I didn’t know it was possible to experience FOMO while actually at the event of the weekend until coming to Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival on Saturday afternoon. While I wasn’t too late to see the artists I wanted — and in fact, got to see pretty much everyone I planned on with only a few exceptions — the truth is, there is so much going on at any given moment that I just had no clue how I was going to get to do all or any of it.
When Tyler The Creator envisioned Flog Gnaw, the “Carnival” part of the name wasn’t just for show. There are hoop tosses, Ferris wheels, and all kinds of other rides and games to distract and amuse between sets — but only if there is actually a “between.” Because of a tight agenda, I chose to bypass or forego so many of the other amenities, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense that I wasn’t doing all that I could be. In fact, there was an entire stage I didn’t even see the entire time because so many of the acts I wanted to see performed primarily on either the Flog or the Camp stage. That’s the sign of an impossibly good lineup.
And, just those two stages were more than enough to occupy the time I did have, leaving me perfectly satisfied and exhausted by 10 PM on Sunday, which was about the point my knees, calves, backs, and soles gave out on me completely and I had to either head home or dig a hole right in the middle of Exposition Park and bury myself in it.
For one thing, the lineup was utterly massive and one of the most diverse and inclusive lineups of any festival this year. The unique layout (and a small directional snafu that ended up detouring me through the “backstage” area with catering and artists’ crews) meant that my arrival at 2:30 PM on Saturday and subsequent wanderings put me in contact with both Kamaiyah’s set, of which I was only really able to absorb a snippet, and Fidlar, whose punk proclivities tugged on my heartstrings and brought back fond memories of wannabe teen rebel days.
Speaking of teen rebels, Camp Flog Gnaw’s lineup, including an intriguing blend of up-and-comers with younger veterans alongside Tyler’s merry band of musical misfits, tended to run much younger than nearly any other fest. Quite possibly the oldest artist I saw there was Kelis, who started out performing to a merely respectably-sized crowd of longtime acolytes before some of the younger guests realized that they’d heard her songs somewhere before, and came swarming.
Of course, the larger crowds were reserved for radio favorites like Migos and ASAP Rocky; however, I was surprised at how ridiculous some of the audience sizes were for more underground or “internet-exclusive” acts like Vince Staples and Syd were. Neither is a tremendous fixture on terrestrial radio, nor even has a significant presence on the Billboard charts, yet they drew some of the largest, most energetic crowds. Vince especially was a revelation, playing his set without the aid of backing vocals with a relatively empty, undressed stage. Likewise, Syd’s ability to control the largest stage solo was impressive; even her backing band played offstage, allowing her the full run of the stage and a simple backdrop, yet she filled up the space so well despite her small stature.