Live from Insane Clown Posse's Gathering of the Juggalos

Revenge of the losers! Or, what it's like at a four-day reunion of 'the most misunderstood people of all time'

"You can't guess who that's going to happen to," says Violent J. "They were throwing shit at the [crunk rappers known for "Wait (The Whisper Song)"] Ying Yang Twins two years ago. We figured, 'The Ying Yang Twins, they got fun anthems!' We didn't pay the Ying Yang twins 30 grand for them to come in and get booed offstage!"

Juggalos throw things. They just do. Even while waiting for Insane Clown Posse to address its faithful at an official "panel," an airborne war broke out between the front and the back of the tent, in the impish style of a cafeteria food fight. "It's the Gathering," someone behind me huffed when MC Upchuck the Clown pleaded with them to stop. "Juggalos throw things."

The following day, I met a 'lette who "busted ass" all summer to attend her first Gathering with her tattoo-artist brother; she got hit in the face with a Miller Lite bottle waiting for that ICP panel. The glass, which technically isn't permitted on the grounds, shattered and deeply cut her cheek; the skin below her eye was bandaged and bruised. She didn't care about a scar—she was more upset that her older sibling had to forfeit precious moments of the Gathering to track down a Wal-Mart for first-aid supplies.

So when Tila Tequila got pelted with rocks, feces, bottles, cans, sex toys, and a bag of chicken tenderloin—an incident she immediately reported to TMZ with photos of her facial bruises and then threatened to sue—it wasn't unexpected. A fever pitch of promises had already been made, via Twitter and Juggalo forums, to heckle her, to spray her with Faygo. "Before I got onstage, I already knew what was going to happen," she even told E! later that week.

The whole thing became so precarious that on Friday, the two members of Insane Clown Posse addressed the situation at a previously scheduled public forum. "Everybody that comes—they know where they're going and they know who they're performing for," Violent J told a tentful of at least 1,000 Juggalos, mostly seated on bales of hay. "You wouldn't believe how many people refuse to come play the Gathering." (Later, he told me that no one has flat-out refused—just raised their fee extremely high.) "When we see somebody who actually agreed, and who was actually looking forward to it, get bombed onstage? That shit hurts, man, because we feel bad for them, you know. And we just want you to know, you're going to have equally as much love from us no matter what you decide to do, but we wish you wouldn't throw the shit, man. I'm keeping it real." The Juggalos applauded.

Even Hannibal Buress, a New York comedian who writes for 30 Rock and performed at two o'clock in the morning, said he wouldn't put up with that: "If they throw shit at me, I'll stop."

To counter the criticism that Insane Clown Posse's catalog and attitude encourage misogyny (I can't even tell you how many times Juggalos begged me to flash), Psychopathic Records wanted, finally after a decade, to establish a female face. So they promoted the Tila Tequila lineup, which Lil' Kim was supposed to headline, as the "Juggalettes' Revenge." It was also sold as something "for horny Juggalos!" on the infomercial by Sugar Slam, in real life Violent J's longtime girlfriend and the mother of his children.

Ill E. Gal, a green-haired, Maine-based pothead rapper, went on right before Tila, despite not getting paid to play, and was received warmly. "I had the most amazing, magical set with nothing but love and then she goes up there and gets shit thrown at her. It's obviously not the people, because if it were the people, I would have gotten it, too."

Even before Tila Tequila's face turned bloody onstage, Insane Clown Posse has recently enjoyed a public-eye resurgence that's seen them written into Adult Swim's Aqua Teen Hunger Force and spoofed on Saturday Night Live twice in the last year: once for their extremely earnest, extremely long Gathering infomercial; once for their most recent video, "Miracles," which has over 3.5 million views on YouTube.

"Miracles" is unflaggingly positive, uproariously so from guys who have a history of promising to give your forehead a butt-crack with an ax: a wide-eyed P.M. Dawn–style paean to giraffes, "fucking rainbows," their children's birth, and a hungry pelican that once nearly ate Violent J's cell phone, the single exuded a Saturday-morning kids'-hour naïveté about natural phenomena. "Fucking magnets, how do they work?" is Shaggy's most memorable line, followed by his subsequent dismissal of lab-coated reasoning. "I don't wanna talk to a scientist/Y'all motherfuckers lying, and get me pissed." Slate's Jonah Weiner cast it thusly: "Imagine Wordsworth gone rock-rap, dropping f-bombs aplenty in praise of the natural sublime."

"We're just trying to show appreciation for the things that are in our everyday life—and we made a song about it," Violent J explains. "And people are mad about it! They know we don't really not know how magnets work! They know we know that shit. We know what miracles are! And we know those aren't all miracles. So why are people so mad about it? It's Insane Clown Posse, we're clowns, we're singing about something positive, and they said"—from Detroit to New York, you can hear the caps in his voice—"FUCK THIS. THIS IS THE WORST SONG EVER MADE IN LIFE! You should go on YouTube and look at these posts! How mad these guys are! They're so angry!"

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