Recommendations for large-scale, picture-heavy, conversation-starting mega-books that are worth their price tags. People disparage the coffee table book, but it’s worth covering your furniture with big books that are interesting — not just whatever was on clearance at Urban Outfitters and can double as a take-out tray while you stuff your face in front of Teen Mom 3.
The Gathering of the Juggalos
by Daniel Cronin
Published by Prestel (2013)
Personally, I am fascinated by Juggalos, which, in case you aren’t from Detroit, are blissfully unaware of terrible things or have never seen this, are diehard fans of the Insane Clown Posse, the Motor City’s most dubious musical outfit of all time and Eminem’s most face-painted enemies. While some people — mostly Detroiters with not-shitty musical taste — just refer to ICP’s fans with the derogatory term “clowns” (due to their face-paint and usage of the ICP phrase, “down with the clown,” which makes them fairly complicit in their own mockery), I prefer to give the Juggalo respect.
After all, from an anthropological point of view, their culture is intricate, bizarre and altogether fascinating. All it ever took to be a Phishhead was loving Phish, smoking weed and spending entire summers following the band in your dad’s Saab while your parents were on Nantucket. Juggalos, on the other hand, consider themselves a tight-knit tribe, united by so much more than their love of ICP, Faygo (a midwestern soda favored by ICP), face paint and tiny braids that never look OK on white people. Juggalos dedicate themselves to ICP the way Phishheads used to dedicate themselves to getting onto their prep school’s varsity Lacrosse team. Juggalos also look and act like no one else, which is why a book of Juggalo portraits is something that you will not only look at more than once, but want to show to people, especially to those who’ve never heard of the Insane Clown Posse and are prepared to have their minds blown.
The portraits from the book were taken over three years at the band’s “Gathering of the Juggalos,” an annual Juggalo festival held at a rural Illinois campground. It features not only the Insane Clown Posse, but other rap and metal bands (many from ICP’s own record label, Psychopath Record) as well as comedians and “personalities” (Charlie Sheen famously appeared one year). There are also carnival rides, vendors, drugs, nudity, face paint and everything else you’d need to make a clowny, trashy Woodstock.
The book not only captures the eccentricities of Juggalo fandom — there are a lot of men and women dressed as neon clowns, and at least one entire family attending together in full face-paint — but also a sentiment often expressed by Juggalo observers and Juggalos themselves: That despite their outward appearance, they’re all just nice people who support each other and love the same band. Sure, a lot of these portraits show young guys throwing signs and trying to look tough for the camera, but there are enough smiles, rainbow wigs and general goofiness to give you the impression that being a Juggalo isn’t just paint-deep.