When almost every new, small festival is starting out, their organizers often talk about “scale” — that is, scaling up as the festival becomes more successful, moving from small parking lots to larger venues and bringing in bigger acts and correspondingly huger crowds. For instance, when I attended Adult Swim’s inaugural Adult Swim Festival in downtown Los Angeles last month, representatives from the network told the small group of journalists covering the fest’s media walkthrough (every festival should have one of these, hint, hint) that they saw a much bigger draw in five years, using this one as kind of a “pilot episode” to determine what works and where they can improve.
But what happens when a festival gets too big, too fast? Is there such a thing as “too successful?” As it turns out, Goldenvoice, the organizers for Tyler The Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival are finding out the complex answer to that question the hard way, through on-the-job experience, as 2018’s bigger, undeniably better festival met a few bumps in the road on the way to its most successful year yet.
First, let’s talk about some of the improvements. As I found out at last year’s Flog Gnaw, location matters more than just about anything, as the confusing layout of the Exposition Park venue played havoc with my internal compass — and my poor sneaker soles. With the move to Dodger Stadium a few miles north, the fest was able to both expand and streamline operations, making for a more straightforward experience getting around.
Taking place in the massive parking lot surrounding the stadium, the concrete — while being little nicer to the feet of attendees — kept dirt and dust from further polluting the air already tainted by the local wildfires in Thousands Oaks and Butte County. Meanwhile, the two main stages were situated at almost straight angles from each other, but given enough distance that neither interfered with the other, with Gnaw Village situated more or less in middle but off to one side up a small hill. It’s a great layout and I hope it sticks around for the next fest.
The walking actually turned out to be a bit of a benefit thanks to another improvement; Postmates partnered with the fest to allow attendees to order and pickup food from vendors without waiting in line — something I’m sure Post Malone probably appreciated. Given a semi-hefty credit to try out this new function, I appreciated the opportunity to burn off a few extra calories from my Kogi BBQ Black Jack Quesadilla and Sage Bistro jackfruit tacos. The usual assortment of games, rides, and concessions were sprinkled throughout the grounds, but mainly concentrated to Gnaw Village along with Okaga National Park Cafe and the DJ-focused Gnaw stage.
However, it was a lot of walking, and with all the extra space for the main stages, the crowds quickly became bigger than resources could handle. After threatening to shut down Jaden Smith’s excellent, uproarious set due to fans near the front being nearly crushed by the constant press of bodies pushing toward the stage, the fire marshal actually did cut Brockhampton’s set short several minutes after a few songs prompted even more near disasters. They resumed with the abbreviated setlist after around 10 minutes had passed, but it was enough time to suck much of the energy away from their bombastic — and much more polished — performance.