I guess the second time’s the charm with music festivals, especially with Governors Ball in New York City. After experiencing my first festival the week before at Boston Calling, I felt better equipped to handle the Empire State’s premier summer music event. The ninth edition of the three-day festival, held this past weekend at Randall’s Island Park, sure had its ups and downs, as is warranted for such a large event in the city. However, that didn’t stop artists and festival-goers alike from starting off the summer strong, with stellar performances featuring new music, female empowerment and Pride month. I’ll be highlighting some of the notable performances and happenings of this weekend, and catch up on all the food and other events here (article link)!
A damper on the festival finale
Friday and Saturday were well into 80 degrees, the hot summer temperatures made even more sweltering by the ever-present sun. Festival grounds were messy and muddy from previous overnight storms during the week, however, the unpredictability of thunderstorms on Sunday made it difficult for Gov Ball organizers to decide on what to do.
On Sunday, the event was pushed to a 6:30 opening, then eventually evacuated at 9:30 due to severe storms by the organizers’ and City officials’ discretion, as described in a message by the festival founders. They are issuing refunds to Sunday and three-day ticket holders, alleviating some of the uproar by festival-goers.
Despite the adjusted and eventual incomplete schedule - including Charli XCX being taken off and SZA and The Strokes never being able to take the stage - Lily Allen, Bazzi and Sheck Wes all managed to put on impressive performances within their shortened sets.
Rock and roll is not dead, despite what The 1975 says
Sure, the British alternative-rock band ended their set with the message “ROCK AND ROLL IS DEAD” flashing on stage, but their performance Saturday night said otherwise. However, the irony is all in line with the band’s almost sardonic vibe, such as with their “verbosely titled albums,” as described by frontman Matty Healy. His sarcastic and eccentric disposition, with quirks like his goofy dancing and rabbit hat, coupled with a packed set list made for an engaging and electrifying experience. Healy’s stage presence, coupled with the crowd, composed of dedicated fans that heartily belted out the words to every song, made the 75-minute set go by in the blink of an eye.
The 1975’s most recent album, “A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships,” was possibly their most overtly socially aware, which managed to set the tone for their set. They featured songs from all three of their albums, but highlighted singles off the third, such as lead off “Give Yourself a Try, “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” and “I Like America & America Likes Me.” The latter references the epidemic of gun violence and Healy even waded into the crowd for the second half of the song. Similarly, “Love It If We Made It” proved to be a powerful performance, referring to the current social climate with accompanying visuals of pollution and riots across the world.
In between sipping a cocktail and lighting up a cigarette, Healy also touched upon more serious topics, such as women’s rights.
“Society rests on the empowerment of women,” he said. “That’s not woke, it’s logic.”
Of course, the band also featured favorites such as “Somebody Else,” “Robbers,” “The Sound” and “Chocolate,” with Healy playing with the crowd’s energy.
Yes, they may say rock and roll is dead, but they also like to have extremely upbeat songs about dark and serious topics such as drug addiction and the current social climate, so I would say The 1975’s ironic nature is all part of their charm and of the experience. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Florence + the Machine puts on fantastical finale
With a gauzy, flowy dress and no shoes, it appeared as if Florence Welch was just performing a humble set in front of an intimate crowd, and not in front of the packed crowds of thousands at the festival. But she took the numbers all in stride, and truly made it feel like an intimate and empowering performance fit for a headliner.
Strong numbers like “Hunger” and “Ship to Wreck” featured her effortless yet entrancing voice, but Welch truly shone on tried and true classics that the crowd responded to with fervor. As Welch ran and pirouetted around the stage, her flowing skirt billowing behind her, you could tell she loved performing for the crowd. She even paraded in the aisles and sang from within the crowd for “What Kind of Man” and “You’ve Got the Love.”
“Now, I’m going to ask you to do something difficult, but please take my word for it: I’m going to need you to put away your phones,” Welch requested in the middle of a rousing performance of “Dog Days.” She powered on, after asking the crowd to call upon something they wish to cast aside, or someone they wish the best for, and the lights flashed in tandem with the upbeat music.
