Author: Ashley Evers
Being in a city with a population bigger than the entire state of Wisconsin, I had high hopes for many surprises, unforgettable performances, and unexpected exploits while in New York City. Governors Ball is a 3 day festival held on Randall’s island that features various art installations, the beautiful NYC skyline, and extravagant stage setups made for many Instagram worthy opportunities. Numerous youth flooded the Ward’s Island Bridge and ferried their way to the island for a weekend full of high profile artists and world class entertainment.
The lineup featured a new generation of artists who represent the a younger age group of music such as Tyler The Creator, BROCKHAMPTON, The 1975, Hippo Campus, Clairo and many more. Some traditional favorites such as The Strokes and Florence + the Machine were also included as headliners. The one thing they all shared was bringing their A game and leaving everything they had on the island last weekend.
A Friday Full of Debuts
After waiting over an hour for my media credentials, I made it inside the festival just in time to see Sven Gamsky, best known as Still Woozy, at the covered American Eagle stage. He strutted out sporting navy and white stripes and khakis. My personal favorite, Lucy, provided a muffled dance track to loosen the pit and get even the folks standing in and around a giant mud puddle grooving early in the day. During Sven’s most popular track “Goodie Bag” he requested that everyone express their love for one another. Whether people were with friends, their parents or a significant other, Gamsky encouraged everyone to show their affection since life is too short.
Friday afternoon on the Gov Ball stage was the ideal time and place for a meaningful performance from 25 year old soulful pop superstar, Amber Mark, who showcased her unique style. Her sheer gold sequin top glittered in the sun and her thigh high boots made a huge statement as she confidently owned the entire stage with both her vocals and visuals. “Mixer,” her newest release at the time of the festival, included impressive choreography from both Mark and her backup dancers sporting neutral leotards. These dancers accentuated the story Mark told through her words and complemented her performance nicely. After finally seeing her live, I definitely solidified that Mark is a new female favorite of mine.
Minnesota grown indie-rock heartthrobs Hippo Campus brought their Midwestern soul to the Big Apple. The most notable moment included Decarlo Jackson’s trumpet line in “Doubt” that immediately got everyone jumping and dancing for the duration of the track. Jackson began touring with Hippo Campus regularly in 2017 and serves as a positive contribution to the style and dynamic of the group. Jake Luppen’s heavenly vocals were isolated in “baseball” also had the sweaty teenagers enthralled. Their contagious energy spread all the way to the back of the American Eagle tent where loud loyal were shouting along to some of their classic tracks to close out their set.
No Such Thing as “Extra”
There is no doubt that Dev Hynes, better known by his stage name Blood Orange, on his own is an extraordinary musician. During his hour long set, his full ensemble came alive with his two backup singers, Eva and Ian Isiah. The performance had multiple layers of talent and showcased each person on stage in a primarily musical fashion. Blood Orange’s performance reminded me and others that music festivals are truly still about the music.
“America’s Favorite Boyband” BROCKHAMPTON redeemed themselves on the Gov Ball stage after dropping out of last years festival lineup due to allegations against previous member Ameer Vann. The men brought a metallic gold airplane to enhance their already jaw dropping stage presence. The live 6 piece group drew what looked like the biggest crowd of the weekend aside from headlining acts and kept the energy flowing through the packed pit.
IGOR Comes to Life
Tyler, The Creator has never been a fan of mainstream music and has been shaping molds and breaking boundaries since the late 2000s. Tyler walked out calmy amongst the shrieks from fans in a dazzling neon-green suit and blonde bowl cut wig. He Stood and surveyed the audience before the buzz of “IGOR’S THEME” dropped into a banging charge of “NEW MAGIC WAND.” “EARFQUAKE” is my personal favorite off of IGOR, and Tyler’s repertoire did not disappoint. Multiple mosh pits and jumping emerged from the awestruck crowd. After forgetting some of the lyrics to “IFHY,” his fans carried him into “Yonkers” which is rarely included in his sets. Although Tyler provided dynamite energy and unmatched vocal talent, he held back tears as he expressed how thankful he was to be able to showcase his new album that he proudly arranged, produced, and wrote on his own to his loyal followers.
Overall, Friday stayed a perfect 80 degrees and the shimmering sunshine lasted until dusk. After seeing many new pairs of fresh white FILA disruptors get ruined, I believe everyone learned that new shoes and mud do NOT pair nicely. Anyone who has been to a festival knows that bouncing from stage to stage is a part of the overall experience, and Friday’s full lineup had us traversing across the ground multiple times to catch every act we wished to see.
