Monday, October 3, 2011

The Gathering of the Juggalos, Day 1

Wednesday, August 10th through Monday, August 15th, 2011
The 12th Annual Gathering of the Juggalos
Cave-in-Rock, IL

I wear a ring on my right hand that is engraved with the words "Live without hesitation." I decided a few years ago that I wanted to live while I was alive, and since then, I've tried to expand my horizons and experience stuff that I never would have considered before. So back in January, after I went to an ICP concert and got to mark that off my bucket list, I decided to push the envelope even farther. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone, grab life by the horns and make my first visit to the one, the only, the Gathering of the Juggalos. It was going to be quite the step outside of my comfortable little box, but I felt that I was up to the challenge in more ways than one. Luckily, my friends Pamela and Nick had decided to go as well, so we'd all get to experience something new together!

In the months leading up to the Gathering, I accumulated any and every little thing that I could think of that we may need. I bought sunblock, bug spray, bandanas, flashlights, plastic silverware, mini fans, baby wipes, tons of non-refrigerated food, and loads of other stuff. My living room became the staging area for all my Gathering prep. I "test assembled" my huge tent in the spring just to make sure all the pieces were there, and even "test packed' my car to make sure all our stuff would fit. The only other trip I've taken that could measure up to the amount of prep I did was my trip to Japan. Except that this time, I wouldn't have the luxury of being near restaurants, stores or even running water!

The day before we left, I packed up all of my big items (the tent, cooler, chair, grill, my duffel bag of clothes, one tub of food and one tub of "stuff") then headed to Pamela and Nick's place to pack up their stuff. Nick helped me pack what we could, then we went to Pamela's work to show her our efforts. We actually ended up condensing one big tub and one big duffel bag of food all into the single tub, which saved a TON of space. With everything packed, the only thing left to do was sleep. Yeah right...I don't think any of us got much sleep that night!!

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

On Wednesday morning, I got up around 5:30am, and after a shower and a final few moments of cramming stuff into the car, I left the house at 7:00am and made my way to Harris Teeter for some dry ice. We ended up with about 15 pounds worth, which didn't look like much, but was hopefully going to keep all of our stuff cold for a while. When I was done, I headed off toward Pamela and Nick, grabbing a quick breakfast at McDonalds along the way. Once I was there, we packed up the rest of their stuff, and once Pamela's mom arrived with her air bed, we were on our way. We were crammed into the car...and I mean seriously, seriously packed!


Pamela was in the front seat with two cases of water at her feet and a mound of stuff in her lap...


...while Nick was in the back seat with water at his feet and my cooler sitting in his lap! Poor guy! hahaha

As we hit the road, we got stopped by the longest light ever, then made a quick stop to top off the gas tank and for Pamela to pick up some smokes for the road. Once we were on our way, we cranked up the tunes, and made our first stop right as we got off the highway in Eddyville, KY. After we unwedged Pamela and Nick from the car, we topped off the tank one last time, then hunted for some Ziploc bags since that was the one thing we had neglected to pack. There weren't any at our gas station, so I ran across the street where I found a box of them. Once we were back on the road, it was a fairly straight shot up to Cave-in-Rock,IL. We only saw one cop, but I was extra, extra careful not to go even one mile over the speed limit for fear of getting stopped.

When we arrived at the Cave-in-Rock ferry, it was just leaving, but luckily we only had about three or four cars in front of us, so we knew we'd be on the next one out. All the people in front of and behind us were Juggalos...


...and we even spotted "615 LOC" tagged on a bench nearby...Lords of Chaos have struck again! hahaha


Pamela was mildly freaked out by the fact that we were about to go on a ferry, but some chain smoking helped calm her nerves! When the ferry was back, we all boarded, and it was a quick, pleasant float across to the other side. Once there, we drove out to where our directions took us, but didn't know which road was Lamb Road since we didn't see a sign. We followed a sign for Hog Rock, but after a few blocks, Nick said he didn't think we were going the right way. We turned around and went back to the main road to drive a little further, but ultimately decided that we'd gone the right way the first time. Eventually we found the correct way off into the wilderness.

Upon our arrival, we followed the car entrance, and bottomed out the car a few times as we went up the incredibly bumpy, incredibly dusty entrance road. I'm not sure how people with RVs get up that road!! I was just glad I'd fixed the shocks before the trip!

DSCF9373 edit

At the top of the road, it opened up into a grassy field that was full of hundreds of cars full of Juggalos waiting to get into the campground! It was close to 1:00pm by this point, and we knew we'd be sitting for a long time at the rate the line was moving. We parked and walked around a little while, and moved the car forward any time there was an opening. Nick eventually decided to walk forward and find our buddy Moonshine since he'd texted that he was near the front of the line.

