Lines of excited fans circled the blocks outside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, some waiting since the early morning, for the 2nd Annual Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All Carnival presented by Camp Flog Gnaw. The area was flooded with a sea of teens sporting high socks and Supreme brand five-panel caps — a signature of any Odd Future event. The carnival catered to all types of crowds, from the hardcore punk kids, to the electronic dance music fans and a surprising number of moms hanging out in the beer garden while their 15-year-olds were in the mosh pit. It is no surprise that Odd Future’s music appeals to so many disparate tastes; their music has the ability to go from complete primal mayhem to deeply personal introspection and anywhere in between.
If someone who had never heard of Odd Future came to the carnival and saw the hoards of young kids buying up as many sky-blue “OF” backpacks, shirts, hoodies, socks, hats and even pillows as they could carry, he or she might write them off as corporate sell-outs in it for the money. But Odd Future is not your average group. While they might be around the same age as Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, they don’t have famous parents and didn’t break onto the scene through agents and managers. They were simply a group of kids who put funny songs on the Internet and blew up. Their carnival certainly had the corporate sponsorships of any other large music festival, but it felt like a simple, childlike vision of combining the attractions of a carnival with the atmosphere of a hip-hop concert.
The first act to go on was Earl Sweatshirt, probably the least outrageous and most brooding member of Odd Future. He played a handful of songs from Doris, his newest and arguably darkest work. During breaks, he and DJ Taco made fun of an audience member who puked and imitated the surfer-bro voices of their fans. Sweatshirt finished with two upbeat tracks from his first mixtape that got him his start, “Earl” and “Drop”.
A highlight of the day was Flying Lotus. Considerably older than the other performers, Flying Lotus brought a level of musicality and maturity that one would expect from the great nephew of John and Alice Coltrane. He performed his DJ set as Flying Lotus behind a transparent veil onto which hypnotizing visuals were projected. He then came out from behind the veil and “morphed” into his rapping alter ego Captain Murphy to close the set.
This performance overshadowed some of the more mediocre acts such as Schoolboy Q and Mac Miller. Most of Schoolboy Q’s set consisted of unintelligible screaming over his original tracks. Mac Miller, a Pittsburgh emcee who was once a relatable, white, high school kid who rapped about eating yogurt also performed. His Flog Gnaw performance, however, was a far cry from his earlier image, as he mentioned killing his fans and rotting corpses in a transparent attempt to be dark and brooding.
During these uninspired acts on the main “High” stage, fans had the choice to venture down to the smaller “Camp” stage. The venue also featured a skate park, where competitions were held. At one point, a seemingly impromptu performance broke out featuring the entire Odd Future crew, leading to a mad rush to the stage. This is also where local punk/hardcore band Trash Talk played its set to a mob of moshing teenagers. At one point, Trash Talk lead singer Lee Spielman instructed the crowd to break down the fences and barriers. Security attempted to restrain concert-goers, but they were easily overpowered and forced into a corner as mayhem broke out.
The sight of this overthrow of authority was memorable, but the moment that will surely be talked about the most in the coming days happened during Tyler, the Creator’s set. He started by “getting ignorant for a second” and playing the ridiculously bombastic “B—h Suck D–k,” which toes the line between a genuine banger and an ironically bad criticism of some of his trap music contemporaries. He then got emotional, lamenting the confusion between love and hate with “IFHY” and attacking his absent father with his new song “Answer.”
The climax of the night came toward the end of Tyler’s set, when he brought out “the only famous person who can put up with [his] annoyingness,” Kanye West. The crowd instantly went crazy, as he was joined by Earl and Tyler joined West in performing “New Slaves.” It was surreal to see them all on stage together, and Tyler even recognized it in his usual manner, calling it “awkward and weird.” The OF crew then stepped back and watched while Kanye performed “Late.” The unsettling feelings multiplied as the whole crew came out, telling everyone to lose their minds, and played Tyler’s song “Tamale,” another raucous banger. All of the 19 to 22-year-olds flailed around on stage, screaming and throwing water on their fans, while Kanye calmly stood and nodded his head, too cool to join in the debauchery, yet appearing to approve of the energy.
After all of this craziness, the night was capped off with a mellow performance by crooner Frank Ocean. The Grammy nominee performed hits such as “Thinkin Bout You” and “Super Rich Kids” and then transitioned each piece with mellow instrumental segments. Backed by a full band, Ocean occasionally left the stage during a lush horn arrangement or guitar solo in order to give the instrumentalists their due.
For the timid crowd that spent more time on the ferris wheel than in the mosh pit, Frank’s impressive falsetto and laid-back R&B grooves were quite a departure from the earlier chaos. This wide range of genre is part of why Camp Flog Gnaw is a good bet for not only die-hard fans, but anyone remotely interested in hip-hop culture.