure if he actually saw us, but he seemed to be looking right at us. Without a hint of emotion, he stares at us, leans forward to the stage, calmly grabs a bottle of Faygo, holds it in his hand for a moment, and disappears into the shadows. Was it some kind of signal? Perhaps. Maybe Bill was standing behind the curtain giving himself a Faygo shower in secret. Maybe…he really does like us after all. Who knows?
“Heyyyy ladiesssss! Juggalettes to the stage!” “Lil Somthin’ Somthin'” played. Oh hell yeah. The juggalettes took the stage and swarmed around Shaggy. I don’t know how he kept rapping with the swarm of girls and Faygo flying around him, quite honestly. Big Violent J stayed in the back, which was probably for the best. I mean, big man would probably break most of them sassy, prassy bitches in half anyway! I saw scene-queen Triplesix in the mix rocking her classic dreadfalls, standing alongside Mike Clark. There were also a ton of homies I knew up there. They were all colorful and gorgeous…for the most part. A few balcony folks started taking bets to see which one would be first to flash titties. We decided it would be the ugly one. And yup. It was the ugly one, alright. Titties floppin errwhere. Take that to your Pay-Per-View. Lol! At the end of the song, J said something along the lines of “NOW GET THE FUCK OFF THE STAGE, YOU DIRTY BITCHES!” I saw my homegirl Andy later in the night. She hit a blunt and was like “I don’t know…do you think he really meant it? He seemed mad…” Classic!
It was about this time that the energy went down. Like way down. The three songs that followed, “Ol’ Evil Eye,” “12,” and “The Killing Fields,” are extremely dark. I never noticed how dark they were until hearing them live. “Have you heard of Evil Eye? Why is he so evil? OOOOOOOOOOHHHHH.” It kind of reminded me of a Misfits song toward the end, with the way we all sang.
During “12,” three hooded figures in monk robes joined J on stage, synchronizing their hand motions. Some ninja screamed “Oh shit! That’s all that’s left of Dark Lotus!” We laughed. But the song was no laughing matter. It was dark. Very dark. I sang along and just went some place. Somewhere dark. I quite honestly can’t explain it.
And then the stage was lit up red and orange like fire, with devils everywhere…It was creepy. I don’t think I ever realized how dark “The Killing Fields” really was before hearing it live. I won’t ever be able to listen to it the same again. It was powerful. Just…powerful. And creepy as shit.
By that time, it was time to move into position for the grand finale. I made my way to the front of the stage, to slip into the tiny crawl space between the speaker stack and the soundboard, stage bound.
Before I had the chance, J took a moment and thanked everyone. You could tell he was emotional, especially after performing “The Killing Fields.” It was a really dark moment. But he brought it back to the light: “It’s been 15 years since this album dropped. And you still love us. I can’t even explain how good it feels. We can feed our families because of this. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. We love you. Now COME ON! GET UP HERE!”
I took my foothold and was the second or third person on the stage. I even stayed back for a few seconds, just because I didn’t want to be “the first one” and have security rush me.
“I’m Coming Home” started blaring and all the energy came back ten fold. I knew it was going to get crazy, so I cozied up right next to Mike Clark, way in the back, while ninjas just piled on and piled on and didn’t stop piling on. Boom! One of the Faygo pallets fell. Shit WAS dangerous! Suddenly there were unopened Faygo bottles everywhere at our feet. We were literally standing on top of unopened two liters, ankle deep. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to keep your balance in that situation? It was intense! Mike must have slipped on one, because he went down hard. And by this point people were just everywhere, knocking into his equipment and kicking stage lights. It looked like the DJ table or was going to collapse on top of him any minute. I extended my hand, and he’s all like “Naw, it’s cool,” sitting there calm and collected on a little throne of lights and Faygo bottles. Hilarious. It got crazier and crazier, and Legz finally says “Let’s get the FUCK out of here!” pulling Mike off the stage. Mike grabbed his headphones and whatever he could of his equipment and rolled out. And it was me and my homie Juggalo John with what was left of MEC’s DJ booth, teetering on the edge. “Fuck that. This is going to fall, break somebody’s foot, or electrocute us all,” I said. We pulled the “Faygo cover” over it, held on, and pushed away anybody who got in the way. Juggalos tried to stand on the DJ booth and we’d just push them into a sea of people. I wound up whipping people with my Faygo-soaked bandanas a couple times, which was hilarious. By the time all the insanity died down, we had succeeded in protecting the DJ table. For us, it was the principle of the goddamn thing. Good karma! Save MEC’s shit!
Mike came back on the stage, looking for his lost phone, and John and I were helping him look. Then came security…uh oh. Remember how I said bouncers have a thing for little chicks? Yeah. This huge bouncer starts coming right at me. “MOVE! NOW!” He goes to push me. I can’t be sure, but I as I braced myself to get clocked, I could have sworn I heard Billy Bill, who’d been watching the DJ table incident the whole time, say, “Don’t. You. DARE,” stopping the bouncer dead in his tracks. I scurried past Billy, just grateful at not being manhandled by security. (They really do love us short chicks, I’m telling you.)
At this point, I’m the last juggalo in the backstage area, and I head for the doors. I look up, and who’s there? None other than Evil Dead, playing the doorman. He slowly opens the door, still in character, and gives a little bow to me, all proper-like. I laughed. “Goodnight, Jumpsteady…allegedly…” And with that I was back in the club, treading on squishy carpets toward the door. Priceless.
Downstairs in “The Shelter” at the merch table, I watched dudes strip down into their drawers, dabbing themselves with paper towels and buying new, dry merch to fend off the cold. Have you ever seen a man standing at the merch booth in his boxer briefs talking bout “Do you have that in a 3XL?” Didn’t think so. How the merch dudes kept a straight face I don’t know. But they seemed totally unphased by it. From now on, after every clowns show, I’m headed to the merch table, just to get a peep show. It’s like juggalo-style Chippendales in that bitch…think of that SNL Chris Farley skit and you got it. Classic. And it smells like root beer.
After a long string of designated driver duties, I got everyone home safe, fizzled out, and slept for days on end. I’ve been hitting up ICP shows for almost 15 years, and this has to be one of my favorite nights ever, hands down. Some great memories were made and I can’t wait to do it all again next year. Happy Juggalo Day 2013, ninjas!
Much love. Be safe. Stay scrubby. And always remember to fuck off. Over and out.
Rachel Paul (aka “wow a chick”) is the author and illustrator of the Dark Carnival Tarot Cards and unofficial Faygoluvers forum goon. She bounces back and forth between Philly and Detroit and loves long walks on the beach, Shaggy 2 Dope, and Candy Apple Faygo. Visit her at facebook.com/darkcarnivaltarot or etsy.com/shop/darkcarnivaltarot.