This low, bellowing voice was the greeting of a big bald dude in the middle of a wrestling ring with “Hallowicked” painted on the side of it. The packed hive of demented clown people cheered back. If my 5 hour perspective on Detroit is accurate (and I'm hoping it's not), the population of Detroit is distributed roughly: 0.5 parts hipster; 3 parts panhandler; and 1209812091724019842 parts Juggalo.
I've never played a show with a paper thin wall separating me from an Insane Clown Posse after party on Halloween (complete with wrestling ring and disembodied fake body parts everywhere). Here's hoping it never happens again.
The house manager let us go into the ICP party to take a look at the clown spectacle. The Juggalos and “‘Lets” (i.e., female Juggalos) milled about, some with blank stares on their faces, mouths hanging open, some with cracked-out swift and unpredictable movements.
Clyde Petersen, Thao's tour manager, seems to be collecting the oddest collection of footage from this tour, including an interview with one of the workers at the ICP after party where the poor bartender says in a slow, serious, drawling voice: “I'm not racist, but if I was to choose a race that was the scum of the earth, that race would be juggalos…if there was ever a group of people who deserved more to be despised and knew they needed to be despised, I haven't seen it.”
What a rich, philosophical musing.
David Shultz conveyed his most memorable moment in the evening as “when I saw a guy get stabbed repeatedly in the head with a wooden spike in the wrestling ring and he was bleeding everywhere…it was chilling.”
And his favorite thing I think we all shared. The performance space we were in had windows to the outside world, and so outside, all night Clyde was videotaping the Juggalos walking by. I couldn't even concentrate on playing because of the parade outside all night. Justin Power was actually getting them to pose for his pictures.
It was a unique Halloween. I'll let some of Justin Power's pictures continue to tell the story. (He's playing with us through Richmond). Justin was the only one brave enough to go up to the Juggalos and ask them to pose for him to get pictures.
Anna described the experience as being under siege. Anna has no cell phone, so she looks for payphones to call loved ones whenever she can, and while at a payphone on the streets of Detroit says she felt like she couldn't describe the scene around her outside to her friends (to convey her terror) because there we so many Juggalos milling about.
I don't really know how to convey this experience to people back home either. I had mentioned it to my fiancée, who was having her own Halloween party back home. We talked the next morning and the first thing she said on the phone to me was, “how were the gigolos?”
Scarier than American Gigolo Richard Gere, I wanted to say. (Though only marginally scarier.)
I tried to make ICP/PCP jokes from the stage and they didn't go over all that well. (Why I thought people would cheer ironically when I asked ironically “Are you down with the clown Detroit?!?” I don't know. When I asked the crowd my question, everyone was completely silent, leaving us to meditate on the bass frequencies pounding through the wall. In sympathy, Thao, right up front, raised her hand politely. (Thao is politely down with the clown.)
Thao's been full of gems in her audience interaction on these Midwest dates. In Minnesota—MINNESOTA—she offhandedly, accidentally took a jab at Garrison Keillor. The audience was clapping along with her music (she's good at getting them to do that), and there was a piano on stage, and the room had a big Midwestern meeting hall look to it, and after one song she said it kind of felt like Prairie Home Companion. And then without pause or filter went on to describing in detail how much his annoying voice grates on her and Adam, even though Willis likes him.
The audience revolted almost immediately! She had no idea how big of a problem it is to make fun of Garrison Keillor in Minnesota! At the encore she came out and apologized and insisted she was just kidding! It was completely charming and funny, and I think the audience took it that way. But the immediate reaction was like, “you don't like Garrison? Then why are you in Minneapolis!?!”
From Minneapolis to Chicago we had Sarah Young of Cloud Cult joining us on cello, which was great! She's a blast to play with—and super nice! We've been brainstorming what to send her to thank her (and her family for letting her join us for so many days) when we get back to Oregon. We're back down to a quartet now until New York, where Allegra, one of the cellists who first started the group back in Portland will be joining us.
The HEY YA competition
Our contest to rate every city on their ability to sing to "Hey Ya!" Is now formal, and all scores are being posted to our website under the Hey Ya CONTEST Tab on the mainpage:
Adam Thompson from the Get Down Stay Down has been judging everyone on the Pitchfork scale, which he has described as “Fair and honest” and also “Like a random number generator in my head.” To see how your favorite cities are doing, do check out the website.
The Empty Bottle is a sweeet bar in a sweeet part of town. The venue is packed with rowdy drunk people, so we do a very high energy set—lots of Pantera, Britney Spears and De Falla. (The Metal, The Pop and The Spanish Classical. I'm convinced that's the 1, 2, 3 combination for classical ensembles in drunken bar settings.)
This is where our "Hey Ya!" contest gets a little out of hand. I get the audience chanting for Willis and Adam to come to the stage: “Will-Is, Will-Is, Will-Is!” And Adam goes no-holds-barred against the Chicago crowd on the judging. Maybe because Pitchfork is in Chicago, maybe because really the crowd only sang well on the first chorus and could have done better later on, and maybe because he's trying to convince them at the same time that if they buy him drinks later in the evening he'll raise their score, he gives them a harsh, harsh 4.8.
Milwaukee was sweet. Our show was at Turner Hall. Neither Thao nor PCP has played Milwaukee before, and the hall seems really too big. It's the second night in a row with full catered meals. The room filled up, but there was a drunk dude up front talking to both PCP and Thao all night. (“Tell a Joke!!” “Shake it!”) Thao has actually made fun of him on stage every night since.
The sound people in Milwaukee, though, seemed like they were about to come to blows every ten seconds. I'm not sure if that's just how they interact, or if they genuinely hate each other's guts.
I told the light guy what I always tell the light guy: “feel free to go absolutely crazy with the lights – don't hold back.”
And he responded: “You asshole, don't you know I'm supposed to be the sound engineer? The manager just switched me to lights at the last minute. I'm really bad at lights, so you know what I'm going to do? I'm just going to do some fades. I'm supposed to be the sound engineer…” and then proceeded to take his anger on out on the actual FOH engineer.
And I was like… “I just wanted to… make your job fun…I'm sorry…”
So I hired Alicia – Thao's engineer – to do our sound for the night. I had to again in Detroit and Chicago. What's with these cities? Can they not hire a sane sound person? That's really all we need. Alicia's been a lifesaver, going above and beyond to help out. We're full of gratitude to her for saving us on a couple of occasions now.
And this tour is slowly morphing into the one we knew it would where we're all playing on each other's sets. Willis and Adam are on stage with us often. Justin Power and Sami and Willis and Adam are all going up with David Shultz—the super fun opener on the tour—now. And I'm on stage for all of Thao's set, and Sami and Anna bring their cellos up usually for the closer of the night.
I'll write on Wild and Rocking Windsor, Toronto and Montreal in a bit.