After some walking around, he came back and said that he'd found him, and that there were two shorter lines all the way at the front, if I would drive along the right side and pass everyone. It felt like cheating to do that, but once I was able to get all the way over to the right side, I slowly drove past everyone until I saw more cars in front of me. Once I got there, Moonshine flagged me to go even further to the right since there was another lane there. So I drove up again, and ended up four cars behind him. I'm not sure why people weren't utilizing all the lanes?? There were four lanes open, but the rightmost two lanes had almost no one in them while everyone else was cramming into the other two lanes. From the back of the line, you wouldn't know this since you couldn't see that far ahead, but the closer people definitely should have realized it. It's just like at Disney World, and how people will line up 20 deep at certain turnstiles while there is always the one turnstile with no line! I'm sure we easily bypassed 300 or more cars just by driving all the way up.

Once we were near the front, Pamela decided to sneak off into the woods for a bathroom break, and later came back to declare that it had been the best pee of her life! hahaha Eventhough we were so much closer, the line was still agonizingly slow. Each time they opened the line, they took four cars from each line. Eventually, we made it to the single line that was heading into the campground, only to round the corner and find that we were still probably half a mile from the entrance! Ugh! A million years later, when we finally got to the front of the line, we saw that each car was being searched to make sure there were no fireworks, weapons or glass inside the car. I'd made sure in advance that all of our alcohol was in plastic, and that I had nothing that would be considered a weapon. The people in front of us weren't so lucky though, and had to pour all of their whiskey into plastic bottles before they were let inside!

Once we were cleared for entry, we tried to follow the map as best we could. Dennis had said that the best place to camp was the "Haunted Forest" but we quickly realized that there was no such place! We did spot Haunted Haven though, so we assumed that that was what he meant. We found our way quickly to where we needed to be, but missed a turn and ended up driving up the road on the left side of Second Stage. After turning around, I backtracked one turn and made a right into the Haunted Haven. We drove, and it seemed like most of the spots were already taken. We passed a little cottage on the left, then came upon a cross street that turned to the left, that had a large empty area on the corner. Perfect! So I parked the car on the far end of the empty spot, then quickly dragged my cooler out to the corner so we could stake out the entire area.


Once we were parked, we started to get settled into our home for the weekend. We emptied out a lot of the trunk, and unrolled the tent. After a little trial and error with the tent poles, we managed to get the tent completely assembled within about 15 minutes.

Tada! Our three room condo for the weekend.

We gave Nick the job of hammering in the tent stakes, while Pamela and I set up the chairs, and unloaded our personal luggage. We had somehow ended up with a very inconvenient hole right in the middle of our campsite, and after all of us had almost fallen into it, we decided that that was a great place to set up the grill.

Once we got all our stuff arranged, Pamela and Nick started the daunting task of trying to inflate their air mattress with just the little manual pump I'd brought. They huffed and puffed, trying to blow it up for what seemed like a million years, but they were getting absolutely nowhere. After a while of just hanging around, snacking and relaxing down to vacation speed, Moonshine showed up for a bit. Luckily, he had an electric air bed pump that would run off the cigarette lighter in his truck, so he mercifully offered to blow up their bed for them. While he and Nick were gone attending to the mattress, Pamela and I just chilled, and I started to drink on some of my margarita that I'd brought.

Once Nick was back, complete with a fully inflated air mattress and one of their cases of beer, we decided to grab our drinks and take a walk around.

Pamela's first encounter with a port-a-potty!

We first found our way back to Second Stage, then kept going straight up a huge hill. Once we came down the other side of the hill, it opened up into a field containing the Bomb House and the wrestling stage.

Pamela and Nick at the wrestling stage


Following the path further, Lake Hepatitis was on the right, and Spazmatic and the food stalls were on the left. We walked a little further, then decided to scan the merch booth, which was unexpectedly open. I was very tipsy by this point, but I did manage to coherently ask if they had any sterling silver Hatchetmen, which they didn't. All the stuff seemed very expensive, which was a bummer since ultimately I'd have bought way more had prices been lower.

After a quick rest on a nearby park bench, we each took our photo with the big "Welcome to Shangri La" banner that was nearby, then headed back to the camp.

