Sam Brooks went to the FOMO 2020 festival in Auckland, and was relieved to find it was more than just the final time that Lizzo will ever perform at 7:20pm.
“Are you going to see Lizzo tonight?”
That’s the question a lot of people asked me rather than the more standard, correct question: “Are you going to FOMO tonight?” You can hardly blame them, given that in the past week posters for the festival started popping up across Auckland advertising Lizzo’s bizarre, likely contractually-obligated third-on-the-bill set time of 7:20pm, complete with Lizzo’s smiling face. For many of the audience last night, FOMO was what the Super Bowl is for me: a few hours of padding with a big popstar right in the middle.
Lizzo isn’t just one of the most famous popstars in the world right now, she’s one of the most famous people fullstop. Which is why it’s quite strange to see her third on the bill with Brockhampton, who I understand is big with the youth, and Kaytranada, who I understand is big with your cool friends.
I have a quite strange relationship with Lizzo. I’ve been a fan of hers since her albums Lizzobangers, Big GRRRL Small World and Coconut Oil, all of which I’d implore people who love her now to check out, as they’re all on the very same apps you use to listen to Cuz I Love You. I was a fan when ‘Truth Hurts’ came out the first time, two years ago. Not that anybody’s keeping track. And like every person who says ‘I was a fan before [x] was [y]’, I am unfairly spiteful about it – as though spite at somebody else’s joy is ever fair.
This is especially true, given that Lizzo’s success has been the result of genuine grassroots love and enthusiasm (and maybe some strategic Netflix song licensing), the kind which comes around once in a generation. Lizzo speaks for, and to, people from across the spectrum, of all colours, sizes, genders and sexualities. All of them deserve to experience her live, even if you heard ‘Good as Hell’ for the first time about three years after it came out. (That’s the last one of those snarky comments, I promise.)
Seeing Lizzo at FOMO felt like going to a party at a flat I used to live in, and really loved living in. The people are different, they’re having a bit more fun than I had, and they’re not there for the same reasons. But once I get over myself I can have some plastic cups of rose and remember why I loved the flat in the first place, even though now there’s new people sitting in my living room.
So let’s get it out of the way off the bat. Lizzo performed at FOMO last night at Trusts Arena; it was her first public performance in New Zealand. It was as good a set as you could’ve expected – a quick, energetic, highly-choreographed run of the most popular songs from Cuz I Love You, with the right exact of bawdy banter and love-yourself preaching that’s as important to her persona as her actually quite good songs. People went bonkers for her, as expected.
As people from across the beautiful spectrum of diversity fled the VIP viewing area after Lizzo, either to go home or to retreat to the sweeter VIP pastures down the other end of the stadium, there were bunches of eager, awaiting youths to take the spots up the front for Instagram-ready boy band Brockhampton, who followed Lizzo’s set with an energetic, highly choreographed set of their own, albeit with one technical error that left people standing in bewildered silence for five minutes.
And then I realised something. Thank god, people weren’t there just for Lizzo. People were also there for Brockhampton. And Kaytranada. People were there for A Boogie wit da Hoodie, and his giant inflatable hand. People were there for Rico Nasty, for Melodownz, for Vayne. They just weren’t the same people. While I know that most people on my various timelines were there for Lizzo, I also know there are people on apps I haven’t even heard of who were solely there for Brockhampton, and all power to ‘em.
If there’s anything to gripe about with FOMO, it’s the strange programming. The tagline of the festival is “One stage, no clashes, party together” – ideally so people can hang out and watch acts all the way through, rather than racing between stages to catch the bands they actually know. But in reality people still came and went between their favourite various acts, rather than partying together.
Following the post-Lizzo exodus, the festival settled a bit. But the fairly abrupt shift from Lizzo’s upbeat pop to Brockhampton’s mildly harder edges, and then to the house beats of Kaytranada made it feel like three different festivals with three wildly different headliners, and therefore three wildly different audiences – though I envy those in the sweet spot of that diagram who had the best night of their lives last night.
Look, at any event chances are you’re neither the oldest or the youngest person there, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel like I was in the older echelon of the audience at FOMO. Or, to put it in some more galling clarity: This is probably the first festival I’ve been to where more people were born closer to 9/11 than they were to the fall of the Berlin Wall. And I feel completely fine about it, you guys.
And if the youths (does anything age you more than using youths to refer to a distinctly different group than yourself) at FOMO are any indication, then the kids are all right. The fashion is on point, and wilder and more free than I remember it being. People have always dressed to the nines, tens, and elevens, but the array of styles I saw last night exceeded most of what I’ve seen at local festivals in the past. Fashion seems like a poor barometer of a festival, but if people feel free to dress however the hell they want, then they feel free to get the hell down and party. The unbridled, giddy enthusiasm of screaming lyrics into the sky, sharing love with thousands of strangers doesn’t go away, whether you’re 16 or 60. If a festival can do that, then we can forgive strange programming.
Now, excuse me before I turn into dust and float away into the wind like the confetti that shot out of A Boogie wit da Hoodie’s cannons.