Back and better than ever at Gov Ball

Festival goers watch the fireworks before A$AP Rocky’s headlining set at Governors Ball on Sept. 25, 2021. A$AP Rocky started his set half an hour after his original call time. Photo courtesy of Brandon Barzola

With droves of colorfully dressed attendees, a beaming bright blue sky and a palpable energy in anticipation of what is to come, Governors Ball 2021 represented New York City at its best after a year and a half of learning to live through a pandemic: resilient, lively and diverse. After an expected – yet still disappointing – cancellation last year and a few months’ delay from June to September, the homegrown music festival took over Citi Field in Flushing instead of its original location of Randall’s Island. With headliners Billie Eilish, A$AP Rocky and Post Malone for its 10th anniversary on the weekend of Sept. 24 to 26, Gov Ball capped off the summer in the best way possible.

“This was my first time going to Gov Ball and I absolutely loved it,” Rebecca Mailhot, a seventh-semester nutritional sciences major, said. “I only got a one day ticket for Sunday, but next year, I will definitely consider going all three days!”

Another UConn festival-goer was eager to make the most of the event.

“I absolutely love Gov Ball,” Jordan Theroux, a seventh-semester allied health sciences major, said. “I am exhausted after three long days of being at the festival, but I think all in all I had a great time and I loved it.”

The set-up was straightforward, with the main stages of the Governors Ball stage, Bacardí stage, Honda stage and GrubHub stage in the middle and the vendors lining the exterior of the circle. If I didn’t know the best way to navigate to a location, I just kept walking around the circle until I found it. I had attended the festival in 2019 at Randall’s Island, which was more spread out and akin to a summer music festival like Coachella, attendees lounging on the grass and all. I preferred the easier navigation, quicker travel between locations and not having muddy grass at Citi Field, but the crowd was more overwhelming in the smaller venue than at the original location – thoughts shared by Theroux. 

“I went to the last Gov Ball they had before COVID, and I did prefer Randall’s Island as a venue because I like how there’s a lot of grass and everything was kind of spread out more,” Theroux said. “Citi Field was a little bit challenging to get around because when the crowd was so big it was backed up to the gates, so getting around people to try to go to other stages was kind of hard sometimes. But I did like Citi Field and being in a parking lot because then you didn’t get muddy from the grass.” 

Mailhot headed into the city on Sunday for the festival, and looks forward to going all in next year. 

“Getting there was honestly a little stressful because I drove and navigating New York traffic is not easy! But in the end, I was glad that I drove because we got to stay as long as we wanted and we didn’t have to go by the train’s schedule,” she said. “It didn’t take me long to figure out where everything was at the festival, and luckily I was with someone who had been there all three days so she already had an idea of where everything was.”

I attended the Governors Ball on Saturday, from gates open for the media until the fireworks went off at the end. Earlier in the afternoon, I explored the food – which I’ll be talking about in Hollieats – and points of interest around the festival. I enjoyed afternoon performers like Charlotte Lawrence, Sarah Barrios and Chiiild while I checked out experiences like Tito’s Party in the Shack, OGX’s I Love My Hair Fest, the BABE Bus Terminal and Casa Bacardí – which I also talk about in Hollieats today.

Sarah Barrios sings at her guitarist during her set at Governors Ball on Sept. 25, 2021. This was Barrios’ first time performing at music festival located in New York City. Photo courtesy of Brandon Barzola

The first performance I attended was the indie pop band Bleachers, which was the perfect start to my Gov Ball music experience. They kicked off their lively set with a stripped-back piano performance by frontman Jack Antonoff, followed up with a seamless transition to the lively “Let’s Get Married” off of 2017’s “Gone Now.” The band had a nervous but fun energy as they played off of the joyous crowd, many of which were clearly fans, evidenced by their singing-along to favorites like “Rollercoaster” and “I Want to Get Better” off of their debut album “Strange Desire”; “Don’t Take the Money” from “Gone Now”; and “How Dare You Want More” and “Stop Making This Hurt” from their latest release, “Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night” – which they did. I was fortunate enough to watch Bleachers at the Oakdale Theater in 2018, but I will say that the band is well-suited to keeping the energy level high at a music festival, especially with the size of the crowd at Gov Ball. It was so fun to jump around with Antonoff, sing along with fans and cheer on the saxophone soloists. 

Megan Thee Stallion performs her set at the GovBallNYC Stage at Governors Ball on Sept. 25, 2021. Her 5:30 p.m. set was packed with hundreds of fans. Photo courtesy of Brandon Barzola

I stayed in the Gov Ball stage crowd to wait for the next set: Megan Thee Stallion. Even if I’m not a dedicated listener, I always have a great time grooving to her hits. Megan brought her signature moves, backed up by five dancers clad in black and silver. Put simply, she killed her set: there’s no way you won’t feel empowered after listening to bangers like “WAP” and “Hot Girl Summer” live as Megan proclaimed all the attendees to be hot girls (and boys).

As soon as Megan’s set ended, I ran over to the Bacardí stage to catch emo indie rock queen Phoebe Bridgers. Although I was excited at the prospect of seeing her perform live, I wasn’t sure how she fit with the Gov Ball music festival lineup, which is usually geared towards a more rap/hip-hop/pop sound; however, Bridgers still drew a huge crowd, which she gladly serenaded with perfect vocals and quips like “This song is about fighting about politics in the Whole Foods parking lot” in between songs like “Kyoto” and “Motion Sickness.” 

“I think some standout artists that I saw this weekend included Billie Eilish,” Theroux said. “You could tell that she just wanted to be there, and she was really engaging with the crowd, I had a lot of fun with her performance. I liked Dominic Fike, and then Post Malone and A$AP Rocky were also great.” 

Even on one day, Mailhot managed to see a bunch of performers, like Princess Nokia, Dominic Fike, 21 Savage, Carly Rae Jepsen, Ellie Goulding, Young Thug and Post Malone. 

“I loved each performance and was so impressed with how the artists all shared the stages but were each able to make it unique with different lighting and set elements,” Mailhot said. “Seeing Post Malone was the reason I bought the Sunday ticket and I was not disappointed, I had so much fun and couldn’t believe how many artists I was able to see in such little time.” 

In addition to the main stage, there were some smaller areas with DJ sets and more intimate performances. 

“It was great to get back,” Theroux said. “Gov Ball had a lot of really cool installations this year, like one was called the Bud Light Seltzer sessions, and they had other small performers there and a bar.”

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