Once at the main stage, we catch a new Psychopathic Records artist named Big Hoodoo, a black guy in facepaint and a big trenchcoat. This is his debut show, his Psychopathic Debutante Ball, if you will. There are topless girls roaming throughout the show, kids on shoulders, your usual concert debauchery scene, though amplified slightly, especially in the nudity and drugs department. It must be said, there are a shocking number of legitimately attractive women here.
Big Hoodoo performs with a cane and drinks vodka out of a crystal skull, spitting it into the air as the strobe lights pop behind him. A great branding opportunity for Dan Aykroyd and his skull vodka, if he’s smart enough to realize it. Big Hoodoo is decent enough, and an enjoyable stage presence. He sings a song called “I Never Had Shit,” rapping about all the deprivations of his hard luck childhood – not having food, being molested by his parents, being burned by a crack pipe by his mom, being hung upside down by his feet in the basement, being hosed down and left for dead, among other torments. It seems obviously hyperbolic for entertainment purposes, but the shitty-childhood sentiment genuine. I guess you wouldn’t want to brag about deprivations in front of those possibly more deprived, and just have them feel worse. So instead, he somewhat winkingly embellishes it to the extreme. That way, everyone can just commiserate over crappy childhoods in general without measuring deprivation dicks, so to speak. At least, that’s my take on it. I think I get it. Later we create our own “Never Had Shit” verses, like “My Siblings All Were Rattlesnakes,” “raise your motherf*ckin hands if you got framed for 9/11” and “I Never Seen a Bird.”
The next event I’m dying to see is the comedy. Having performed comedy in plenty of less-than-ideal venues myself, I imagined trying to do comedy at The Gathering to be a nightmare gig before we even got here. It’s about what I expected. The comedy takes place in the seminar tent, and we wait there on hay bale seats as the Dante Nero show scheduled for 12:30 gets pushed back 20, 30, 40 minutes. The MC, Upchuck the Clown, a fairly square-looking, heavy-set radio guy type with a goatee, but for an orange clown wig, facepaint, and a bicycle horn hanging around his neck, tells us Dante arrived on time but they’re waiting for Tech N9ne to clear the main stage (we caught the first part of the set). Which makes sense, given that Tech N9ne is one of the most popular acts and there are only five or six people sitting there for the comedy. It’s not pronounced “Tech Nih-nine-nee”, by the way.
What you look for in a comedy venue is a place with low-ceilings that hold in the sound of laughter, an attentive audience, a lit stage with a dark rest of the room to focus the attention on the comic, and a minimum of distractions. This evenly-lit, cavernous, open air circus tent with drunk Juggalos filing in and others yelling as they walk by fails every test and then some. Despite this, Nero, a big black guy from Brooklyn with tattoos and a skull earring who used to be a bouncer, performs admirably, giving us 40 minutes of funny, mostly about sex and relationships, while rolling with everything the crowd throws at him. He’s respectful, offering only light burns and just engaging with the crowd, who frequently interject while he’s in the middle of a setup, which can really rattle a comic. Nero just “yes ands” them in a nicer way than I thought possible while they point laser pointers at his chest and yell “Who are you?”
“Do you want me to introduce myself again?” he asks, laughing.
While their ignorance of comedy etiquette is hard to watch (pretty much any drunk, not-there-to-see-comedy audience is like this, to varying degrees, though this is an extreme example), and Lieb compares it to trying to teach middle school, the Juggalos aren’t really trying to be dicks, and they do attempt to police themselves. A guy with a bullhorn interrupts the show at one point, apparently just trying to answer Nero’s question of how old people are. This guy really needed to ensure that Nero heard his answer, which was 38 years old. I’ve seen this before, with certain kinds of audiences you have to drop your rhetorical questions unless you legitimately want to hear everyone in the crowd’s answer individually, but it’s easy to forget. Nero can’t understand what the guy’s saying because of the bullhorn, and the show slows to a crawl. The crowd starts to show “you f*cked up!”
Basically it means sit the f*ck down, heckler guy, in Juggalo parlance.
The guy looks mad and angrily smashes his bullhorn on the ground – “HE f*cked up, he asked ME!” The “bouncers” (Upchuck and a buddy) are about to throw him out, but Nero tells the bouncer to leave the guy, and the commotion somehow dies down. That a person is allowed to get too drunk and be an ass on occasion and everyone should accept that is all but an official tenet of Juggalo culture. (See: “What Is a Juggalo,” lyrics of).