Me with the banner

Pamela with the banner

Nick with the banner

We were all pretty hungry since we hadn't eaten much all day, so it was definitely time to grill some burgers! During the drunken walk back, we passed someone in a van who was spinning out on the big hill, and a bunch of people, myself included, all pushed from behind and helped the van up the hill. Hooray teamwork! Once back at the camp, I threw some charcoal into the grill and got it going, while Pamela staked four of the tiki torches into the ground around the campsite so we could have some light. I'd gotten the kind of charcoal where you just light the little bag and it fires up all the coals, and it worked really, really well. Very glad I didn't have to mess with the lighter fluid I'd brought.

Tending to the grill while Pamela lights the torches

After a while, we threw the burgers on the grill, and enjoyed them with Pringles and a host of condiments pilfered from various restaurants in the months preceding the trip haha. After we'd each downed two burgers (we had no way to heat them back up, so we had to eat them right then or they wouldn't be good the next day!), Moonshine dropped back by for another visit. While he was there, I asked if he'd mind blowing up my mattress for me, and he grabbed it and took off with it! I was going to carry it up to his camp and back, but he insisted that I stay there, and he'd bring it back. That was so nice of him!


Once he was back with my mattress, I made up my bed, and it looked just like a little bedroom :-) Since we all wanted to get a good night of sleep, we ended up turning in at just after 11:00pm. It was only once I laid down that I realized how steep of a slope we were on. It was pretty much impossible to lay flat without rolling downhill to my left side, but it wasn't quite as noticeable when laying on my stomach. Surprisingly, I fell asleep quickly and slept very well.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Gathering of the Juggalos, Day 2

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Remarkably, I slept very well. Despite rolling slightly downhill all night, I'd managed to get a solid 8 hours of reasonably sound sleep. It was a little stuffy, and there was some dew accumulating on the inside of the tent, but overall it was pretty comfortable. Before I was actually out of bed, it started to rain slightly, but luckily the tent held solid and the rain passed after just a few minutes. By the time I was up, Pamela and Nick were already up and around, having had a good night of sleep as well. Pamela had just arrived back from a shower, and despite having been warned extensively beforehand about how gross the showers were, she said she was pleasantly surprised. I figured that I might as well get a move on and get my shower, despite it not even being 8:00am yet! Oy!

Just like Pamela, I found the showers to be quite a bit nicer than I'd imagined. You could tell that they had been well used by many years of festivals, but it wasn't dirty. There were maybe 6 or 8 shower stalls along the back wall, with benches along the front wall to use as a changing area. Quite functional, all told. Once I was done with my shower, me and my wet hair made my way back to the campsite, which immediately resulted in my legs and feet being coated with dust and grime. Yuck! But what could I do? haha


Back at camp, I got changed into my Violent J shirt and shorts, pulled my hair into a pony tail, and donned what would be the first of many bandanas. I was a little wary of the bandanas when I was planning the trip, but ultimately I was so glad that I'd brought them because I NEVER worried about how my hair looked even a single time. It was liberating to completely remove that worry from the trip, and I definitely plan on wearing them on any future summer trips I take.

At a little after 8:00am, Pamela, Nick and I decided to walk around again and see what was going on. The Bomb House and wrestling stage were quiet for now, and even Lake Hepatitis only had a few people swimming in it (in fact, I never saw the lake full of people).


We made it as far as the Spazmatic Hangout before stopping, at which time, I bought a Moon Mist in a bottle. For $2, I guess it was an ok deal, considering that we were at a music festival. While we hung out, we did a fair deal of people watching...Juggalos are so interesting to watch :-) We're all completely different, and all interesting in our own ways.


At one point, Nick got out his camcorder and got everyone in the area to "show some love to the camera" and ended up with an awesome video of everyone yelling "Fam-uh-ly."

Big crowds hanging out at Spazmatic


After quite a while of just chilling and soaking it all in, Nick grabbed a huge $7 bag of ice and we headed back to our campsite for a while. Along the way, someone joked that we were giving Nick the cold shoulder since we were making him carry the ice (and since he had the ice flung over one shoulder) haha.

Car dust drawings were plentiful everywhere you looked

Back at camp, we filled up the coolers with the ice, and took a minute to chill over some snacks, and lament the fact that it wasn't even 11:00am yet. Second stage music started at 2:00pm, so we still had a LONG time to kill. But we just hung out, relaxed, and planned out what we were gonna see each of the other days.

At 11:00am, we decided to catch the first thing on the schedule, which was a wet t-shirt contest at the Bomb House. I really, truly don't care about a contest like that, and neither did Pamela and Nick, but since it was the only thing going on, we took a peek.


