Photography by Tanya Akim
The parking lots of Dodger Stadium became a weekend home to fried dough, costumes, carnival rides, official merchandise, and a lot of athleisure. Despite LA’s week of wildfires and smoke-filled air; fans flocked to eat churros and celebrate a carousel of their favorite live musicians. With three stages set-up around the grounds, attendees had plenty to do. The festival even took an eco-stance this year with reusable cups that could later be returned for a cup deposit. From noon until late into the evenings, childhood magic and music were the themes of Tyler the Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival.
Weekend highlights: Wallows, Virgil Abloh, Billie Eilish, Tyler the Creator, Jaden Smith, Post Malone, and Kids See Ghosts.
LA-based indie rock band Wallows made their Camp Flog Gnaw debut Saturday afternoon. An energetic set showed off the vocal talents and synergy of Braeden Lemasters and Dylan Minnette. Finishing off with their Spotify Global Viral 50 hit “Pleaser”, the band proved to be one to look out for.
When asked about his DJing, Virgil Abloh, creative director of Louis Vuitton, told W Magazine last year that he was “litmus-testing the culture”. The results yielded by his audience are clear: bright colors under anything-but-basic conditions. As an homage to his Off-White x Nike collaboration, fans held up sneakers in the air during his high-energy set.
The soul band The Internet strummed and harmonized an emotion-driven set after the sun went down. Bassist Patrick Paige II wore an N95 mask on stage which reminded seemingly un- phased fans about the smoke-filled air from the fires. Syd stepped into the spotlight for the band’s tender hit “Girl” after a loud crowd singalong.
Closing out the night on Flog Stage was Pusha-T. The star rapper delighted fans early on in his set with tracks off of arguably Kanye West’s best album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. After “So Appalled” and “Runaway”, he brought back “New God Flow” from G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer. Shocking the audience, a black screen with white boldface type projected behind the rapper: “FUCK DRAKE”. In a Twitter message after the show, Pusha-T denied that he authorized the projection and blamed a “corny ass tech dude” for stirring the public feud between the rappers. Ironically, Pusha-T finished his set with a cover of Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like”.
As the sun began to set Sunday afternoon, Jaden Smith took the stage. Impressively jumping around the stage with the energy and height of a professional pole vaulter during “Icon”, the crowds were then being warned of a potential shut-down by the fire marshals due to rowdiness. More than halfway through his set, Jaden briefed the crowd for big news: “Tyler [the Creator] is my boyfriend”. Smith is vocal about his sexual fluidity although Tyler the Creator immediately denied the claim by shaking his head when cameras panned to him in the audience. Whether they are the first openly gay couple in hip-hop or just playing a joke on the world—we have yet to find out.
On another stage, fans prepared for Lauryn Hill. While a DJ distracted the packed crowds, anticipation for Lauryn Hill mounted. After 20 minutes, she walked on stage in a silver headdress and studded platform disco heels to celebrate another stop on her 20th anniversary of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill tour. Pleas from the audience to take off her down poncho were not answered. After “Ex-Factor” and “Doo Wap (That Thing)”, fans awaited a “Nice For What” evening crescendo. As the Drake track began playing her sampled verses, the crowd went wild only to be swiftly disappointed: “I’m out of time”, said Lauryn Hill after only a few bars of the track. The delay and time mismanagement was not lost on the audience.
In a world of face tattooed artists, Post Malone reigns supreme. Like a loveable warlord, he ferociously battles stereotypes, structures, and norms of pop, rap, and hip-hop. His white pants and button down set with cartoon drawings showed off his odd whimsy. While chain-smoking and drinking from a red SOLO cup, Post Malone gave charming anecdotes to introduce each of his songs. “Rockstar” is written about, “Fucking up a hotel room”. “Candy Paint” is about, “Having cool cars.” After recounting the story of his come-up and many early deniers, Post finished his set with “Congratulations” before smashing an acoustic guitar and sending peace and love to the sardine-packed crowds.
KIDS SEE GHOSTS
The weekend ended on a high-note with Kanye West and Kid Cudi. The live debut as duo group Kids See Ghosts was delayed by both a busy fire marshal and intricate stage set-up. For Kanye, it was also a live debut of newly dyed pink hair which matched the Takashi Murakami designed cover of their eponymous summer album. The duo emerged in a floating plexiglass-enclosed scaffolding with a lit perimeter. The set began with “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” of The Life of Pablo before moving into the live debut of each of the 7 songs of their album. Crowd favorites “Feel the Love” and “Kids See Ghosts” were received with roaring applause as Kid Cudi and Kanye floated about the stage on moving scaffolding. To fans’ surprise, the pair played “Welcome to Heartbreak” and “Paranoid” from Kanye’s 808’s & Heartbreak, inducing a wave of 2008 Kanye West nostalgia. Staying in the decade, Kid Cudi’s powerful delivery of 2009 fan- favorite “Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare)” involved full audience participation. “Ghost Town” from Ye was the duo’s appropriately chosen finale. It is what Camp Flog Gnaw became: a ghost town—till next year.