Welch also referenced female empowerment in her performance, stating that American women deserve better, and that toxic masculinity has no place in society. She asked the crowd to respect everyone, and to spread love. The English singer ended on that same night with an electrifying performance of “Shake It Out.”
Kacey Musgraves raises a rainbow for Pride Month
I wouldn’t normally say that I’m a fan of country music, but after the Texan-born singer-songwriter took the stage, I admit that I may have converted. For Musgraves’s music, at least. Clad in a floral two-piece laced with glittering lights and towering heels, she charismatically bantered with the crowd throughout the night. Coming off the high of an international tour, she’s still humble at her roots, with her docile yet powerful voice delivering award-winning hits such as “Love is a Wild Thing” (one of my personal favorites), “Golden Hour” and “High Time.”
“I know that yee haw is having a moment,” Musgraves said to a dancing crowd. “But I’ve been yee hawing my whole f***ing life.” She had us turn to each other and express love, as well as put our middle fingers in the air, so you can see what kind of performance it was.
The fun that Musgraves and the crowd were having was intoxicating, especially with the appearance of beach balls during “Butterflies,” one of my personal favorites of the night. She slowed down the tempo with “Families” and “Wonder Woman,” complete with a bass and a cello. Musgraves’ shoutout and subsequent tribute to the LGBTQ+ community with “Rainbow” truly showcased her talent, and she made sure to let everyone in the crowd know of her support of those her relate to the song, in whatever capacity.
Smaller artists DREAMERS and Clairo make big splashes
My sister and I arrived to the festival before the gates even opened for the general public, but it was worth it for opener DREAMERS, an alternative-indie band from LA. The front-row performance allowed us to engage with their fun lyrics and catchy vibe. They performed songs off their most recent release, such as “Die Happy” and “All Washed Out.” The all-male band played off each other’s energy with guitar and bass solos, and closed out their performance strong with their hits “Wolves (You’ve Got Me)” and “Sweet Disaster,” off of their first album. They actually made me want to listen to more of their music, and I regretted only a few of their songs going in - nonetheless, their renditions made for a good time.
Clairo, young female pop singer, actually admitted to performing with a case of bronchitis, but if she hadn’t told us, I would have no idea. The breathy quality of her voice was unique and mesmerizing, and although it as upbeat as other performers, her cool and collected vibe made for a nice afternoon refresher. A small woman, yet big stage presence, made singles like “Bags” and “Heaven” stand out. Clairo played a surprising amount of new music for the crowd, which was a treat for many.
Last-minute show for Charli’s Angels
British pop star Charli XCX was one of the acts sacrificed with the adjusted Sunday schedule, to the anger of many fans, fondly referred to as “angels.” Luckily, a last minute show with the artist was scheduled at Le Poisson Rouge in the city for 7:30 that night with $15 tickets, according to an email sent out to the media. The show sold out in the first twenty minutes, and the singer was able to feature even more than she would have at the festival, singing hits like “I Love It” and “1999,” as well as teasing her new album.
A possible encore?
If anything, there’s almost too much available at Governors Ball. Next to the main park, which housed the main Gov Ball and Bacardi stages, was a field with accompanying Honda and American Eagle stages and even more food vendors and sponsors. Even without the additional field, the main park would have been massive enough to peer music festivals, such as Boston Calling.
I didn’t even know of some of the selections they had available - my sister meandered around the grounds looking for something to eat and eventually decided before we became overwhelmed. Next time, I’ll be sure to do my research and take advantage of everything, from the food options to the free stuff to the photo ops.
Even with music performances, there’s a lot to choose from, and you have to prioritize which artists you want to see. Set times were staggered, but between stages, one artist would end just as another would begin. My sister and I had to choose if we were going to leave one set early to get to another stage early to get a good spot, or if it’s worth it to sacrifice our good spots at one particular stage. Nonetheless, we made the most of the opportunity, and thankfully, were able to watch some stunning performances. I can only hope I get another chance in the future to experience it all again.
All images taken by Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus
Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.