Photos by Mary Tio
It would be difficult to write an article about the critically acclaimed Camp Flog Gnaw festival without understanding the mastermind behind the creative madness. Formerly known as the Odd Future festival, this laid-back celebration of music and arts began as scribbles in Tyler, the Creator’s notebook. 11 years later, Camp Flog Gnaw has slowly evolved into one of the most celebrated festivals focusing on alternative R&B and hip-hop. The lineup this year, like all previous Flog Gnaws, was incredibly impressive – and nothing less was expected of Tyler. This was clear when the tickets sold out before an official lineup was even announced, demonstrating the enormous faith and trust people have in Tyler’s taste and curation. The first rendition of the festival after the pandemic, this year Tyler brought back the electric yet easy-going atmosphere through an array of talented performers, delicious local food vendors and carnival rides – uniting LA through the city’s shared love of music, food and fun.
Trotting along the lines of parking spots, thousands flock into the converted Dodgers Stadium parking lot at noon. The sea of GOLF branded outfits is buzzing with anticipation. Girls in glitter skirts walk past a few Tyler, the Creator impersonators to get their drinks, a small moment representative of the playfully eccentric energy of the festival. To kill time between sets, we began to photograph and document some very fashionable festival-goers.
People bring out their picnic blankets and camp in front of stages, soaking up the glorious sun – ah, the beauty of LA in November. As the clock strikes two, my lovely photographer Mary and I head over to GNAW stage to check out Baby Rose’s set.
Rose’s powerful vocals are the perfect way to kick off the afternoon, with a calm yet confident power that brings a kick to the laid-back atmosphere of the festival. She kicks her set off with her hit, Ragrets and after the song, Rose asks the audience “I know y’all are here for a good time… who’s drinking already?”. As she jokes with the audience, her vibrant warm energy exudes through the speakers. Rose has a gentle voice that ebbs and flows in its power, conveying different emotions with the most subtle of note switches. It’s clear that Rose is passionate about performing, and the love she’s poured into her music can be felt through her set.
With her rendition of Eiffel Tower, Rose bounces around the stage with her lighthearted demeanor and gets the audience swaying on their feet. Her smooth and sultry voice makes for a powerful ending, as she looks out towards the audience and goes quiet for a second. “This is a big dream for me, let me just take it in”, exhales Rose as she looks into the audience and soaks in the moment at one of the most celebrated festivals in the country.
After her set, we had the honor of interviewing Baby Rose herself, where we dive deeper into the inspiration and motivations behind her incredible discography. Check it out here!
Due to our interviewing schedule, we had to skip out on a couple of major performances – but it must be mentioned that the Paris, Texas set sent currents flowing throughout the field that could be felt all the way in the media area, accompanied by an equally powerful crowd.
Fana Hues – by Mary Tio
Fana Hues channels the most caring, down-to-earth version of herself during her set. The experience could be likened to that of a sleepover with your best friends, where everyone is enjoying a sing along vibey dance party. She hits every note and you can see her dashing smile from the very far back of the crowd!
The energy feels very cozy because of her melodic tunes – it quickly transformed into a heartfelt, emotional experience because of how everyone felt intrinsically connected with each other through their shared love of her music.
We also had the phenomenal opportunity to interview the lovely singer-songwriter – check out the interview here!
Around 5pm, the hunger pangs begin to hit so Mary and I trot over to get some food from the vendors. Camp Flog Gnaw’s beauty lies in its easy going pace. Unlike other festivals, CFG is much more than just the music. It’s about sharing food, enjoying carnival rides, and soaking in the atmosphere. This was never more evident than when we joined the food line next to the GNAW stage, only to have Ravyn Lenae’s upbeat set surprise us as the sun dipped below the stunning LA skyline.
Munching on dumplings, we revel in her sweet vocals and high-energy performance, a perfect breath of fresh air to fuel the rest of the night. The beauty of Camp Flog Gnaw is the easygoing nature of the festival, which we truly felt in this short but sweet moment.
One of the more mellow performers of the festival, Kevin Abstract brings a beautifully somber energy to the night. Abstract walks onto stage wearing a shirt that says “I love someone who is HIV positive”, an incredible display of love and dedication. This sentimental homage sets the tone for the overall moody atmosphere of his performance today. His backing team supports his gentle vocals with smooth synergy, and the audience gently sways with them. “When I close my eyes, I think about you everytime” croons Abstract, while dreamy guitar riffs in the back bring a warmth to the stage during this rendition of Baby Boy.
