Photo Credit: Mauricio Alvarado
At noon, on a highly anticipated warm and beautiful Sunday, the gates of Camp Flog Gnaw Music Festival opened and the masses poured in for the last day of the enormous carnival/hip-hop extravaganza, where the stages were ready for booming sets that would come from the epic lineup that day two brought. The lines began early, rife with single-day pass holders and attendees from the day before, attempting to get in as quickly as possible to catch as much as they could in the seemingly short day. Moving slower than Saturday, the security checkpoint was working diligently to ensure that nothing dangerous had been brought into the grounds, causing a slight bottle-neck effect. However, the line still managed to move at a pace that kept the crowd excited and anxious without getting upset.
Entering the carnival grounds, the smell of popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs, and cigarettes filled the air as tens of thousands made their way into the LA Coliseum’s Exposition Park. The early hours of the day were very carnival heavy, as guests of all ages were lining up at all the rides, playing games, or hanging by the “AWGECADE” arcade presented by A$AP Rocky, with the DJ spinning tracks at the booth that the festival set up right in the middle of the carnival grounds. Going to either stage was a simple task, as the early hours held thinner crowds at the shows, but still blustered huge performances from MixedBiyali, The Garden, Kilo Kish, Kali Uchis, and Left Brain who threw down for a energy filled crowd that brought more heat than the weather was able to. It seemed like the festival production team felt the heat emanating from the audience and decided it was best to start giving away free water to anyone who needed it, ensuring hydration and safe partying all around.
As the afternoon started rolling in, fans received the unfortunate news that the 4:30 PM Sleigh Bells set had been cancelled. According to the band’s twitter page, singer Alexis Krauss of the pop duo had come down with a bad case of laryngitis, and even though she attempted to wait it out until show time, she just could not go on. They tweeted out an apology, stating “1/ Friends/fans we are at Camp Flog Gnaw. We badly wanted to play but Alexis’ laryngitis has gotten worse she can’t sing or even talk…” and followed it up with “2/ We hate to cancel but we have no other options. Thanks so much
@tylerthecreator for the invite. LA we will be back.” While the band can not be blamed for the unfortunate circumstances that befell Krauss, it did leave a bad taste in the air, where fans were a little let down, but also understanding and forgiving, ready to see what the evening held.
Bringing in the sunset with a sexy energy was singer Gallant and his band, who set the tone for the amber skied evening. Using his unique falsetto pitch, Gallant soothed the crowd into a swaying, grooving, wave. He played a large selection from his recent Ology album, bringing the crowd to a spine shivering standstill performing “Bourbon” which came with a face melting guitar solo, or showing his vocal range on “Skipping Stones” where vocalist Danny Ivory assisted Gallant in hypnotizing the crowd in a oozing blanket of love and positive vibes. Gallant opened up the night perfectly, kissing the sun goodbye while closing the set with “Weight in Gold” and prepping the crowd for the performances yet to come.
Starting the night off with a force to be reckoned with was Colorado native producer Derek Vincent Smith, more commonly known by his stage name Pretty Lights, bringing his recent full band tour to a close at Camp Flog Gnaw. Walking on stage with his band comprised of Dumpstaphunk drummer Alvin Ford Jr (who just released his band Tysson’s first EP), Break Science keyboardist Borham Lee, second keyboardist Brandon Butler, and world class DJ Chris Karns on the turntables, Pretty Lights brought everything they had to the people of Los Angeles. He opened with a new, unreleased track titled “There Is A Light” that has a deep dark undertone that built up with “We’ve been livin’ in the dark” lyrics, which then dropped into a earth shattering synth and keys explosion that showcased the entire band’s skill on their respective instruments. From the beginning till the end of the set it was banger after banger, with his iconic stage lights choreographed by his top notch lighting director Greg Ellis (aka Lazershark), and sound engineer Phil Salvaggio keeping the sounds level, this was a set of epic proportions. Performing heavy crowd movers like “Hot Like Sauce,” “The Love You Left Behind,” his remix of Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Around The Block” feat. Talib Kweli on vocals, and of course the crowd pleasing “Finally Moving,” Smith made sure the entire crowd was a part of the show by lowering the vocals in the mix so that everyone could hear the crowd sing the iconic “ooo, sometimes, I get a good feeling…” hook in the song that was mixed to perfection with rapper 4-Tay’s “Playaz Club.” His set closed with his heaviest track “I Know The Truth,” which was performed flawlessly, leading into a bass drop that shook the entire festival grounds. Derek clearly sets himself and his show apart from the other shows, with live instruments and on-the-spot mixing rooted in hip-hop, he managed to captivate and pump up the crowd for the night ahead.
