Insane Clown Posse: Cinncinnati Bogarts

Mucho Eminem-bashing from fellow Detroit absurdist rap clowns...

In a notoriously conservative city like Cincinnati, home of the infamous censorship trials against Larry Flynt and an art exhibit by New York underground photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Insane Clown Posse draws a capacity crowd. If you want to be a Juggalo – the badge-of-honor given to the duo’s fans – you’ll need something to rebel against, and this city’s hyper-conservatism certainly provides that.

As the duo takes the stage to the unending chants of “I-C-P!,” it’s clear this is merely a twisted rock’n’roll and not the end of civilization that concerned parents fear. The two rappers bound playfully onto the funhouse stage, adorned with whirling pinwheels, ‘back-up clowns’ (decked out in frilly lame) and giant rotating happy/sad clown heads. The crowd erupts, bouncing to the cement-block bass of ‘Carnival Of Carnage’ and ‘Hokus Pokus’. There’s no band, not even a DJ. ICP live is just Shaggy and J, their costumed dancers/roadies and an unending supply of Faygo, a low-budget soft drink the Posse pull from bottomless, neon green barrels scattered around the stage.

Faygo is really the star of the show, as it flows from squirt-guns from start to finish, drenching the moshers with enough carbonated liquid to fill a swimming pool. The results add to the sensory assault, giving the venue the faint odor of stale cotton candy. ICP’s music, a primitive mix of old-school, bare-bones hip hop and plodding hard rock seems secondary to the spectacle. Sticking largely to the simultaneously released ‘Bizzar’/’Bizaar’ albums, the duo barely mix up the formula of swaggering-rap-to-exploding-singalong-chorus. But the call-and-response of songs like ‘Chicken Huntin” and ‘What’ keeps the band/audience connection throughout the set.

When Shaggy 2 Dope appears on stage with an acoustic guitar (the only actual instrument to make an appearance) and the two rappers sit down on stools, it’s hard to know whether to laugh at the ludicrousness or brace for another stunt. J shouts to the already waving audience, “If you fucked Eminem’s mom, wave your hands in the air,” which riles the fans and launches a theme for the night: their fellow Detroit rapper is a “bitch.” There’s even a new song written about the blue-eyed pop icon, inspired by the band’s public feud with

Eminen (Em pulled a gun on one of the Posse’s crew last year). The tune, ‘Nothin But a Bitch Thang’, brings out two male dancers dressed as Eminem, who proceed to dry hump each other.

While oafish and juvenile, seeing ICP live gives one the sense that these guys (and to a lesser extent, their fans) are in on the gag. What comes off as intensely violent and often nonsensical on record translates into humorous absurdity in concert. ICP aren’t a rock band or a hip-hop clan, they’re a comedy duo. It’s good, sticky fun. Unless you’re the venue’s cleaning crew.

Mike Breen