After channeling my inner Pharrell Williams by successfully eluding Father Time for decades, I’ve spent a vast majority of this pandemic making up for lost time. At any given moment, my ankle will throw a temper tantrum any time I have the audacity to leave my couch; my sciatica makes standing still an unbearable task; my left knee rolls its eyes and sucks its teeth in disgust; and these gray hairs keep interrupting my beard for some inexplicable reason.
I’m old, y’all.
But never have I felt older than when I went to ComplexCon this weekend.
For those out of the loop, ComplexCon is an “expertly-curated festival of the brands, people, and trends that are creating what’s now and next in pop culture.” If you live in Long Beach, Calif.—or neighboring Los Angeles like myself—it’s become somewhat of an annual tradition since its inception back in 2016. But as someone who’s still acclimating to the outside world ever since that same world ended last March, I was curious to see what the latest iteration of Complex’s own hypebeast Disneyland would entail, since none of us have been able to attend since 2019.
And it was... a lot.
ComplexCon’s biggest draw is all of the exclusive sneakers, fashion collabs, and other shit I can’t afford because I waste all my money on NBA League Pass and have a child to feed. If you’re the type of person who spends their Saturday mornings waiting hours in line to buy a $700 hoodie instead of sleeping off your hangover like the rest of us, ComplexCon is for you. There was no shortage of garish booths peddling trendy wares like Bape SK8 STAs or the New Balance 992 x Joe Freshgoods collab “No Emotions Are Emotions.” There were also plenty of unique art installations from familiar brands like Lego and Adidas that definitely caught everyone’s attention while I was preoccupied with high-fiving the Nesquik Bunny (yup, he was there, too) and watching the ladies of Hoechitculture perform wizardry on a stripper pole.
And if fucking off your rent money on $300 socks isn’t your forte, there were live DJs (aside from established acts like Siobhan Bell, Lil Yachty made his debut behind the turntables), performances and appearances from acts like the Jabbawockeez, live NFT battles (which apparently are a thing), and a whole-ass carnival outside.
Again, it was...a lot.
Unfortunately, it’s the exact type of beautiful mess that gives grumpy-ass geriatrics like me anxiety. Because while there was plenty going on, it didn’t really feel like there was much to actually do. In previous years, there were some really dope panels, live podcasts, and other things going on throughout the day that piqued my interest, but perhaps due to COVID-19 restrictions, none of the above were anywhere to be found—or they were so poorly explained (staff on sight was completely useless) that I missed them entirely. (I’m still waiting for somebody to explain to me: WTF is a Complex Connect?)
Speaking of COVID-19 restrictions, they put a serious damper on even being able to enjoy the proceedings. It took me almost two hours to even enter the venue because you had to wait in a looooooong-ass line to receive a wristband that verified your COVID-19 vaccine status, then wait in another line to get a second wristband at will call, then wait in a third line to actually get in. I sincerely appreciate the lengths they took to preserve the safety of those in attendance (masks were also required indoors), but goddamn. Almost two hours? There’s gotta be a better way.
That being said, I completely understand that I’m by no means ComplexCon’s target audience (I have no idea who Kitty Ca$h or Mac Demarco even are), but I wish the festival would’ve produced a more well-rounded event like it has in the past—especially for those of us who were eagerly anticipating its return and had no desire to throw blows over an exclusive pair of Jordans. Instead, we got treated to a gaudy festival that felt more like a glorified swap meet than the ComplexCon we all know and love.
Hopefully, as we get further and further away from the worst of this pandemic, ComplexCon will return to form. But in the interim, my wonky ankle and I can’t help but feel just a little out of place.