Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival (Image ourtesy of Goldenvoice)
Mission Viejo High School

L.A. music festival Camp Flog Gnaw was a weekend of surprises

Since its creation in 2012, Camp Flog Gnaw has evolved multiple times into the form it took last weekend —  an immersive carnival and showcase of talent spanning the parking lot of Dodger Stadium. 

Tyler, the Creator is on top of the world right now after releasing his latest album “Igor,” and so is his festival. Last year’s headlining performance by Kanye West and Kid Cudi’s “Kids See Ghosts” project left fans wondering how Camp Flog Gnaw would raise the bar in 2019. Tyler chose to keep them in suspense until the last possible second, hiding Sunday’s headliner under a mysterious set of question marks.

Before most fans flocked to the three stages at night to see the festival’s more recognizable performers, many prepared for mosh pits by riding the zipper, drop tower, or another stomach-lurching carnival ride. Those looking for comfort rather than thrills sought out the special food attractions, including Taco’s Tacos, curated by Taco, and the Pop Tart Block Party. Others camped out in lines for festival merch featuring designs by streetwear brand Girls Don’t Cry and an exclusive selection of Converse Golf Le Fleurs.

The spacing of the lineup made it more difficult than ever before to see a favorite artist. Nevertheless, attendees trekked to the Camp stage on Saturday night to see Tyler himself, clad in wig, sunglasses, and multicolored suit. As he sweated through his costume, he performed a variety of songs from “Igor” and fan favorites.

tyler L.A. music festival Camp Flog Gnaw was a weekend of surprises
Tyler, the Creator (Photo courtesy of Goldenvoice)

Although Tyler was Saturday’s de facto headliner, he saved the last spot in the lineup for his close friend Solange, who filled the stage with a live band and dancers walking up and down a staircase. She captivated the audience while performing a medley of songs from her albums “When I Get Home” and “A Seat at the Table,” using detailed choreography and seamless transitions between songs to create a mesmerizing artistic experience.

As fans filed into the carnival on Sunday, the elephant in the room was the mystery headliner. Many assumed Frank Ocean would appear for his first performance since 2017 and Blonded merch could be spotted in every direction. 

Dominic Fike was the first Sunday performer on the Camp stage, bringing a refreshing enthusiasm to his fun pop hits. Everyone watching would agree Fike is destined for even larger crowds from the way he shreds the guitar and shouts/sings onstage. 

Led by Solange the night prior, Sunday was a big day for female R&B artists, with strong sets by Clairo, FKA Twigs, and H.E.R. Twigs came out in a feathered headpiece and costume and performed her brand new album “Magdalene,” eventually shedding the get-up to pole dance for a song.

One of the night’s largest surprises came during YG’s set, during his tradition of bringing fans onstage to say some not-so-kind-words to Donald Trump. Adult actress Stormy Daniels was “unknowingly” brought onstage to say “I f***ed Donald Trump,” after which YG played his political anthem “FDT.” Sure the stunt was staged, but it was still hilarious and made the song’s performance much more memorable. 

Finally, the unknown mystery headliner was set to perform. Two girls standing off the side erupted in screams, yelling they saw Frank Ocean backstage. It turns out they actually saw Tyler, who came onstage to announce the night’s biggest act. “Can I bring out a friend?” he asked the crowd, and A$AP Rocky ran out to the crowd’s screams. 

drake L.A. music festival Camp Flog Gnaw was a weekend of surprises
Drake (Photo courtesy of Roger Goodgroves)

After two songs, Tyler came back out and repeated his question over chants of “we want Frank” from the audience. Instead of Frank Ocean, the elusive Lil Uzi Vert burst out from backstage to perform two songs in the crowd. Although it was exciting that Tyler got Uzi, infamous for cancelling shows, to appear, the audience was still anxious. 

After Uzi, Tyler came back out to thank everyone for attending and to ask permission to bring out another friend. This time, Drake came out to his hit “Started From the Bottom,” to which the audience erupted. He went on to play some recent hits and features as well as a medley of bangers from years prior.

Each song he performed instantly drew screams from the crowd, but when he finally asked the crowd if he should keep going, the vocal minority booed him.

“Well, look, it’s been love, my name is Drake, thank you for having me,” he said as he walked offstage.

The crowd lingered for the next 15 minutes, unsure if Tyler would bring out Frank Ocean or any other friend. He did not, and many went home disappointed. 

Drake ending his set early went viral instantly, but the entitled audience was overly exaggerated on social media. Of course, many fans were disappointed Frank Ocean was not the headliner, but the excitement of seeing one of the biggest artists in the world extinguished their negativity instantly.

As Drake sang, he often motioned for the crowd to fill in the lyrics for him, who shouted the words back every time. Many fans were unsure if he was the last special guest to come out, so perhaps they booed to get to the next artist more quickly. Regardless, those who booed took a very special performance for granted, as Drake performed “Feel No Ways” and “Wu-Tang Forever,” two older album cuts, at Tyler’s request. 

Camp Flog Gnaw 2019 was a successful weekend based on its own merit, but the Drake/Frank Ocean controversy helped the festival reach a spotlight Tyler, the Creator could not have predicted, even if some of the news is negative. Now, it’s time to place bets on how early the Frank Ocean 2020 rumors will begin.

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