As someone who had never been to a music festival, Camp Flog Gnaw seemed like a good place to start. Three stages, a carnival, a digestible number of artists – most of which I loved. When you combine regular anxiety with being surrounded by thousands of people, the idea of a festival sounds catastrophic.
But each year, I would look at the lineup for Tyler, the Creator’s annual music festival, longing to go. It was just weeks before the festival would take place that I decided to go, after coming across a cheap ticket on StubHub. I threw my belongings in a backpack and made my way to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.
Upon arrival, it became clear to me that tens of thousands of fans came to see the man of the hour: 28-year old Tyler Okona (Tyler, the Creator) in a platinum blond, bowl cut wig complemented by a beige suit – an outfit that keys alter-ego Igor. He certainly lived up to his appearance and did not disappoint, ranging his performances to touch on a variety of his discography. From his 2011 album, “Goblin” to his second newest album, “Flower Boy,” pyrotechnics and flashing lights accompanied his deep, gritty vocals.
With each step closer to the stages, I felt waves of excitement wash over me. I was enthralled by the soothing ballads from Daniel Caesar and H.E.R., whose vocals were just as good live as they are from my earbuds. Summer Walker’s performance was one that I anticipated since I saw her name on the lineup; her new album, “Over It,” was stacked with beautiful Rhythm and Blues melodies featuring artists like Usher and Jhene Aiko.
Watching Walker’s dancers mesmerized me as I swayed back and forth with the crowd under the neon lights. I was eating $12 popcorn chicken out of a paper cup when my roommate pointed out that rapper YG was performing on the “CAMP stage,” joined by a middle-aged blond woman. I remember squinting and trying to understand why YG would bring someone’s mom on stage, but it wasn’t until the cashiers at the food stalls incredulously exclaimed that the woman was in fact Stormy Daniels – who YG brought on stage as the vocal introduction to song “FTD ((Explicit) Donald Trump)” blasted through the speakers and echoed through the stadium. The end of the second night brought me back to the “CAMP stage” along with every other festival-goer interested in seeing the performer marked as “???” on the lineup.
Every single person I talked to said they heard through the grapevine that Frank Ocean was the mystery guest – and with good reason. Ocean has been releasing new music and he and Tyler’s friendship goes way back to 2012 when Ocean met Tyler and the other members of his group, Odd Future. I wanted “???” to be Frank Ocean. But when Tyler finally came onstage and asked the audience if he could bring a couple friends out, he brought A$AP Rocky, who was jailed in Sweden earlier this year, Lil Uzi Vert, and finally, Drake. The former two were booed by the crowd, but with less magnitude than that of Drake.
The three guests were rushed during their performances since they were trying to fit three artists in the time frame of an hour. Having never seen Drake live, I was thoroughly impressed. Every other person on the planet knows that this man is a chart topper. But whenever the audience started booing and chanting, “We want Frank,” it ruined the performance for everyone. After Drake exited the stage 15 minutes early, the crowd stood there wondering why his set was cut short, only to find out on Twitter the next day that Drake left his performance early as a result of being “booed off stage” by the audience.
In what has been described to me as a lineup of performers hand-picked by Tyler himself, Camp Flog Gnaw put on an outstanding festival that I’ve found impossible to stop thinking about. I still haven’t found it in me to take my wristband off, refusing to admit that it’s really over … until next year.