SAN FRANCISCO -- The Insane Clown Posse are, well, insane. They're even
pretty good showmen with some funny lyrics and boundless energy. But when it
comes to musical talent, they come up empty.
Drawing largely from their controversial major label debut, The Great
Milenko and mixing in a few of their older -- if you can call them that --
songs, the Insane Clown Posse displayed great showmanship at the Trocadero here.
The Detroit-based rapping duo were dropped from Disney-owned
Hollywood Records due to their explicit lyrics; the act was subsequently signed by Island Records. In San Francisco, they showed the crowd they're
worth all the hype.
Not nearly a hip-hop show, not quite a GWAR concert and not really a '70s Alice
Cooper-style performance, the ICP's Sunday show did borrow
heavily from all three of those musical icons. Shaggy 2 Dope (Joey Ulster) and
Violent J (Joseph Bruce), rapped over pre-recorded tracks and continually
sprayed the audience with Faygo soda, continued the
rock 'n' roll tradition of giving your all even when, musically speaking, you don't
have that much to give.
Let's first address the amount of soda dumped on the adoring masses at the
foot of the stage. Throughout the hour-long set, the boys were never without a
two-liter of Faygo soda in hand -- sometimes a bottle in each hand. They sprayed
the crowd while rapping. They sprayed the crowd while dancing. They sprayed
the crowd while waiting for the next song to start. Just when you thought they
were out of Faygo brand Moon Mist Cola and Orange Soda to throw at you, an
assistant dressed in a Halloween mask would creep on stage and fill their
trough with a fresh supply of bottles.
When the bottles were empty, they were thrown into the soaking wet crowd and
collected as if they were valuable souvenirs. We're talking empty plastic soda
bottles. Things that people usually recycle for five cents were fought over and
carried out of the venue as if they were guitar picks, drum sticks and rock-star-sweat-soaked towels.
This was more rock concert than hip-hop experience.
In contrast to your average hip-hop show, the stage was elaborate: a giant
Great Milenko head dominating the set and funhouse mirrors on either side of
the performers, strobe lights used to great effect early and often and a parade of
costumed characters continually rushing on stage to dance with the Clowns and
bring them more Faygo. There was no DJ cutting and scratching, there was no
call and response, there was no "now somebody, anybody, everybody scream!!"
And there was no freestyling.
In fact, it even sounded like the group was lip-syncing at points. And if they
weren't, the difference between the live sound of their between song patter and
the sound of their rapping was painfully obvious to those who were paying
Lucky for the Clowns, most weren't.
Certainly, no one in their right mind came to the show expecting musical
genius. They came to get a little "Clown Luv" and declare that they were "Down
With The Clown." They came with their faces painted and dancing shoes firmly
attached to their feet. They paid their ticket and got to travel on a testosterone-
fueled sonic carnival ride. They came to see two guys curse like sailors on shore leave while
dressed like circus performers.
The crowd was there to have fun, and the Insane Clown Posse were there to
Their guitar-heavy songs "Hall Of Illusions" and "Southwest Voodoo" brought
life to the pit, while "Boogie Woogie Wu" and "Hokus Pokus" elicited the highest
amount of crowd participation. The audience-performer energy
axis was fully electrified, with the crowd cheering loudly between each song
and Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J tirelessly jumping about while energetically
hitting the audience with lyrics about killing racists ("Piggie Pie"), exposing
religious hypocrisy ("Hellalujah") and chasing girls ("What Is A Juggalo?").
What the Clown Posse lacked in talent, they made up for in energy. When the lights came up, there
was no doubt that the crowd, standing ankle deep in Faygo puddles and chanting
"ICP! ICP!," had just been rocked. [Thurs., Sept. 25,
1997, 9 a.m. PDT]