Tyler, the Creator’s annual Carnival, known as Camp Flog Gnaw, brought in a young and vivacious crowd on the weekend before Halloween. And though many an older fan (to be clear, older is defined at this festival as above the ancient age of 21) would balk at spending time surrounded by teens, the crowd actually made the Carnival shine bright. Whereas older-skewing festivals like Arroyo Seco allowed patrons the opportunity to walk around with beers, the younger-skewing crowd at Flog Gnaw brought a level of energy to every set that brought even the most season festival goer back to their first show. Take a quick look around the Coliseum grounds, and you’ll find Tyler, the Creator clones of all shapes, sexes, and sizes walking, running and skipping about in their brightly colored T’s and pants. On his recently released song “Where The Flower Blooms” Tyler raps, “Tell these black kids they could be who they are,” a sentiment that permeated the festival for everyone, regardless of race and age.
True to its name, Camp Flog Gnaw was much more like a carnival than a festival. The Coliseum had fair booths allowing attendees the chance to win Golf Wang gear by tossing a baseball or popping a balloon, and plenty of opportunities to ride the Ferris wheel, The Orbiter, or any number of vomit-inducing thrill rides. While the lines for the majority of these attractions were excruciatingly long, the Beer Gardens conveniently located by the two stages were consistently empty. Sometimes it pays to be old, especially when you find yourself with enough elbow room in the Beer Garden to do Mac DeMarco style cartwheels, but more on that later.
Even at the early start of 3:55, the crowds packed in heavy for punk band FIDLAR. As soon as they were visible on stage, fans cheered and the energetic punk band charged right into their set. Bassist Brandon Schwartzel had a Freddie Mercury look going on, rocking his classic tight jeans and white tank top combo. It was great to see fans and performers alike getting into the Halloween spirit with only a few days before the holiday. FIDLARstarted things off right with a cover of the Beastie Boys classic “Sabotage” to which most of the crowd under 30 looked confused. Though a primarily hip hop festival, FIDLAR and their energetic and wacky brand of punk felt right at home. With energy like lead singers Zac Carper, dressed as a combination of Elmo and Pippi Longstocking, it’s tough to hate even if punk isn’t your genre of choice. Most of the crowd looked caught off guard at the start but warmed up as the set wore on. And it wouldn’t be a punk show without a mosh pit, right? Right. Two songs into their set the crowd went bonkers, proving that younger fans are way more fun at shows than old folks. As the set wore on more and more festival-goers filed in to catch a glimpse of the high energy set.
With energy levels high from FIDLAR, it was time to change gears and head to the Flog Stage on the opposite side of the grounds for Kelela. Without little delay, Kelela and her four-piece band walked up to the stage and gave the adoring crowd a quick “Hi” before launching into “Waitin.” With the sun starting to drop behind them, fans swayed to her soothing voice and spacey melodies. With a voice as powerful as hers, it’s hard not to love Kelela. Coming off the release of her critically acclaimed LP Take Me Apart, Kelela ran through hit after hit including “Blue Light” and “All Night.” There wasn’t a single Vans-wearing, flower-adorned festival goers within earshot of the Flog Stage who wasn’t getting in the groove to her beautiful music.
Back at Camp, BROCKHAMPTON stormed the stage in matching blue body paint and orange prison suits with an energy level equal to a prison riot. In a move fitting of their outrageous aesthetic, their stage set up housed a handful of golf carts with nearly ten people in matching tucked in white t-shirts and blue jeans. As the American boy band, as they like to call themselves, started off with “HEAT,” everyone from golf cart riders to the crowd past the soundstage started dancing wildly. By the time they got to “GUMMY,” the crowd and bands collective energy felt like they might just rip a hole in the ozone layer.
With energy sky levels high, the crowds moved on back to the Flog Stage for 6lack. The Atlanta born artist wooed the crowd with his soothing voice and banging beats with a minimalistic show. As the sun sank behind the Olympic Flame on top of the Colosseum, 6lack helped the crowd get ready for the remainder of the evening, stringing together hits like “Free,” Luving U,” and “Prblms.” With the breakout success of his 2016 LP Free 6lack, the crowds came in droves to catch a glimpse of the singer, and not a single fan left disappointed.
