I went to my first Gathering of the Juggalos in 2011, when I was 26 years old. I had always wanted to go to at least one GOTJ in my lifetime, so I hit up a friend and let him know it was going down. We drove the eight hours to Cave-In-Rock and it was on. The lineup was great, the Juggalos were great, the weather was nice (for someone used to the 100 degree Oklahoma summers); I couldn’t have asked for a better first time.
I went again the next year, and my #1 priority was copping that Mighty Death Pop CD. I got all three versions on day one and bumped ASAP, but due to the various bones of life, my friend and I ended up leaving the Gathering after the third night. We did get to see Lotus, Rydas, ABK, Twiztid, and some other cool shit, but it still felt unfinished without seeing ICP.
I sat out the next two years, while I regressed into a pretty stupid drinking problem. I was a functioning alcoholic, until I wasn’t, and got fired from my job in 2014 for being drunk (and drinking) at work. I got a new job a few months later at the end of 2014, but had racked up some credit card debt while I was unemployed. Plus, my new job was only part-time. Not exactly ideal vacationing circumstances.
When the 16th annual Gathering was coming up in 2015, it had never even entered my mind to go. I had lost touch with the guy I went with in 2011, and the guy I went with in 2012 had already used his vacation days for the year. Even if I had the money, I couldn’t possibly camp outside for four days on my own. “How the fuck would I even set up the tent by myself?” I thought. “I would never be able to drive alone that far without getting in an accident or getting lost. Oh well. I’ve already been to one-and-a-half Gatherings, I can live with that.” But really, the Gathering and I had unfinished business. After bailing in 2012, I knew I had to go back eventually.
Then suddenly, about four days before the start of the Gathering, something triggered in my head. I don’t know why. It was such short notice, but I thought, “I need to go to this year’s Gathering.” Whatever issues were going to come up, I was just going to have to figure out how to stomp them. No money? Credit cards, baby! Need time off work? I’ll write a massive text document explaining all my duties while I’m gone. No one to go with? Fuck it, I’ll go by myself! And wouldn’t you know it, they even make easy set up tents one person can put up. Check that off the list.
After fourteen hours of driving over two nights, I arrived at Legend Valley. The first thing I wanted to see that night was Big Hoodoo, who was going to be kicking off the main stage. I left myself plenty of time to find a campsite, set up my tent, and get to the stage before he went on, but there was a curve ball: the UNGODLY ticket line. I wasn’t able to get a ticket ahead of time since I went on such short notice, but it wouldn’t have mattered; even those who had tickets needed to stand in line for their wristband and amulet. It was a Goddamn mess. Anyone who was at the 2015 GOTJ on that first day can tell you.
Psychopathic had five or six people working the trailers to try and get everyone their wristbands, amulets, and programs, but it was not going well. Sidebar: shout out to Natalie The Ring Girl for taking those tickets fast as fuck! Even the Juggalos in line were saying, “I’m gonna try to get in her line because she’s going the fastest.” That woman has some real Juggalo hustle, I can tell you that! But as the hours and hours passed, all I could think about was if I was gonna miss Big Hoodoo. “Shit, I hope I don’t miss KMK and ABK too.” No joke, the shit was taking so damn long that it seemed like I could miss the whole main stage!
SIX HOURS AFTER GETTING IN LINE (that is true, and you can read it again. Six fucking hours!), I finally got my amulet and car pass and was able to drive into the grounds. That’s when the first signs started happening.
When you first enter Legend Valley, you’re on top of a big ass hill that overlooks the main stage. And what did I see as I drove in? Big fucking Hoodoo. Fuck yes. I didn’t miss him! It wasn’t exactly the way I pictured–I thought I’d be down in the crowd, of course–but there he was! I had made it in just in time. As I looked for a campsite, I listened to the sounds of Hoodoo rocking it from the stage, and felt a wave of reassurance. Something telling me, “Pfft, you think the Dark Carnival was really gonna let you miss this? Hell naw!” I can’t speak for the ninjas who were still waiting out in the line. They got the bone!
