The Insane Clown Posse, figureheads for the Juggalo movement
I've always thought of Juggalos, the devoted followers of the Insane Clown Posse, as a despicable subculture.
Perpetually drunk on cheap, high-calorie toxins, hostile toward women and animals, tossing around human excrement for fun - my case against these lowlifes could be made from afar, but in March I got a close-up.
It started at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, when I slipped into a Tech N9ne concert on the first night.
The veteran Kansas City rapper has massive support from the Juggalos. Here's a chance, I thought, to see him minus his obnoxious supporters.
To my surprise, the show was packed with unsightly Juggalos. They are easy to spot. Almost always overweight, these filthy people can be found guzzling alcoholic energy drinks, wearing clothes from the 90s and painting their faces like clowns.
I wrote in my review of the show that it was a window into the subculture and a break from SXSW's trendy programming. Not one hour after it was posted, the Juggalos flamed with hilarious comments ("I bet he's never had sex with the lights on").
Then my social media accounts started to get hit. Complaints to my Twitter, Formspring, Tumblr and social networks I forgot I'd signed up to.
It got real when location-based threats started. Juggalos, as I witnessed first-hand, were in Austin. And I was easily identifiable - walking around, Foursquaring my location, with my press credentials around my neck. Was I about to get Tila Tequila'd?
In a lineup for a Liz Phair show, I recognized a Juggalo from the night before - the only football-jersey-wearing fat guy with a painted face there. Had this guy followed me? What does he want? Could he just be a Liz Phair-loving Juggalo? Do those exist?
After crushing a six of Chardonnay, I went back out to the street with a new sense of courage. The campaign of fear waged by these scum was over. Time to turn the tables. Like Jean-Claude Van Damme in Hard Target, the hunted was about to become the hunter.
That night, I spotted a posse of burly Juggalos on a patio. The plan was to wait for the first one to recognize me and hit him in the painted face with my camera. Then I would pick up a nearby chair and deal with the other three lion-tamer-style.
The guys turned out to be everyday sports fans - it was March Madness, and their faces were painted in the colours of an NCAA basketball team.
I stopped, wiped the sweat from my brow, and gave my head a shake. I'm acting like a Juggalo here, I thought.
Tech N9ne and his Juggalish fan base are coming to Toronto next week. After my horrid brush with Juggalo culture, I'll be skipping the show.