Thousands of fans of the hip hop music duo Insane Clown Posse are convening at Oklahoma City’s Lost Lakes Amphitheater this week for the annual music festival known as the “Gathering of the Juggalos.”
Fans of Insane Clown Posse and other Psychopathic Records musical groups refer to themselves as “Juggalos.” Rappers in a genre known as “horrorcore,” Joseph “Violent J” Bruce and Joseph “Shaggy 2 Dope” Utsler attract legions of enthusiastic fans from across the United States.
The campground across from the Lost Lakes Amphitheater Tuesday night was a maze of tents, RVs and trucks. The smell of marijuana wafted through the air as festival-goers, many sporting neon-colored hair or elaborate tattoos, sat on the grass or in lawn chairs, sipping beers and chatting.
“It feels like freedom,” said Andy Brekken, when asked why he came to this year’s Gathering in Oklahoma. Brekken lives in Wisconsin. He said it is his ninth time at the festival.
“Nobody will judge you,” Brekken said. “Even if you’re naked and just completely obnoxious--it’s fine.”
The four-day music festival boasts three performance stages for acts like Waka Flocka Flame and Vanilla Ice. The Gathering also has a reputation for unruliness. Past events have included fatal drug overdoses, fights and multiple arrests.
The Oklahoma City Police Department has assigned officers to patrol the area, according to police department spokesman Gary Knight.
Knight said OKCPD will take “appropriate measures to ensure the safety of the public.”
Fans who are “down with the clown” are a tight-knit subculture.
“People will tell you they’re more here to see other people than they are to see the bands,” said Steven Hawley, who drove up from Dallas.
Marc Foltz said he discovered the Juggalo community before he listened to the music, and found it to be an accepting group. He wears a red plastic “Hatchet Man” around his neck--the logo for Psychopathic Records--and said he has created an alternate Juggalo identity named ”Cookie.”
“Juggalo people are just people who stick with you through thick and thin,” Foltz said. “No matter what, they always got your back. It’s all about the family, really.”
The closeness of Psychopathic Records fans has attracted scrutiny. A 2011 Federal Bureau of Investigation National Gang Intelligence report referred to the Juggalos as a “loosely organized hybrid gang.”
The Juggalos’ connections to counterculture combined with dark undertones in Insane Clown Posse’s music has often resulted in negative attention for fans.
“They definitely get a bad rap,” said Tori Morgan, who has bright pink hair and is attending her first-ever Gathering in Oklahoma City.
“Most people at work...I would just tell them I was going to a festival, because I [knew] the moment I said ‘the Gathering of the Juggalos,’ they would be like, ‘oh, you’re that kind of person.’”
Cody Mitchell said many people misunderstand and stereotype Juggalo culture.
“If it pushes the boundary of normal, people don’t understand it. Then they get uncomfortable. Then they get scared,” Mitchell said.
The Gathering of the Juggalos in Oklahoma City takes place Wednesday through Saturday.