As fans walked over to the Flog Stage, they were greeted with somewhat bitter disappointment as Mac DeMarco took the stage. Not that there’s anything wrong with Mac DeMarco, he’s an excellent performer; it’s just that he tends to play every festival, so when the lineup says “Special Guest” most expected someone a bit more, well, special. Even still, DeMarco put on a killer set. Rumors tend to get out of hand in places like this and as soon as the idea that Frank Ocean could perform on his birthday, the expectations of the evening were set far, far too high. Interestingly, DeMarco performed sans a backing band, with nothing but him and a microphone on stage in front of a densely packed crowd. And though Frank never showed, DeMarco entertained with his weird brand of antics including summer salts, selfies, and cartwheels while drinking beer. It certainly was not the show the crowd was expecting, but a thoroughly enjoyable set nonetheless. If you’ve ever wondered what DeMarco would be like at karaoke, his set at Camp a Flog Gnaw gave a perfect idea. With heads hung low, fans made their way to the Flog Stage for Denzel Curry. Hoping against all the odds, for a Frank Ocean cameo that would never come.
So how does one follow up a weird and impromptu set by Mac DeMarco? Ah yes, a question that has plagued man since the beginning of time. Well, Flog Gnaw had an answer, and it took the form of an absurdly loud and intense set by Denzel Curry. Like zombies on the march towards fresh brains, attendees headed towards the booming sounds of Curry and his high octane set. There is a 100% chance at least a quarter of the crowd has hearing issues after his performance. Curry blasted through songs like “Heartless” and “ULT” that left ears ringing and hearts pounding.
Trading off with cuts from her latest project “Always Never Home” and her first solo release Fin, Syd soothed the crowd in attendance at the Camp Stage, and boy did they need it. After such a hectic set with Curry, Syd felt like a cool breeze on a hot day. What’s more, Syd handled the show solo, with nothing but a backing beat and her presence to lead the charge. She ran through “Got Her Own” and “You’re the One,” produced by Kaytranada, among other slow, atmospheric and mellow cuts. It was finally dark out, so Syd’s set felt like the perfect transition from day to night.
After regaining their energy with Syd, crowds poured in heavy to catch Vince Staples at the Flog Stage. Staples started off strong with “Party People” which got the crowd grooving under his shining orange stage lights. After playing fan favorite “Bag Bak,” Staples tore into a handful of his more popular feature songs “Ascension” by the Gorillaz, “Little Bit of This” by GTA and “Smoke & Retribution” by Flume, all of which had the packed crowd dancing and jumping up and down like animals. But as soon as the piano instrumental from “Seniorita” came on, the crowd took it to another level of insanity. Once the beat dropped in nearly everyone at the Flog Stage was moshing and rapping every word.
After a few fierce mosh pits at Vince Staples, crowds made their way to Mac Miller at the Camp stage to catch the end of his set. The Pittsburgh born MC rapped to a dense crowd for his evening set, running through classics like “Watching Movies,” “The Weekend” and even bringing out Thundercat to shred on his bass.
After a quick check in back at the Flog Stage for Migos, it was back to the Camp Stage for the remainder of the evening to catch Tyler, the Creator, and Lana Del Rey.
Taking a page out of his hero’s notebook, Tyler stood in a suspended cage above the stage as his set began with “Where This Flower Blooms.” Fans packed the Camp area so densely it was nearly impossible to find personal space. Unless, of course, you were above the age of 21 and could enjoy the view from the Beer Garden which was practically a ghost town in comparison. Tyler drew from his most recent releases for his set, playing “Deathcamp” from Cherry Bomb and then “Forward” “Boredom” and “9-1-1/Mr. Lonely” from Flower Boy. The performance was not all new Tyler, however as Tyler treated fans to a live rendition of “She” minus the elusive Frank Ocean, of course.
After Tyler left the stage, the only remaining act on Day One of Camp Flog Gnaw was Lana Del Rey. Rey took the stage right on time to a packed crowd and eardrum-shattering screams from her fans. She started her set with the gloomy and atmospheric “13 Beaches” with a backing piano, and the crowd lost their minds. After a brief hello and introduction Del Rey moved into “Diet Mountain Dew” which got an equally explosive response from the crowd. With such a sultry aesthetic and slower songs, Ms. Del Rey isn’t the first to come to mind for a major festival headliner, but she held her own. At a show like this, you need to play to the crowd, and Del Rey did just that and then some. Fans were hanging on her every word, and she continued through her set, playing classic Lana cuts like, “Born to Die,” “Video Games,” and “Ride” before closing it out with “Off to the Races.”
When it was all said and done, the first day of the 6th annual Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival was a success. With the Day Two schedule as good as, if not better, than Day One, it is sure to be a weekend for the books.
File Photo by Sharon Alagna