Once the Pretty Lights set ended it was a stampede to the Flog Stage where Action Bronson was about to whip the crowd into a frenzy that the festival did not seem ready for. Action walked on stage and caused a riot, performing tracks from his Mr. Wonderful album, as well as several off Saab Stories LP, with DJ Alchemist mixing the turntables in the background. Bronson is nothing short of a pure showman, splashing water, smoking blunts, speaking to the crowd, shaking his 300 lb body all over the stage to swooning women, while at the same time bringing his buddies Big Body Bes and Meyhem Lauren onto the stage to perform songs right off the “F*ck! That’s Delicious” soundtrack, including his Jamaica inspired track “Mr. Two Face” where he had everyone dance their best Jamaican dance. Action still did not feel this was enough hype for his set, so he decided to get the crowd running by announcing that he will be giving away products at his food stand right across from the stage outside the coliseum doors. As the crowd piled in front of the food-stand front, police officers were forced to arrive, close down the stand, and disperse the crowd for everyone’s own safety, Action never even showed up. Fans were left with big smiles walking away from his stage and moving back to the Camp Stage.
Up next was by far the most crowded show of the entire festival, people came out in the masses in order to see legend Erykah Badu take the stage, in order to perform her soulful R&B/Smooth Jazz set. Badu had a special audience member sitting in the pit getting extra teary: Tyler, The Creator could not miss his opportunity to catch one of his favorite artists perform on his own festival’s stage. It did not bother the crowd one bit that Badu was 15 minutes late to her own set. In fact, plenty seemed un-surprised, stating that she normally walks out fashionably late, and that with her quality of music it more than forgivable. She took the stage in a presence that only few in the music world hold, wearing her iconic tall hat, gorgeous necklace, and a very distinguishable nose piercing, and just brought the crowd to tears performing her “Hello” opener from But You Can’t Use My Phone. Erykah Badu has a vocal talent that feels as though you are in an underground NYC Smooth jazz club, where there is a piano, a simple drum kit, and a singer who just captivates her entire audience, from young to old, not one disconnected person in the crowd. Badu made sure that everyone felt included, those unfamiliar with her music and those familiar, by introducing herself and her style of music with her electronic drum pad next to her, transitioning into “Pay The Bill” which got the crowd moving their hands from side to side. People were nervous, as Badu’s set end time was coming closer and closer, she looked at the clock and warned the audience that her time was over, but with the crowd chanting and begging her not to walk off. With Tyler himself telling her to keep going, it seemed that nobody was going to try and stop her from finishing her set, 17 minutes overtime. Before finishing up, Badu offered comforting words to inspire the crowd, saying “No matter what you believe with the powers that be, belief will affect you, so pay attention. See, because when the sideshow going on and shit, trust me—some other shit is going down somewhere else that they don’t want us to see.” She continued, touching on the recent events “I believe that Donald Trump preyed on the lower common denominator to win the presidency. In fact, I don’t believe in none of that shit, really… A lot of people are protesting and marching and angry. It’s because people are woke. They’re seeing that this shit don’t work. Really, people asking me, ‘Why are they protesting, Badu? Why they mad?’ We don’t know why really, but it’s going to come to us. And I guarantee you, when you’re following and marching, please don’t follow a bunch of mad motherfuckers nowhere, ’cause that’s not going to get us nowhere. We have to be smart, strategic, and woke.”
After Badu’s set there was only one thing remaining on the crowd’s mind: it wasn’t whether Schoolboy Q was going to rock his final set, because everyone knew he would, but rather had people pondering was what was the “TBA” listed in the schedule going to be? Rumors were going all around, that perhaps it would be Frank Ocean, or maybe Kendrick Lamar was going to lay down some bars on the 20 minute slot time. Rumors and questions kept coming. Suddenly, the lights went out, and a video projection starts, all eyes fixed on the projection, and then it happens, the name EARL SWEAT appears on the forehead of a face on the screen and the crowd went nuts. The bass dropped and out come none other than Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler The Creator to perform a set that has been three years in the waiting, since back in 2010 when Tyler began promising a collaborative EarlWolf album. The pair sent the crowd into an unbelievable frenzy, spitting out freestyles, playing their collaboration tracks that everyone sang along with, causing several mosh pits to break out, and bringing out 3rd musketeer Domo Genisis to close out their emphatic performance in LA, playing Tyler’s “Rusty” which got everyone jumping on top of each other while collectively loosing each others mind.
The second day concluded what is now a Los Angeles staple, making sure to continuously revive old school/R&B, while at the same time introducing what is new and on the rise in the same musical realm. Camp Flog Gnaw manages to remain a clean, friendly, and amusing environment, making sure to always evolve and improve on what they know if a good formula for what Tyler, The Creator is trying to do.