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In Pictures: The Gathering of the Juggalos (NSFW)

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 16, 2011 7:30PM

There's a running joke between Michigan and Ohio State students and alumni about how to get from one state to the other - you head south (or north, if you're in Ohio) until you smell it, then head east (or west) until you step in it.

The same joke could apply to the Gathering of the Juggalos. As photographer Jim Kiernan discovered, there's more than meets the eye to the wandering tribe.

The website for Insane Clown Posse's annual Bizzarro World Lollapalooza says it's held in Cave-in-Rock, IL. Kiernan writes, "it’s really at Hogrock. And you have to drive through Equality and Liberty, IL to get there."

Hogrock is 35 miles from the closest hotel and 90 minutes from the nearest airport. There's no internet, no smartphone signal and Kiernan drove into Kentucky before he finally found the correct route.

Once he arrived, Kiernan said the Gathering reminded him in a way of Vietnam, as he remembered from war movies. "There are people everywhere in various states of undress - topless, naked, half dressed and back again - thousands of tents with people camping everywhere, fireworks going off, tons of bonfires burning, helicopters flying overhead." Kiernan said the site itself is huge, with open air bars ("all BYO and Man, do they ever"), a food area, showers, an Experimental Stage, a "Wolf Pac" Stage, First Aid area, the Main Stage, the Pro Wrestling Stage, and a Midway with actual carnival rides.

Kiernan was ready to dismiss The Gathering as Woodstock crossed with a meth lab. "Once I started to walk around and talk to people (and shoot them), I had an awesome time," Kiernan said.

"The people were great, really nice and down to earth. Very approachable and soft-spoken even in many cases. Yes, many of them look sketchy and it’s easy to see why people think of them as they do, but really that’s surface and kind of low-hanging fruit. "

"Judge not… right?"

As for the sound at the music stages, Kiernan said The Gathering was one of the best-sounding festivals he's ever attended, the tech crew herding acts on and off the stage with military precision.

For more of Jim Kiernan's photos from The Gathering of the Juggalos, check out his Flickr pool.