When we arrived, people were just standing around throwing things at each other, including two very large plastic trash cans! This was my first (but definitely not my last!!) encounter with the whole "Juggalos throw things when they're bored" phenomenon. I knew they threw stuff at performers they didn't like, but I really didn't realize to what extent they take the throwing. Since there wasn't anything going on just yet, we decided to forget about it, and walked back up to Spazmatic.

Once at Spazmatic, there still wasn't much going on, so we just sat down and people watched a little more. After a few minutes, I decided to wander around and see what there was to see. I headed off by myself, and just wandered anywhere that I felt like going. I ended up walking all over the Lost Ninja Clan, Looney Boonies and Chaos Districts of the campground...

My favorite campsite accessory I saw all weekend


...and watched the helicopter go on multiple trips.

The rides weren't open yet, and for the moment, the area in front of Main Stage was still a relatively grassy field...oh how that would change by Sunday night haha. I knew that Pamela and Nick were going to be at Second Stage by the time the performances started there, so when I was done wandering, I headed over that way, and found them both chilling out in some shade near the stage.

I sat down next to them, and the first act we watched was a girl named Yoshi I think.


She was really entertaining and the crowd was really getting into it, but then her microphone started cutting in and out. They tried to get it fixed for a few minutes, but ultimately her set got cut short because they had so many people on the bill and they had to keep it moving. By this time, Pamela and Nick were ready for a break, so we all went back to the camp and relaxed for a while.

Everyone's favorite site...the sani-truck coming to clean out the port-a-potties


While we were there, Moonshine stopped by for a visit, but quickly moved along after a few minutes. I swear Moonshine was the most popular guy at the Gathering. Any time we saw him, everyone around him knew who he was, and he was always so easy to distinguish because of his straw hat and cooler.


Soon boredom set in, so we went back to second Stage just in time to catch the last two acts that played. Overall it was a good time, and of course the people watching was superb! haha Once the Second stage stuff was over for the day, it was time for the Main stage events to start. The first person on the bill was Mastamind, who honestly I'd never even heard of before he was announced as a performer. I was never a big fan of mainstream rap music, so quite a few of the people were new to me.

Look at me! I'm at the Gathering!

We stayed a little way back from the stage for the time being, and when Mastamind's set was over, Pamela suggested riding a couple of the carnival rides.


We started with the Scrambler, which she said was her favorite of the carnival rides.


Once we were done, we went over to the Tornado, which she said she'd never ridden. It was funny to watch her stress out about not being able to take her beer on the ride, and hoping that no one would take it while she was riding. Of course I had to poke fun at her, saying that all the people getting off the ride were eyeballing her beer like they were gonna walk off with it haha But ultimately, she got the beer back just fine!


The next performer was DJ Quik, who was another new-to-me performer. We'd worked our way forward on the right side of the stage, and had somehow ended up just one person away from the barricade, just under the large Gathering banner hanging there. He was entertaining enough, I guess. Part of the way through DJ Quik's set, I said that I was hungry, so I decided to go back to the campsite for a minute and grab a bite to eat. So I left Pamela and Nick in our spot, and walked back to the site.

Once I arrived, I grabbed a honey bun and some water, and sat down to relax for a while. With the length of time that I stayed at the camp, I was pretty sure that I'd have missed all of Paul Wall's set, which was no big deal since I've never listened to him either. Once I was rested and ready to head back to the Main Stage for the evening, I miraculously was able to make my way back up to the exact spot I'd had earlier. I somehow ended up getting shuffled a little closer to the center of the stage than Pamela and Nick did, so I ended up surrounded by people I didn't know. At this point, we ended up waiting a LONG time for something to happen. People around me were saying that Paul wall hadn't even gone on yet!


To pass the time, people were bopping some big balloons around, the catching them, signing them, and sending them back into the air.


Once Dustin Diamond made his way out on stage to announce the next act, it was only then that he announced that Paul Wall had no-showed, and that the next act was going to be E-40.


E-40, yet again, was another rapper that I wasn't familiar with. Luckily, once he was done, there was only a minimal delay before MC Hammer took the stage.

STOP! Hammertime!

It was kind of surreal to be in such a huge group of Juggalos watching someone who I was a fan of when I was 9 years old!! All told, Hammer put on a fantastic set. His backup dancers were a little cheesy, but it's FREAKING MC HAMMER, and he's allowed to have cheesy backup dancers. At one point, he came out into the crowd and walked around while singing, and came within about 7 or 8 feet of me!


I got an awesome picture of him surrounded by Juggalos on all sides, with balloons overhead and carnival rides in the background. It just really summed up the moment perfectly.

Once Hammer was back on stage, he played a few more songs, then we saw every security guard in the area rush backstage. We had no idea what was going on, but it turned out that they were just allowing a bunch of people to go up on the stage with Hammer for his finale.


