Makeup-wearing rap duo Insane Clown Posse – one of the oddest success stories in music history (dating back to, oh, the first caveman banging a stick against a rock) – headlined the Wicked Wonka Tour at Exhibition Hall Wednesday.
Detroit-based Insane Clown Posse, or simply ICP, poses as serious rappers. These two guys are not performing parody songs or working their faithful audience, many of whom wear face paint, for laughs. It ain’t Spinal Tap rap.
Still, ICP wears clown makeup and presents a PG-13 horror show. In a genre where street credibility is gold, ICP is a bottom feeder.
ICP would have faded years ago if not for the Disney Corporation. Yes, Walt’s crew! In 1997, Disney-owned Hollywood Records pulled an ICP album from store shelves six hours after it arrived when it appeared that a profane band using violent imagery might tarnish Disney’s street credibility among its large conservative posse.
Overnight, ICP went from a minor playa in rap to a must-hear act. Dumped by Disney, ICP switched labels and rode the fuss to the tune of 1.4 million albums sold.
Masterful marketers expanding into pro wrestling and straight-to-video films, ICP’s Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope maintain a cult-sized audience, including the 2,000 or so fans at Madison’s concert.
ICP, however, remains notorious for two reasons:
They were named “the worst band ever” by Blender, the music magazine arm of Maxim. Certainly, a band receiving such disrespect must be so bad as to be entertaining, right? Wrong.
And, secondly, ICP’s hourlong show features them spraying cheap Faygo cola nonstop into the crowd. Not a few drips, either. At least several hundred two-liter plastic bottles filled with Faygo were sprayed or launched at the audience. This wasn’t comic Gallagher-type antics. Cola flowed from the stage as if ICP wanted to douse a wildfire.
Among show business gimmicks, soda-pop spraying is amusing for a nanosecond.
Yet, despite standing toward the back of the crowd, a Faygo container landed at my feet. I’ve never caught a drumstick or guitar pick (even during several Cheap Trick concerts) at countless shows. Now on my desk is a just-cleaned, twisted, empty container of Faygo cola. And it’s diet cola. Violent J could lose a few pounds, sure, but they spray it; they don’t drink it.
Shaggy 2 Dope drop-kicked several plastic bottles into the crowd, an act that’s gotta be tougher to do than it looks. That’s the nicest thing I can say about the dreadlocked Shaggy.
The show ended with three 6-foot Oompa Loompas – remember the Willy Wonka tour theme? – helping the ICP spray more Faygo. In the film, of course, the Oompa Loompas were tiny, but then ICP added an ax to the “k” in Wonka in their stage background so they’re hardly sticklers for authenticity.
Combining rock-fueled rap (however lame) with a soda bath, ICP found its audience of teens and early twentysomethings. Fine. Whatever. But, man, I spotted at least five kids barely out of kindergarten with young parents at Wednesday’s show.
The concert’s bill also featured a tepid Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, pothead band Kottonmouth Kings and sexist soloist Tech N9ne. Each act proved to be immeasurably better rappers than ICP.
Rap offers thrilling rapid-fire wordplay. Bone Thugs indeed do have harmony; the Kottonmouth Kings come at you with tornado force; and Tech delivers delicious staccato bursts. Each act also offers the kind of lyrical naughtiness that recalls any old Redd Foxx record.
After their sets, each performer made a beeline for the souvenir stand to pitch items, including the Tech N9ne G-string. Everyone signed autographs – “I got my (butt) signed,” one woman announced. Sure enough, there was someone’s scribble in white marker on the backside of her blue jeans.
ICP reigned at the souvenir stand by selling 27 different shirts, including a $100 hockey jersey. As they finish the 6-week nationwide tour tonight, ICP is laughing to the bank.
But are they the worst act ever? Well, it’s a show more than a concert.
On Wednesday, ICP rapped a large portion of Sly Fox’s ’80s hit “Let’s Go All the Way” before ending their set. ICP sounded as if they were chewing asphalt while they rapped and sang.
Yes, ICP is one of the worst. Pop a plastic bottle of Faygo to celebrate, guys.