Recap: At This Year’s Camp Flog Gnaw, Love and Gratitude Shaped Day One

(Photo by Christopher Polk/Variety via Getty Images)

Camp Flog Gnaw returned this weekend for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic with an evolved energy that you could feel. The last Camp Flog Gnaw was the infamous 2019 festival, which made headlines after fans booed Drake off stage (a result of disgruntled fans realizing Frank Ocean would not be making an appearance). Now, four years later, Camp Flog Gnaw is back with its roster of some of its usual suspects, including alternative, indie, and larger known acts, sharing space and gratitude with fans in the festival’s signature carnival setting.

CFG attendees arrived in their most playful outfits; many wearing GOLF merch — clothing from Tyler, the Creator’s clothing brand. Festivalgoers showed up in DIY ensembles, lots of Sandy Liang-esque bow ties, and one group even arrived in matching pastel suits and platinum wigs, resembling Tyler’s wardrobe from the “Earfquake” video. Throughout the day, attendees were spotted with bags filled with merch and life-sized stuffed animals from carnival games.

The early afternoon was met with Baby Rose and Fana Hues, two artists who occupy and expand the R&B space with a blend of classic, soulful, and alternative sounds.  The two filled the warm setting with back to back tunes across the campgrounds.

Fana Hues graced the stage looking ethereal as ever, flowing freely alongside her backup dancers as she sang. The large and loyal crowd all sang her praises and served as a fitting homecoming for the Pasadena native’s first Los Angeles music festival. She debuted her new song, “Down,” identified “fall in line” as her personal favorite, and paused to invite the audience to join in wishing her mom a happy birthday. Addressing the audience with such openness created an atmosphere reminiscent of a gathering among old friends.

Baby Rose blessed us with not only a soulful performance, but a conversation to match, both anchored in love. After her set, Rose sat down with ESSENCE to talk about purpose, intentional messaging, and finding the inner peace to extend grace to oneself. 

“It’s such a beautiful opportunity to be here, and a dream come true, honestly. I’m so grateful to have a platform like this that I can use to talk about love, a universal truth.”

On the ability to connect with audiences and share in vulnerability, Rose explains, “I have to be honest with myself and honor myself where I’m at. Every show is going to be different, because there are things that happen that trigger different emotions, but I like to just lead with gratitude.” 

She describes the personal journey of accepting her unique voice and place in the industry as a Black woman, in the face of so many voices telling her to water herself down. “I want to show people that what others may deem as a weakness is really your superpower, and to trust your calling.” She identifies this process as a challenge to reach your fully realized self, as you were created to be, and nods to other Black women who can relate and affirm each other through that journey. 

The sun set with stand out performances from Ravyn Lenae, Kali Uchis and Ice Spice. What cannot be overstated about any of the three women: the mics were on, the range was there

From Ice Spice’s breath control to Ravyn Lenae and Fana Hues’ incredible vocal range, the Black women left it all on the stage. To no surprise, Ravyn Lenae offered a show filled with impressive vocal runs and theatrical facial expressions, putting her years of performing arts training to good use. To much surprise, Ice Spice’s crowd was filled with, if we had to guess, about nearly all men screaming her name with unbridled excitement. If her star power was ever up for debate, it was proven Saturday night. The crowd erupted, chanting the phrase “I’m a munch,” moments before she stepped on stage.

Accompanying their performances, many artists had elaborate stage production and visuals displayed on the jumbo screens.Tyler, the Creator performed his extensive catalog directly before the closing act with a makeshift junkyard set, motion graphics, and pyrotechnics. He made it a point to reflect on the time since the last festival, thanked every member of the crew that put the festival together, and all of the fans coming out to watch the live performances. 

The male entertainers of the night gave equally spirited performances, with Tyler and The Hillbillies (Kendrick Lamar and Baby Keem) bringing their respective stages alive through set design and animated stage presences.

The Hillbillies closed out the first night on a high note. The trailer for Baby Keem’s short film, The Melodic Blue premiered on screen, directly before an electrifying performance of “Family Ties” set the entire festival ablaze. The duo, dipping into both artists’ discographies sent fans on their way fed with deep cuts from Lamar’s extensive catalog and Baby Keem’s hits. 

Lamar, in line with many other performers that night, thanked the crowd for being there, “you could be anywhere in the world and you’re here,” he stated mid performance. The evening revolved around embracing gratitude, life, and artistry, setting the tone for what promises to be an exceptional two days of music, art, and fun.

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