Insane Clown Posse at the Palladium

From WFNX: Begley Becomes A Juggalo

Considering that Chris Faraone has already plumbed the horrorcore depths in the Phoenix this week, and that the definitive case study of Juggalodom has already been written, I could keep this Insane Clown Posse show review brief: It's exactly what you'd expect.

But that wouldn't be any fun, so here's the gory details: Capping off a glorious Rock & Shock weekend in Worcester, the Sunday-night show starring the interweb's most polarizing clown-rap duo struck me more a room-clearer than a crown jewel (disclaimer: I've owned at least one ICP album in my lifetime and could probably recite the lyrics to "The Neden Game" under duress). But Insane Clown Posse turn out to be the biggest draw of the fest.

On Main Street, we know we're in the right place when we spot the pickup truck with a Hatchetman logo on the rear window and a guy in a grubby Santa suit at the wheel. At the door, the Palladium staff greeted us with thousand-yard stares, the kind usually reserved for field nurses who've done multiple tours in Vietnam. Inside, the venue is wall-to-wall bodies -- bodies slathered in clown makeup, dubious tattoos, and every imaginable permutation of Psychopathic Records gear: ICP hockey jerseys, “Wicked Clownz” prison jumpsuits, even a John Deere hat with the Hatchet Man on it. The place smells like a combination of sweat, weed, and Steak-umms.

We watch ICP opener Hed PE -- purveyors of nu-metal reggae-rap -- from the nosebleed section, standing beside two older fellows who both look like Cliff from Cheers. Cliff #1 is here for ICP, while Cliff #2 is here with his genial, disabled 20-something son, who produces an enormous blunt and starts puffing as dad white-knuckles his wheelchair. Below us, the scene plays out something like a Boy Scout jamboree as envisioned by Clive Barker, the Hed PE frontman leading a deafening call-and-response (“When I say ‘Bitch,’ you say ‘Get the fuck out!’ ”) and rambling about pyramids on Mars. The walls shake with Juggalo war cries of “Woot! Woot!”

When ICP's Dark Carnival appears, the stage scenery resembles the facade of a county-fair funhouse, topped with a spinning hatchet windmill. We're told to give it up for cage-dancing sideshow attractions "Ape Boy," "Many Faces," and DJ Clay. Then out come Violent J (a massive slab of clownflesh who looks pretty capable of delivering a mean scoop slam piledriver) and his wiry cohort Shaggy 2 Dope. From the first song, they’re already busting out a many-flavored arsenal of Faygo -- the Michigan soda brand and ultimate Juggalo sacrament -- and spraying it into the crowd.

For the next hour or so, they plow through more than 20 songs in a set that includes new stuff off latest album Bang! Pow! Boom! and older joints from The Great Milenko days, when ICP was signed to the Disney-owned Island Records. Amazingly, they can go from a song about "finding dead bodies all over the street" to "Juggalo Island," a peppy ditty about sandy beaches, volleyball, and mermaids who give great head -- truly, this is next-level subversiveness. But considering that they're managed to wedge quasi-Christian themes in a catalog that also contains "Bugz on My Nutz," the Amazing Jeckel Brothers know how to juggle dissonance.

They're big on spectacle, too. Between songs, bucket brigades of demonic clowns slop Faygo into the pit, and a flock of Michael Jackson impersonators attempt to moonwalk. "Speaking of pedophiles ... " Violent J cracks, before launching into "To Catch a Predator." The theatrical money shot of the evening, the live rendition is basically a skit starring a nebbishy little kiddie-toucher who lusts after schoolgirls and a wrestler who exacts Juggalo justice by (I shit you not) throwing the pedo off a ladder onto a card table.

The grand finale is "Bang! Pow! Boom!", a cheery hey-ho-let's-go anthem about Armageddon. "It's about to rain flames," ICP announce. In fact, it's about to rain a good 90 gallons' worth of carbonated corn syrup. All the backup dancers and actors run out to join Shaggy and J, until there's about 20 people onstage busting open liter after liter of Faygo. For the next 10 minutes, the wicked clowns douse their fans in nonstop Red Pop bukkake. Also pouring down from the ceiling is a torrential hail of crepe streamers and confetti -- it's Blue Man Group in Hell. And yet by song's end, there are still a few cases of Faygo left, and when the house lights come up, ICP just keep on popping those bottle tops.

As a pungent root-beer aroma rolls over us, we're seized by a fleeting urge to stay and explore the aftermath -- the Palladium floor must be a cesspool of greasepaint-stained sugar water by now. But there's a weird Lord of the Flies vibe here, and we have no intention of becoming Piggy Pie. So we push through a horde of soda-sticky Juggalettes (and nearly trip over Pickup Truck Santa, whose red suit is even grubbier now) and high-tail it for the parking garage; we drive home in a state of shellshocked awe. Just a few minutes earlier, ICP was reminding us: "To be blown into pieces is the reason you came." Amen to that, ninjas.

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