CAMP Flog Gnaw

After spending ten hours at Odd Future’s Camp Flog Gnaw, we learned that the best way to go to festivals is to not go to festivals at all and to go to carnivals instead.

“What is joy without sorrow? What is success without failure? What is a win without a loss?” is a quote by Mark Twain that was probably about festivals. We’ve all been there— spending $500 to eat a limp corn dog, getting shoved by someone covered in body paint (not like, cute glittery Nasty Gal body paint, we’re talking gooey blue football stadium attendee status), navigating the elbow-to-elbow crowd migration while trying to push any metaphors about salmon going upstream into the back of your mind because it just makes the experience feel so much bleaker. Well, we’re here to tell you that there IS a better life, there IS a side with greener grass, there IS a power outlet at the end of the tunnel. These mythological treasures and more were all concentrated at the LA Coliseum this past weekend during Odd Future’s Camp Flog Gnaw festival/carnival extravaganza.

They had rides, yo. RIDES. A ferris wheel, that thing where they put in you in the chairs and it spins around like 10 times, the one that is exactly like that but the chairs are on strings, the one where you get into the little flipping cage pods and you basically know that you’re going to die on the spot but then you don’t, and then a SECOND ferris wheel in case the thrill of danger on Wheel #1 failed to satisfy. But aren’t these attractions all just over-priced mechanical money stealers? Plot twist: every ride was free. That’s how you DO IT. Food was also pretty reasonable in that it was palatable and didn’t require you to take out any small personal loans. The only true scams at Flog Gnaw were those little booth games where you have to get a ball into a basket or something and we absolutely did not spend $20 trying to win a pair of Odd Future-branded socks so if you hear that from anyone, it is a lie.

Before Camp Flog Gnaw, the best rides at festivals were the portable toilets. You know how exciting it feels to get to wait in that long line, inching ever closer to your own chance to climb inside that familiar blue capsule of wonder and magic? Yeah, that’s a “nah” from us. Luckily, in addition to rides, bathroom abundance was off the charts. Odd Future may have set the world record for most bathrooms at a festival. They had them at the entrance, inside the main venue, outside the main venue, and on top of all that, inimitably clean portable bathrooms lined along the interior perimeter that seemed to stretch on for a mile. There were no lines. No. Lines. Take a second to just close your eyes, think about this, do some deep breaths. Magic IS real.

Speaking of magic, did you know that Willow (Smith) actually has a very vast and polished discography? Like, obviously Whip My Hair is one of the greatest songs of all time and is basically Bohemian Rhapsody Part II but pop ventures aside, the youngest member of the #SmithSquad makes some really beautiful neo-soul-PBR&B-indie tunes. She even threw an #IRL #TBT our way with a dancehall-infused version of the track that put her on the map. Flog Gnaw shifted away from the usual schedule paradigm of having little-known acts concentrated at the beginning of the day by having Willow kick off the performances. She wasn’t alone.

Danny Brown performed his set mid-day, but was serving finale-level energy on a silver platter with his backing of manbun-clad DJs and a full set of glitch graphic videos. To keep it 100, memories between entering his photo pit and four hours later aren’t super concrete because this was still a festival and it happens, but the standout emotions were definitely “wow”, “this is so good”, “where am I”, and “what do you mean this is a restricted area”. Good times.

Descent into entropy is a inevitability that no large event can escape, at least, if it’s doing it right. By the time A$AP Rocky took the stage (and brought out A$AP Ferg, French Montana, and Diddy) and started playing Smells Like Teen Spirit, the entire festival had reached a level that can only be attained at the cross-section of A$AP Mob and Nirvana. Nirvana, however, it was not. But as festivals go, the “terrifying level of no return” was still pretty chill, all things considered. Sure, there was mass migration, there was screaming, everyone was too drunk, someone was inconsiderably smoking some garbage-scented hallucinogenic, but you still had some semblance of your own bubble. And it was that moment, with your bubble entirely surrounded by chaos without popping, that Flog Gnaw ascended into festival greatness not through excess, but through balance. Once again, to quote Mark Twain, “What is joy without sorrow? What is success without failure? What is VIP without drink tickets?”