Camp Flog Gnaw, Where Live Music Dreams Come True

When I bought my ticket in August, I did not anticipate what would transpire come November. Great line-up, check. Time to bask in the LA sunshine, a given. But a retreat from the downright tomfoolery of late 2016, naw, didn’t expect all that. On November 9th I was a mess and I knew that for the rest of the week I would ride the struggle bus. On Thursday night, I remembered that there was an immediate reprieve come Friday night. For a brief 48 hours, I retreated from the absurdity of 2016 and witnessed moments of determination and happiness and shared disdain for what had taken place just days before.

Day 1

After turning up too hard the night before, I had a late-ish start to the morning. I ran into Exposition Park frantic that I would miss the opening band and luckily arrived just as Phony Ppl finished, “Helga” and right before my favorite joint, “Somehow”. I yelled, “This is my sh**!” to which a young buck beside me, replied, “Man, this is everyone’s sh**!” Touché, Youngblood, touché.

Phony Ppl Performing at Camp Flog Gnaw
Their set included, “Why I Love the Moon” (with everyone singing in unison), a cover of “Georgie Porgy”, and some lively solos

Follow that up with some Alina Baraz. Girls sang, guys were entranced, and everyone hung on to every word. I felt like a heart eyed emoji the entire time she sang. Like how does that voice and that sound – how Sway!?

The second half of Day One did not disappoint. Kamasi Washington with his amazing accompaniment were poised and triumphant. Wearing what appeared to be mudcloth, with his amazing musical partners dressed in batik, they made a statement before they played a single note.

Their selections from the Epic album drove home a poignant message. That we have seen hard times, we stood tall in the face of adversity, in our contributions, our greatness – demanded our rights and humanity, many a time before.

They were a funky, jazzy, and unapologetically black ensemble that reminded us (rather me) of the greatness we came from and the great things we have yet to do. Such sets are meaningful and groundbreaking all on their own, but they are even more grand, pride-filling and heartwarming gestures in a time of sorrow and anger.

Actions both subtle and overt set the tone for the night and for the rest of the weekend for that matter. Many artists communicated messages that mirrored the sentiments of those who attended – from “Da Fuq is Happening!?” to “Fu** Donald Trump” and everything in between.

Tokimonsta made me smile and turn up. And that’s all I have to say about that, word to Forrest.

Actually it isn’t. Tokimonsta brought out Isaiah Rashad and Joey Purp and had amazing visuals. A set chock full of surprises and beach balls with her moniker bouncing in unison with and on top of folks heads was a sight to see, and easily an example as to why Tyler’s caution that Camp Flog Gnaw is contending with the likes of Coachella are far from far-fetched.

I saw SZA from the sidelines. She was the size of an ant from my viewpoint, but her booming voice filled the smoke filled atmosphere.

Chance the Rapper took folks to church, took a moment to bring out Francis and the Lights and Big Baby DRAM and took a moment to recite lines from his favorite song from Coloring Book.

I get my word from the sermon
I do not talk to the serpent
That’s the holistic discernment

Daddy said I’m so determined
Told me these goofies can’t hurt me

He recited these lines several times in a beautiful crescendo from lightest whisper to the sing songy melody folks have come to expect from him. Another example of the hints at hope and messages of perseverance for folks living in a time when a cheeto will go into office in a few months.

Speaking of Trump and messages. Tyler the Creator made quite a few during the weekend. At one point he called out, “Black People!” just because, and got a rallying response from droves of black kids. If his figurative dap to black folks during this tumultuous time was not evidence of his adoration for the folks making waves in the crowd, he brought out YG to perform “F**k Donald Trump”, an explicit statement of how he and many others felt about the primary election.

With the wee bit of energy I had left, I two-stepped under the stars to Kaytranada.

Day 2

Day 2 of Camp Flog Gnaw packed just as many punches.

This time around I got to Camp in a timely manner and enjoyed Kilo Kish’s performance piece. I decided to stick around and caught Kali Uchis’s performance.

Her set made me wish that I listened to her album a bit more before seeing her. In fact, it has been a good long while since I learned of a new artist during a live show. If a live performance moves me to listen to the studio album, it is a sign that I will appreciate the album. I mean, she performed “Suavemente” for God’s sake. Sure enough, I got home and listened to her album. I fux with it.

Sprinkle in some well-knowns and some up and comers and you have the evening sets for Day 2. Gallant sang his ass off (how does one run and hop around stage and still hit them falsettos). Anderson Paak had an equally amazing set. He also sang, ran, jumped, and played the drums (again, how!? Obviously I am out of shape and know nothing about breath control).

E. Badu did her usual thing – came late, saaaang and sipped tea, dropped knowledge, and left late. I loved and appreciated her for it. Last time I saw her in the Bay Area, she reminded attendees to remember Native American’s and their ongoing struggles in America. This time around, she warned folks not to be fooled by what took place in the recent election, to dig deeper, “Cause when the sideshow going on and shit, trust me — some other shit is going down somewhere else that they don’t want us to see.”

Cause I am getting old, I did not stay the entire night. I stayed long enough to see the surprise guest – Earl Sweatshirt. He and Tyler the Creator performed as EarlWolf and real fans lost their damn minds.

Tyler the Creator was not fooling with Camp Flog Gnaw. Check out Consequence of Sounds’ review. They do an excellent job of explaining the timeliness of this festival. As the young people say, it was lit (wait, do they still say that). He had surprise guests, free carnival rides and opportunities to tune out the negativity of the outside world. Hopefully 2017 will be a bit more forgiving than 2016. In the event that it is just as brutal, I am pretty confident that Camp will be a light at the end of the year regardless. I already started stacking my coins for next year’s show.

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