“It never rains in Southern California,” Raphael Saadiq told the crowd gathered Saturday for Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival, and how painfully true those words rang as the Woolsey fire burned tens of thousands of bone-dry acres nearby.
Delivered during a medley of tunes this veteran R&B artist has written or produced, the once-cheerful line (from an old song by Saadiq’s group Tony! Toni! Toné!) met a crowd peppered with folks wearing breathing masks to protect from the smoke and ash blanketing the grounds surrounding Dodger Stadium, where Camp Flog Gnaw is taking place this weekend.
But if the hazy sky gave a post-apocalyptic look to the annual festival presented by Tyler, the Creator, it didn’t keep people from the good time they’d come determined to have.
Partway through his set, ASAP Rocky said he was doing away with the slow song he’d planned to play because the crowd was too pumped up; he could see seven mosh pits from the stage, he added, so instead of a ballad he brought out Playboi Carti, and the two rappers did the throbbing “New Choppa.”
More moshing broke out during Playboi Carti’s own performance. And a set by Pusha-T had a rowdy intensity, particularly when an unprintable insult aimed at Drake flashed across a giant video screen. (After the gig, Pusha-T — who’s been engaged for months in a feud with Drake — wrote on Twitter that a “corny ass tech dude” was responsible for the insult and that “dissing anybody on screen isn’t part of my show.”)
Saturday’s headliner was technically SZA, who was making her second festival appearance in days after filling in at the 11th hour for Cardi B at last weekend’s Tropicália in Long Beach.
Yet the audience seemed more excited by Tyler’s performance, which oscillated between tender love songs and the furious emotional spasms that have made him something of a hip-hop antihero.