Day 2 was another ideal summertime dream with a high of 80 degrees and only a few clouds in sight. I wanted to get past the gates as quickly as possible to catch all of American rock band, Sunflower Bean’s set. The large crowd at the Bacardi stage pleasantly surprised me as everyone was very intrigued by the groups funky instrumentation and driving guitar sound.
Mitski has been a name circling the music scene for many positive reasons in the past year. She has been busy touring the U.S. in celebration of her most recent work, Be The Cowboy, which was also nominated for a Grammy. At The Governors Ball, she brought her black knee pads and ballet shoe set for her iconic tabletop setup. For most of the set she sported a soft smirk & unveiled many impressive dance moves while bringing intimacy and emotion to a sea of fans who visibly enjoyed the raw intensity of her vocals. While Mitski is a legendary female performer, I was ultimately thankful to catch her set before she announced that she will be taking a break from music indefinitely in the fall.
Kacey Musgraves has blossomed into much more than just a darling country singer. Musgraves put on a perfect afternoon show full of bright colors and touching lyrics. She kicked things off with “Slow Burn” and tested the waters with other favorites from her Grammy winning Golden Hour. She seemed incredibly comfortable onstage and had no problem standing up for what she believes and passing along her virtues to her adoring Gov Ball crowd. Every little movement brought cheers from the crowd which quickly brought out her badass persona and fierce attitude which made her an act to remember. She proclaimed, “I don’t know what fucking time it is, but we’re gonna have a good time,” which was exactly what I was feeling personally halfway through the long day.
Shortly after, King Princess had the honor to play her childhood festival that she grew up attending. New York Yankees gear transformed into King Princess merchandise sporting the number 69 on her back. From what I saw of her set, she owned her identity as a vulnerable woman who is using her music as a symbol of resilience.
Legends in the Making
With each performance The 1975 gives, I assure you that they walk away winning over the hearts of many across the world. With their iconic lyrics and important themes on modernity.
Many moments during their set brought tears to my eyes, but “I Like America & America Likes Me” features an excessive delivery with precisely timed visuals that is unlike anything I have experienced live. The realness in their messages paired with the groups signature indie rock sound created a film-like sunset slot full of dancing and unity. Busy creating new music for all while also building their reputation as one of the greatest bands of this generation.
A Graceful End
The lights dimmed shortly before English vocalist Florence Welch skipped out onto the Gov Ball stage in her signature long gown and barefoot fashion, floating and gracefully leaping from one side of the stage to another. Even though she is shy when talking to the crowd, when the music starts, she immediately embodies that of a powerful female figure with a truly silvery voice.
Aside from giving absolutely everything she had musically, she also made connecting with her fans one of her top priorities. Florence is also an artists that uses her platform for good, and she requested that any fans who were going to buy merchandise after her show should consider donating that money to the ACLU instead after commenting that “American women deserve better.” The crowd had a specific kind of care and kindness to them which resonated with me greatly. There is nothing like the shimmering New York City skyline as a backdrop for such a magical a headlining act.
A Soaked Sunday
While the first 2 days of the festival stayed dry, gates on Sunday were delayed several hours due to approaching storms on the final evening of the festival. However, the sky stayed blue until later in the evening when performances commenced. The first act we saw when finally crossing the bridge to Randall’s Island was Chicago native Fatimah Nyeema Warner, known on stage as Noname, who didn’t let her shortened set time kill her vibe. Warner continued even when her microphone went out. Before she began the last track of her 25 minute set, she shouted “either move or get out” in an attempt to have everyone grooving into the rest of Sunday night’s performers. During his time on stage, Noname roused constant cheers with her buoyant and bubbly personality.
However, the weather had a different idea than Noname and began to act up a few hours later. My friends and I decided to post up at the covered American Eagle stage in hopes of staying dry and catching the highly anticipated set from Canadian DJ, KAYTRANADA. As the lights dimmed for his set to begin, a message appeared on each of the video boards that read: Due to approaching severe weather, all persons should move quickly and calmly to the nearest exit and seek shelter for your safety. Please follow instructions from public safety personnel outside the site. A stampede of over 100,000 festival goers was expected to cross over one of two narrow bridges—one leading to Queens the other to Manhattan. As one can assume: this did not go very well. After talking to many police officers, we were told that waiting for a bus was our best option. When finally boarding the damp bus and knowing that we were on our way to safety, festival goers were in better spirits and bonded over the catastrophic evacuation.
Even though Sunday was full of various letdowns with regards to the weather, as with any unpredictable end, memories were still made. The day overall seemed like a series of unfortunate events, but the safety of myself and my friends was the main priority at the end of the day. With the location of the festival proving to be it’s greatest weakness, the Governors Ball has an extensive list of positives. Between the anarchic Sunday night storms and the fiery Friday sunshine, the Governors Ball surely established its dominance as a major festival in the music world.