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Despite FBI threat, the Hallowicked show goes on for ICP

for Journal Register Newspapers

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Insane Clown Posse's annual Hallowicked Tour -- including a Halloween night show at home in Detroit -- is usually a celebration for the Farmington Hills-based rap duo and its fans, the Juggalos.

This year, however, it finds all parties looking over their shoulders a bit.

Though ICP's new album "The Mighty Death Pop!," released in mid-August, was its second consecutive title to debut in the Billboard Top 10 (No. 4), Violent J (Joe Bruce) and Shaggy 2 Dope (Joe Utsler) are in the midst of a high-stakes battle with the FBI that's taken the spotlight away from the music.

Last fall, ICP discovered that the FBI's National Gang Intelligence Center classified the Juggalos as a gang in its 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment. The group and its Psychopathic Records label cried foul -- "That's just crazy," Violent J said earlier this year -- and has mounted a campaign to get the Juggalos taken off the list, starting by distributing questionnaires to find out if any of the fans feel they've been harmed by FBI surveillance and other techniques.

Howard Hertz, whose Bloomfield Hills-based firm Hertz Schram PC, is handling the case, says that "thousands" of Juggalos responded, though "some of them are just supportive, but there are a lot of them where people feel they have been harmed." The attorneys also filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requesting that the FBI reveal "any documents that have led them to the conclusion the Juggalos should be on the gang list." When the FBI did not voluntarily turn over the materials, ICP's representatives filed suit in U.S. Federal Court; they're currently waiting for a response from the FBI, which has until early December to do so.

Meanwhile, a confirmation of sorts about the damage the gang classification could mean for ICP came on Oct. 15, when ICP announced it was moving the local Hallowicked show on Oct. 31 from the planned Royal Oak Music Theatre back to its usual home at the Fillmore Detroit; the original venue moved to cancel the show after receiving a request from the Royal Oak Police Department, which expressed concern about the Juggalos and cited the Gang Threat Assessment report.

The police memo expressed "concern..based on the number of concerts, throughout the country, in which ICP followers have created significant problems for local police departments" and warned the Royal Oak theater that hosting Hallowicked might "jeopardize" the venue's "proven ability to provide high-quality entertainment without causing an unnecessary strain on police resources."

"That would seem to confirm our theory that being on the FBI gang list is harmful to the Juggalos...and ICP," Hertz says.

Ironically, this all comes at a time when ICP's star has been unquestionably on the rise. After 20 years of putting out music, the Juggalo nation has become large enough to result in those Top 5 album debuts and more mainstream media attention than the duo has ever had.

"Right now it seems like we're at an even larger pinnacle of what we're doing," Shaggy says. "I think we're getting a lot more respect. A lot of people that used to be Juggalos when they were younger are older and have positions of power in, like the media and stuff like that. So it feels good being more accepted and taken more seriously."

So while the FBI situation rages on, Shaggy and Violent J are hatching ambitious ideas for the future. They predict "The Mighty Death Pop!," which has sold 70,000 copies so far according to Nielsen SoundScan, might be their last traditional album, and they're also planning on veering away from standard touring to instead expand their pay-per-view enterprise for special events, including the Detroit Hallowicked show.

"Part of it is we want to spend more time with our kids -- but this is our job, too," Shabby explains. "We want to build more anticipation and make it more special for the Juggalos to come and see us.

"See, if you go out three time a year and hit the same markets and stuff, the kids in Albuquerque are gonna know you'll be back in six months. But if you do it so it's like, 'Wow, I haven't seen them in two years!,' then you know it's going to be big. So that's what we're doing, and I think it's a great idea."

Insane Clown Posse's Hallowicked takes place Wednesday, Oct. 31, at the Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35. Call 313-961-5450 or visit www.livenation.com. A Hallowicked afterparty will take place at 10 p.m. at the Majestic Theatre, 4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $7 in advance, $10 day of show. Call 313-833-9700 or visit www.majesticdetroit.com.

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