Towards the end of the set, Abstract mysteriously steps off stage. Someone comes out with a yellow hoodie on their shoulder, a wig, and a mask. “That’s not Kevin Abstract…” exclaims a fellow concertgoer near us in the crowd. This mysterious person performs (moreso, screams) with strobe lights in the back, and then they exit. Abstract steps back onto stage as though nothing happened, and continues with his set. Today I Gave Up continues to keep the tone somber and melodic. Overall, the set was a refreshing step back from the upbeat energy of most performances today, and allowed the audience to chill out, recuperate and regain their energy with Abstract’s melodic performance.
Following Abstract’s moody set, we are excited to bring the energy back up with Kali Uchis. On the walk over, the speakers from CAMP blast a small glimpse of See You Again and people start sprinting over to the stage. Once she’s got everyone’s attention, Uchis cleverly switches over to Moonlight, one of her more recent hits. Her light, enchanting vocals sound even more beautiful in person, sending shivers down my spine. She also brings out a special guest during this set – none other than her partner, the famed singer-songwriter Don Toliver.
After the performance, Uchis takes a step back to reflect on the power one receives from not caring about what others think – a beautiful homage to the journey of a singer-songwriter. In many of our recent interviews, a lot of artists gave us similar advice – embracing individuality and what makes us unique, regardless of the views of others.
After this poignant moment of reflection, Uchis continues her set but an unfortunate technical difficulty leads to the CAMP stage screens going dark for the rest of her performance. As she is very pregnant, the majority of her performance is done while she lays on a pink couch in the center back of the stage – making it difficult to see her without the screens.
This brings up the pep, but after a while the audience begins to slip away due to the lack of visuals, especially from a performer who prides herself on the meticulously crafted visuals and set that goes along with her music. Uchis powers through despite this, with an incredible rendition of Te Mata. After this song, we jump into a more grunge beat that brings in a moodier energy in comparison to the upbeat Latin tempos that were brought by the previous song. Uchis’ airy, lighter performances combined with her sweet vocals bring an air of ethereality to the festival that uplifts the audience.
In order to get a good spot for the iconic Ice Spice, we end up leaving the Kali Uchis set slightly early. The Ice Spice crowd is filled with shirts with her face on it, or with big black letters stating “I’m a Munch” (an allusion to her first hit single). The DJ for this set does an incredible job at picking up the energy, playing current hits that the audience moshes to. She ends the set with Barbie World, and Ice Spice steps onto stage in her iconic all white outfit (white top, white boots, white tennis skirt and all). She opens her set with Gangsta Boo and the crowd goes ballistic.
Her whole set is great fun – she makes hits that people can dance to, shake ass to, sing along with and this is clear with her audience at Flog Gnaw. However, the sound production of the bass made it heavily boosted, to the point where it became a bit difficult to hear the singer and distinguish the songs from one another.
Despite these minor technical difficulties, the set is highly energetic with Spice dancing around the stage and occasionally shaking her booty (much to the audience’s delight). After cruising through her hits, she closes with “Deli,” ending the night on a high note and seamlessly setting the stage for the most anticipated act: Tyler, the Creator.
Tyler, the Creator
This man is a genius. One of the most celebrated artists in the country, his creative chaos is quintessential to his brand and this festival is proof. Everyone who goes to Flog Gnaw expects to see Tyler’s set – the man behind the madness.
As the audience waits at CAMP, we see an animation of a car in an abandoned scrap lot. The screen drops and we see Tyler, in the very set that the animation was mimicking. “What’s up dickheads! It’s been 3 fucking years” yells Tyler. He begins the performance with a monologue of sorts, talking about the challenges of the pandemic and his gratitude to fans for still pulling up 3 years later, and selling out tickets within hours. “To know that this random idea I had brings up the spirit of LA for a weekend… thank you” says Tyler, and that’s probably the most sincere we will see him be for the night.
“You wanted new music? Well, I wanted a father, we don’t always get what we want. I’m going through my catalog today and you pieces of shit are going to enjoy it”. And so we do.