I had never been to Legend Valley, so my strategy was just to just camp wherever I saw the first open site. I picked a random place and attempted to set up this supposedly “easy set up” tent. I had bought it just for this, so I hadn’t yet tried it out. Much to my shock, it WAS easy as fuck! It was just a matter of taking it out and throwing it up. Five minutes. My campsite neighbor introduced himself, and we spent a few minutes getting to know each other. In true Juggalo fashion, he said he would gladly share any water or supplies if I needed it. Juggalo love for the win.
I grabbed my lawn chair and headed straight for the main stage. Kottonmouth Kings were on now, and I took a seat on the hill. I’m a huge Kottonmouth Kings fan, so I was pumped to see this. And as I sat there in that chair on that hill and watched KMK, an epiphany came over me.
“Right now, in this moment, you are EXACTLY where you are supposed to be.”
Think about the power in that statement. This was beyond just, “Fuck yeah, the Gathering rules!” I mean, there was that, of course, but it’s so much more. It’s also, “Every choice you’ve ever made in your life is now justified, because it brought you here. Everything that ever happened to you, both good and bad, is now worth it.”
Have you ever had that feeling? Have you really? Sometimes people say that they’ve had a life changing experience, but then a week later they forget all about it. This shit happened to me three years ago and I can still recall it exactly. You don’t just forget something like that if it’s real. An overwhelming calm washed over me, all while I watched a group that I had loved for fifteen years. More of my all-time favorites were lined up for the rest of the night, and the shit was just getting started.
After Tech N9ne (who fucking killed it, by the way), I stopped by the merch tent to grab The Marvelous Missing Link: Found, which was released at that Gathering. Back at my tent, more of my campsite neighbors were chilling, and I got to chop it up with them. Ninjas, believe me when I tell you that these were (and are) some of the FRESHEST Juggalos you could ever meet. Little did I know it, but I had set up camp right in the middle of a cluster of Faygoluvers forum members. I hadn’t personally posted on the Faygoluvers forums in years, but some of these guys and gals had been regulars for so long that they recognized my user name when I told them. It was meant to be.
I listened to a few tracks of Found and went to sleep. What an awesome night.
Piece by piece, I listened to Found in my car until I got through the whole thing. For the rest of the Gathering, I would let it blast on a loop in my car with the doors open anytime I was at my campsite. I was really starting to “get” the album. I don’t really prefer the softer sounds of ICP, but the message of Found was right on time. A week before, I didn’t think that Gathering was an option. I thought there were too many obstacles. I thought I couldn’t do it on my own. But here I was, and it wasn’t even that difficult! All of the shit that I thought would stand in my way was just in my own head.
I made the most of every second. It’s impossible to see ALL of the freshness at any Gathering, but I came as close as anyone possibly could. Any time I wasn’t out watching events, I was kicking it with my campsite neighbors. Fuck my sleep! It was around the clock freshness from beginning to end. Literally. The very last thing I did was meet Jumpsteady after the Deadly Medley. The man himself. He even signed an autograph. A perfect end to a perfect Gathering.
As I drove back home, I had my first chance to listen to Found from beginning to end, uninterrupted. It was a surreal experience. As the last song, “Time,” was playing, I reflected on all of the shit I had done over those four days. I saw so many of my all-time favorites: Twiztid, Blaze, Hopsin, Rittz, Madchild, Potluck, Jarren Benton–the list goes on. I watched the seminars, the contests, Psychopathic Radio, JCW, and the comedians. I got autographs, met some celebrities, and made new homies. Sure, I had done some of these things at the other two Gatherings I had been to, but this time was different because I almost didn’t go. Because I thought I COULDN’T go.
I came home a different person. I realized that most of the reasons we don’t do the things we want to do are bullshit. You have so much more power over your own life than you might realize. The world is yours.