Of course, the finale was Can't Touch This, and he probably had 200 happy, dancing Juggalos up on stage with him (including Moonshine and the guy who walked around with the lamp every night). It was really fun, and of course the 9 year old MC Hammer fan in me thought it was awesome to see him perform it live.

After Hammer was done, we had the most grueling wait of the Gathering. We all stood for TWO AND A HALF HOURS waiting for Busta Rhymes. No one came out to apologize for the delay, or give any kind of update or ANYTHING. We just stood, packed like sardines for a solid two and a half hours. Once Dustin Diamond finally came back out, he just did a very brief "Ok, our next performer is Busta Rhymes!" as though there had been no wait at all! WTF?? My back was killing me by this point, and both of the girls in front of me had taken the liberty of squatting down and peeing right where they stood since everything was taking so long!! I was kinda pissed when Busta Rhymes actually came out since I was hoping that they would just skip him and go directly to Dark Lotus so I'd be that much closer to being able to sit down! But no. Ain't that the luck of the Juggalo.


So Busta Rhymes performed, and honestly he was quite good. He started out trying to be all hard, and was grabbing himself and whatnot, but by the end of the set, you could really tell that he'd caught the vibe of the crowd.



To end his set, he said a bunch of nice stuff about how much he'd enjoyed the opportunity to perform, and how he'd love to come back in future years. It was really cool to see someone who really seemed like he wasn't into it suddenly morph into someone who "got it" and wanted to come back. I just hope all of what he said was genuine.

Once Busta was done, it was time for the main event...what would end up being far and away my favorite performance of the Gathering, and my overall highlight as well...Dark Lotus! It was 1:30am by the time they took the stage. It was tired, and by this point I'd been standing at the Main Stage for about seven total hours that night. Needless to say, I was ready to sit down! But the second that I saw the guys come out on stage in their Black Rain outfits and paint, every single bit of that discomfort was pushed to the back of my mind. I was getting to watch Dark Lotus! They usually only do one performance a year, and I was there, only one person away from the barricade! Luckily, where I was standing was a prime spot since people were always moving around, and someone was always stopping there. I snapped pictures as furiously as I could, and I ended up with some amazing ones! They sang an awesome lineup of their songs, including Heinous and Juggalo Family, which are two of my very favorites. Dennis had made a big deal about wanting to see Dark Lotus perform, but some delays at home had prevented him from getting there on time. Of course I thought of him when the sang Juggalo Family!














After the amazing, amazing, amazing Dark Lotus performance, it felt so good to be walking instead of just standing still in one place! haha I briefly went back to the camp to sit down and get a bottle of water, then I was immediately off to the Bomb House to check out whatever "Murder of Crows with Boondox" was gonna be. It struck me as odd in advance when I noticed that Boondox was double booked that evening, with Murder of Crows with Boondox and Psychopathic Rydas both falling in the same time slot. I just sort of assumed that he wasn't performing in Rydas that night. But given how much I absolutely love Boondox, I'd decided to forgo seeing the Rydas in favor of whatever his Murder of Crows thing was gonna be. When I arrived, there were only about a dozen people there, all of whom looked like they'd rather be in bed right then! They were playing South of Hell over the speakers, and I ended up waiting from We All Fall through the end of the album. When the music finally turned off, someone came out and said that we all needed to leave and go watch the Rydas! What?? Confused, we all got up and left. I just wished they'd told us sooner.

Arriving at Second Stage, I was just in time to see the last couple of songs of Hopsin's set. Hopsin is a crazy talented dude, and I can't wait to see where his career takes him. At the end of his set, he came out and said that they were cutting his set short by two songs, which made everyone boo. But there wasn't much he could do about it.


After just a few minutes, Psychopathic Rydas took the stage. It was so funny to watch them move around the stage, and you could pinpoint who each Ryda was just based on their mannerisms. I particularly thought it was cool that ABK is back in Rydas, and that he performs with one arm tucked inside his shirt, and the shirt sleeve rolled up. I thought "Sawed off" was a play on the fact that he's missing part of one of his fingers...I didn't realize that Sawed Off was actually missing an entire arm haha


By the time the Rydas were done, I was beyond exhausted and just needed to collapse into bed ASAP. I briefly thought about going back by the Bomb House to see if the Murder of Crows party was going on, but quickly decided against it since I was just too tired. When I made it back to my tent, I got changed and crawled into my bed, only to realize that the sun was starting to rise outside. Luckily though, I fell asleep quite easily.