Tyler blasts off with WUSYANAME, getting groovy and dancing along the intricate flow of the set, keeping the audience engaged with his quintessential quirks. An incredible rendition of 911 / Mr. Lonely brings up the energy whilst maintaining poignant emotional resonance, which then transitions into Who Dat Boy. Following the song, he checks to “see who knows his old shit”. And then come the synths of She, which gets the audience singing in an incredible synchronization that I doubt I will ever experience again – I have never seen an audience know that many lyrics of an artist’s song, and sing them with such exact timing. The audience lives and breathes his music for the duration of the set – going to show the impact and influence this man has had on the industry.
“Is that your window?” sings Tyler, as he cuts the song there and transitions into Tamale, getting the audience to bounce on their feet.
After IFHY and See You Again, Tyler asks for a towel. The “ok ok ok ok ok ok ok”s of the previous song used every single one of his bellowing breaths, leaving him drenched in sweat. The audience sees Tyler use the towel and asks him to throw it to them. “Y’all are fuckin weird man, this literally smells like dick” he exclaims.
A few seconds later… cue the audience chanting ‘dick towel’. This small interaction encapsulates Tyler’s relationship with his fans – he calls them weird, curses at them relentlessly and yet they continue to unconditionally love him in all his chaotic ingenuity. Following this interaction, the audience is brought back to newer Tyler releases with DOGTOOTH, followed by I THINK transitioning into EARFQUAKE.
At the end, Tyler claims that his next song is his “favorite that [he’s] made ever in his life”. He goes off stage for a bit, and the set goes dark. Then suddenly, we see Tyler on top of the car in his set, as the beginning of NEW MAGIC WAND plays. The most theatrical performance of the night, we see fireworks and Tyler walk around with flamethrowers throughout the rendition of the song – easily one of the best performances I have witnessed in my life.
Tyler’s set, running through his old and new hits, unites the audience through their shared love of his music – an homage to the spirit of the festival, which beautifully brings LA together for a weekend through the city’s passion for music and arts.
The Hillbillies (Kendrick Lamar and Baby Keem)
After Tyler’s magnetic, the audience is hyped up and ready for the Hillbillies – this festival marks the first time the duo perform a whole set together. Following a slight delay, the set kicks off with family ties, a universally acclaimed fan favorite that creates mosh pits throughout the audience. Lamar and Keem work extremely well together, switching off each other’s verses with a seamless synergy that cannot be fabricated. It’s clear that they enjoy performing together, as both of them bounce around the stage with effortless confidence.
Following their song together, Lamar and Keem take turns to perform their hits – starting off with N95. A lot of Lamar’s songs have added guitar riffs within this set, adding a touch of rock to his traditional hits – this is especially visible with DNA., Swimming Pools, HUMBLE., and m.A.A.D. city. One of my favorite moments is when Lamar asks the audience to sing along with him, as sings a tiny acoustic sample of Bitch Don’t Kill my Vibe – he tricks the audience by switching into Money Trees, much to the audience’s surprise and delight.
Keem, on the other hand, sticks to the beauty of his original instrumentals for the majority of his sets, performing hits such as lost souls, ORANGE SODA, 16, vent, HONEST and more. Keem’s chill modern rap instrumentals contrast Lamar’s rock renditions of his classics, but these juxtapositions are helpful in differentiating between the artists’ top hits especially when performed back to back.
A star studded set, I feel immense gratitude to be able to experience these songs live. “Thank you to my special friend Tyler, the Creator for this… it feels good to be home” says Lamar in between songs. They perform a cover of Praise God by Kanye West, and Lamar tells the audience “I know y’all ain’t tired yet!”. The Hillbillies jump into their hit, the Hillbillies, for their last song – Tyler himself makes an appearance on the stage towards the end and dances across the stage with Lamar and Keem. As Tyler begins to say something, the screen cuts to black in a technical error. This rounds out the first day of the festival rather abruptly, but it also brings about laughs in the audience.
On the walk home, we hear chatters of people exclaiming “oh my goodness”, “life isn’t real” and the most common, “I can’t wait for tomorrow!”. An immensely successful first day of Camp Flog Gnaw, the audience left feeling appreciative and energized for the next. The beauty of LA is the city’s shared love for music – and this festival unites Angelenos effortlessly through a beautiful culmination of some of the best in the industry.
Catch Day 2 of our Camp Flog Gnaw coverage here!