A month ago I was incredibly fortunate to be able to attend and photograph The 17th Annual Gathering of the Juggalos for Faygoluvers Heaven. I'd been planning over the year to make the Juggalo pilgrimage to Mecca, this year held at Legend Valley in Ohio, but as the event drew closer it did not seem like I'd be able to afford the trek. Everything came together at the last moment, including being granted a full week off of work in the theater tech department at Medieval Times, and I was informing Scottie D at FLH that I would be there with my camera in hand capturing all of the festivities.
The number 17 has been an important part of Juggalo culture since ICP dropped the First Joker's Card, Carnival of Carnage, in 1992 and the clowns definitely made this, the 17th Gathering, one of the greatest of them all. The theme this year was centered around Violent J's solo EP from 2003, Wizard of the Hood, which follows J as his crack house is blown to Oz by a tornado and he must follow the Yellow Brick Alleyway to find the wizard and get home while being joined by the Scarecrow, Tin-man, and Lion along the way. Shaggy 2 Dope, Jamie Madrox, Monoxide, and Blaze Ya Dead Homie provide the raps for each character and for the first time ever, the album would be performed in it's entirety at the 17th Gathering.
As always, the Gathering featured a plethora of underground and legendary rap acts ranging from up and coming Juggalo rappers in the tent stages to Juggalo favorites on the Main and Pendulum Stages such as Tech N9ne, Kottonmouth Kings, Twiztid, and Bone Thugs 'n Harmony. While the biggest selling acts play at a reasonable hour, the Juggalos know that it's the early morning Pendulum Stage acts that are not to be missed, culminating in the 4:00AM slot occupied by acts that you will not see anywhere else including the father of horrorcore rap Esham the Unholy, the ICP and Three 6 Mafia supergroup Killjoy Club, and Dark Lotus. I photographed many of the Pendulum Stage acts and generally left the Main Stage and tiny stages to the other Faygoluvers photographers, though I did get the opportunity to photograph the incredibly special Wizard of the Hood performance thanks to Manderz.
While the music performances and many wrestling shows are the main draw of the Gathering and what brings the Juggalos together, it's the Juggalos themselves that are the real attraction. For the Juggalos, the Gathering is a Family reunion where we get to camp in the woods and celebrate for an entire week, hanging out with local and far flung friends while also meeting new homies. The Juggalos become the merchants, selling all manner of goods and services via set-up shops or hand-written cardboard signs worn on their bodies as advertising. The Juggalos also become the entertainment as popular events such as the Juggalo Gong Show, the Neden Game, the wet t-shirt contest, the Miss Juggalette pageant, and much more allow Juggalos to get up on stage and show off what they're about. Most of all, the Juggalos are able to be free and be themselves, wearing their favorite clothes, creating elaborate costumes, or sometimes wearing little to nothing at all while enjoying the festivities and often taking any number of intoxicants as they let loose. Some are daily users having an over-the-top drug fueled adventure comparable to those of Hunter S. Thompson while others abstain completely in their everyday life, only letting go for this one week every year.
I was so incredibly proud to be able to be at this year's Gathering as a representative of the Juggalo news/media website Faygoluvers, and was always wearing my FLH jersey embroidered with my name or a t-shirt and hat emblazoned with the FLH symbol. I've been a fan of the site since 2004, and have been photographing as a staff member for a year and half and everything they do for the Juggalo community means so much to me. At the Gathering I was able to meet many more FLH staff members from around the nation as well as thousands of Juggalos who instantly recognized the Faygoman symbol and provided access to me and my camera into their camps and tents (in this case, their homes for the week). Many would come up and start expressing their gratitude and respect for the site and our webmaster Scottie D with stories of articles, photos, music, or birth announcements they had posted or tales of times that FLH had helped them in the past through their darkest hours. I've always known what this simple website meant to me, but it was amazing hearing what all these other Juggalos had to say and makes me even more proud to represent the organization. Thank you again to Scottie D for everything and Faygoluvers Heaven for allowing me into their proverbial home, both on the website and at the Gathering.