"We were offered whatever we wanted, from helicopters to lions."
All photos by the author.
As far as I could tell, electronic punk rap group Ho99o9 had never signed a terrifying pig mask before. That said, this was their first trip to the infamous Gathering of the Juggalos, but I myself have been here before. For those who don’t know, The Gathering of the Juggalos is truly like no other music festival on the planet. Tens of thousands of Insane Clown Posse fans from around the country gather on the camp grounds an hour outside of Columbus, Ohio for four days of music, drugs and the chance to see a four hundred pound man crawling around with strippers.
I’ve covered hundreds of music festivals in my day and after six years at the Gathering of the Juggalos, it still blows my mind. An hour after I arrived with Ho99o9, we were just standing around trying to figure out what the fuck was happening and how the hell we were going to get their gear on stage. As Ho99o9 prepared to open the second stage, we looked around for anyone who could give us any information. Finally, a guy with dreadlocks down to his ass told us they were looking for a stage manager named Shadow. Ho99o9 really needed to figure out how to get their amps up a skinny ramp positioned at an aggressively sharp angle and there didn't seem to be anyone who could help them.
They eventually just gave up and just left their gear in the rental SUV. As we walked around the Gathering, I introduced Ho99o9 to a few of the various bizarre people I had met over the years. The rapper Stitches drove by in a golf cart and Three Six Mafia's DJ Paul was walking around talking to juggalos about his line of BBQ sauce he was trying to sell. Down by the Tilt-A-Whirl, we ran into Mike Busey, the proprietor of some sort of terrifying harem/video production studio/freak show called the Sausage Castle. I met him last year at the Gathering when his video of this 400 lb man named Big L.A. dancing with stripers went viral. He was back this year and told me he was a fan of my photography. I was there, after all, to follow Ho99or to the Gathering and take pictures. After I introduced him to the boys and he invited us down to Orlando. We were offered whatever we wanted, from helicopters to lions.
Ho99o9 jumped into the lap dance wheel chair that Busey had set up and I took a few pictures of the band with his entire weird entourage. We hung out talking to his girls while they shot fire out of a cannon, promising free lap dances to the jugglalos who bought a t-shirt. Still not exactly sure how the margins played out on that deal, but I saw one juggalo give every girl $100 and was then given his own chair to watch the show.
By this time, Ho99o9's manager had managed to find a couple people who were in charge of the stage. Juggalos can be hard to pin down as they are generally not purveyors of things neat and orderly. The band started to load in and sound check while I ran down to the main stage to shoot photos of rappers Hopsin and TechN9ne. I met the Ho99o9 boys back at their stage right before they were about to go on.
Since Ho99o9 were opening the main stage at 12:30 a.m., there weren't a lot of people there when their set first started. The mohawk-ed kid in the terrifying pig mask was there though. He had come to see Ho99o9 after seeing them play on Carson Daily Live. He had been waiting there for two straight hours. What started with just him turned into a few dozen juggalos clinging to the barrier that separated the band from the stage.
Ho99o9 came out with a bang and played a jaw-dropping set to a small group of juggalos and fans. But by the time their set was over, the crowd had swelled and broken out into a pretty serious face-painted mosh pit. They were doing back flips and jumping off amps and eventually Eaddy jumped into the crowd of jugglos and returned to the stage covered in dirt and bleeding from the mouth. After the show I asked Ho99o9 what they thought about the Gathering and all they could do was talk about coming back. "This was a trial run," Jean said. "We are going to come at the juggalos so much harder next year."