The head writer for the Onion A.V. Club goes native with Phishheads and Juggalos.
Where many writers might have picked one band to follow on tour and focused on the band itself, Rabin (The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought to You by Pop Culture, 2009, etc.) thought it would be intriguing to cover two bands from the perspective of their fans. And what better fans to explore than the most reviled and fanatic ones in popular music, those who follow jam band Phish and those in the shadow of Detroit’s lumpen Insane Clown Posse? On the face of it, the bands and their fans seem irreconcilably different. Phish, a quartet co-founded and led by guitar god Trey Anastasio at the University of Vermont, appeals largely to middle-class kids with some college education. The duo ICP, brainchild of a ninth-grade dropout named Joseph Bruce who calls himself Violent J, appeals mainly to young, working-class males. But both bands are steeped in their unique mythologies. Along the way, Rabin ran into people who defy the stereotypes—MAs among the Juggalos and straight-edge people among the Phishheads, for example. Each group’s tours also create anarchic carnival atmospheres (ICP quite deliberately) that celebrate and create the illusion of unending childhood. But Rabin got more than he bargained for when, midtour with Phish, he had something resembling a nervous breakdown. The steady ingestion of psychotropic drugs, one accouterment both camps had in ready supply, may not have helped his mental state. Rabin’s personal misadventures, instigated by a tendency toward manic depression and irritated by paranoia over his beautiful girlfriend’s feelings for him, may seem an irrelevant distraction, but many will find that his gonzo approach to journalism makes him a spiritual kin of Hunter S. Thompson and Matt Taibbi.
A wild rock ’n’ roll ride.