Day Two of Flog Gnaw brought warmer weather, more eclectic fashion, and highly enthused crowds. The energy of day two was as electric as the first, yet being immersed in these crowds, that energy felt intensified. If day one was shaped by gratitude, day two was shaped by sheer dedication and fanship.
Popular accessories of choice were boots of any variety and cropped pullover knit shrugs. As for the artists, one could say that oversized cargo pants were Sunday’s staple. Attendees wore more layers, no doubt in preparation for nightfall’s drastic weather change, although Sunday night proved to be much warmer than Saturday.
WILLOW’s performance set the tone for what proved to be a night of community. She represented the alt Black femmes and all people turning to music as an outlet and evolving with their emotions. Prior to hitting the stage, Willow sat down with ESSENCE to discuss exactly that, along with overall professional and life transitions.
She explained that this particular performance felt “like a transitional experience” as she prepared to return to a familiar stage with her 2022 album, Coping Mechanism, and lead into some newer work. She spoke about how her new project is a reflection of a life transition she has been experiencing: moving away from the anger and resentment felt in Coping Mechanism and embracing the “gratitude and reverence to life itself.”
On having the courage, particularly as a Black femme, to boldly accept the more uncomfortable feelings we hold, Willow affirmed that every emotion has its place.
“There’s so many stereotypes that hold us back from being who we really are. I think specifically with Black femmes, it’s very easy to want to reject stereotypes, when in reality, we do have lots of reasons to be angry and feel like we’ve been disrespected, and underappreciated. I’m on the journey of trying to understand that, instead of just pushing things away. Let me analyze this a little bit and see where it comes from within me. Sometimes anger is necessary.”
Willow discussed exploring various genres and pointed to Nina Simone and Skin of Skunk Anansie as Black artists who have inspired her own work. As a dedicated student to musical theory, Willow shared her excitement for all there is to learn, and her fascination in realizing that music is as much about science, math, magic, and frequencies as it is anything else. “There’s lifetimes of things to learn. That inspires me so much and makes me want to joyfully continue with intention and gusto,” she concluded before taking the stage.
Shortly after, she was welcomed on stage by a substantial array of diverse fans, embracing her range as she smoothly transitioned between soft high notes and guttural vibrato. The crowd, spanning as far as one could see, enjoyed her show with enthusiasm as she expressed that the Camp Flog Gnaw festival “[felt] like home.” The young rockstar’s set was complete with fan favorites such as “transparentsoul” and “Wait A Minute!”, her newly released single “alone,” and a guest performance by her brother, Jaden, as the two sang “Summertime in Paris,” off his album ERYS.
Many artists joined in Willow’s sentiment about Camp Flog Gnaw feeling like a comfortable, and personal favorite venue to perform at. Syd, Dominic Fike, Rex Orange County, and more were greeted by huge swarms of their own personal crowds, and expressed their love for participating in this festival particularly. As Syd settled into her performance she shared, “Flog Gnaw, this is my eighth time being here. It’s my favorite festival to play in the world. Thank you guys for being part of this.” During the latter half of her set she brought out a piano and revealed, “I haven’t played piano in front of people since high school. It’s not as scary as I thought it would be, maybe because you guys are so great.”
Acts like PinkPantheress, AG Club, Lil Yachty who was joined onstage by Offset, and Toro y Moi also drew in large crowds of supportive fans. Each audience was composed of fans who knew and followed along to every single word sung. At Rex Orange County’s set, screams erupted from him playing a single chord, as fans instantly recognized songs without missing a beat.
The night culminated with a highly anticipated performance by SZA which ended on a bittersweet note, reflecting the amount of love and support fans have for her artistry. Her fans, deep in number and recognizable by the many “SOS”-embellished jerseys and hats, waited at the CAMP stage for upwards of three hours in anticipation of her arrival.
SZA’s set production transformed the stage into a giant dock complete with nets and a multidimensional lighthouse. Her stage design told a theatrical story, following her through a journey that began along the dock with waves crashing, followed by complete submersion under the sea, and ending along a rocky shore dramatically set ablaze as she belted notes from a wrecking ball suspended in the air. The headliner commanded the stage like a siren, flowing through an amalgam of her discography including songs from Ctrl, SOS, and other popular singles. The choreography was sharp, the background detailed, and set list stacked to create for a truly outstanding performance.
“I was shocked when I came out here,” she beamed at fans in the midst of her show. “I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t this!”
Due to strict city curfew restrictions, her sound got shut off just as she was about to sing a fan favorite, “Good Days.” To her pleasant surprise the crowd filled in the vocals, ending the night by singing the song in unison before she left the stage. While many fans would have preferred to see her finish her set, it can be said with resounding confidence that SZA closed out Camp Flog Gnaw 2023 with a bang.