The sibling big city music festival to Chicago’s Lollapalooza, Governors Ball in New York City is the more relaxed and distinct way to see your favorite artists perform with a backdrop of skyscrapers. Since it takes place on Randalls Island Park, just one bridge across from Manhattan, the festival provides a more secluded and less claustrophobic way to experience a music festival in the city. This year, it would have been a perfect weekend with the star-studded lineup, but Mother Nature had different plans.
Friday started off with a surprisingly short line to enter the gates and just barely catch the end of The Internet’s set. I was disappointed about being late, but thankful that I got to see Steve Lacy for a little. I went to meetup with some friends for Blood Orange performing shortly after. The band, led by Dev Hynes, was the perfect act to perform to the setting of the sun. I am a huge fan of Blood Orange’s recent album Negro Swan, and seeing Ian Isiah take hold of the entire crowd with his falsetto on “Holy Will” was a great start to the weekend. From there, we switched from the entrancing sound of the saxophone to bracing ourselves for the upcoming BROCKHAMPTON show.
BROCKHAMPTON took the stage, rocking bright silver jumpsuits in front of a massive golden airplane, sitting in the palms of two big blue hands. A hint at an upcoming album and rebrand? Who cares — I just took an elbow to the back by some sweaty white boy trying to start a mosh pit, filled with more sweaty boys in basketball jerseys. In terms of the actual performance, it was the same good ol’ BROCKHAMPTON that stormed onto the scene in 2017. And after a few songs, Kevin Abstract even showed a smile or two, looking like he was having a good time.
Afterward, we crossed the festival grounds to catch The Voidz, led by Julian Casablancas (at least I got to see him once). The band took advantage of their set design to rebrand leading up to their upcoming projects, sporting laser tag-like spray paint, blacklight and Beardo (Jeramy Gritter) rocking face paint. They opened with their new song “The Eternal Tao (T.E.T)” and a good amount of songs from their first album Tyranny. For a cute little moment, Beardo played the riff from “Stairway to Heaven” and Julian sang along for a short, autotuned verse. While I didn’t join in this round of mosh pits (this time, sponsored by Vans and various band tees instead of mid-calves and the NBA), the only thing I could have asked was for their set to be longer.
The night ended with Tyler, The Creator, fresh off the number one spot on the Billboard Top 200 with his new album, IGOR. This was my third time seeing Tyler (Mr. Creator?), and this was by far the most impressive show I’ve seen him put on. He opened in a full neon green suit and blonde wig in front of a massive, baby blue curtain to capture the full aesthetic for a few songs off IGOR. Then he went backstage to change into his more comfortable flat brim hat and button-down, short-sleeve shirt to play a few songs from Flower Boy. With some playful banter between members of the crowd in between songs, Tyler made a massive festival audience feel like a small venue before he started to play some of his older songs like “Yonkers,” “She” and “Tamale.” The crowd laughed as he admitted, “I forgot the fuck out them lyrics,” after playing “IFHY.”
Tyler closed the show with two of his biggest hits to date: “See You Again” and “EARFQUAKE.” With IGOR and this performance, Tyler showed his growth, his range as an artist and some smooth-ass dance moves.
I took a more relaxed approach to Saturday, and only spent a few hours at the festival, mainly to catch Playboi Carti and one or two others. The entrance again had short lines, and in a few minutes I was able to catch Carti near the beginning of his set. Carti lit up the crowd with banger after banger from his most recent album Die Lit, and even played the infectious supposed single “Kid Cudi” that leaked recently.
I spent a little more time in mosh pits, only this time with less sweaty white boys. I did, for the first time in the weekend, notice the multitude of drunk high schoolers that were in attendance and decided to stray to the back and enjoy Carti’s energy from afar.
For more about Saturday, including performances by Kacey Musgraves, The 1975 and Florence + The Machine, see the rest of The Daily’s Governors Ball coverage here.
I woke up Sunday morning to see an announcement from the festival spokespersons, saying that, due to inclement weather, there may be an announcement regarding cancellation no later than 11:30 a.m. Terrible news to wake up to, especially since the main reason I flew out to New York was to see The Strokes in their hometown (you may now realize where this article is headed). After seeing the second announcement, indicating that festival doors would open at 6:30 p.m. instead of the scheduled 11:45 a.m., my friends and I decided to spend the day roaming in the city to take our minds off of things.
We finally landed on Randalls Island around 7:00 p.m., and while the lines to enter were an absolute mess, everything still seemed to be okay. The grass was less muddy, music still playing; all that and a few drinks helped calm my mind for a short while. We stopped by 070 Shake’s shortened set (due to the delay), and had a bit of fun singing the bridge to her hit feature on Kanye West’s “Ghost Town”. As we approached the stage where Nas and The Strokes were scheduled to play, it started raining again and this time it still passed quickly. Nas came on and shone through the rain but my mind was too occupied by the speeding clouds to pay attention to his set. Although the weather seemed to be fine for now, Nas abruptly thanked the crowd before exiting the stage after a more melancholy song, spreading confusion through the crowd as to why he would end on such a somber note.
Then came the moment we all pretended not to see coming. The lights turned on and the screens all showed the same heartbreaking message: “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.” I stood there stunned. The crowd immediately booed and soon started chanting, “WE WANT STROKES. WE WANT STROKES,” over and over again. We were about ten rows from the fence with about 40 minutes before the band was scheduled to go on.
Just like that, it was over. A large portion of the crowd, myself included, refused to leave until someone came on stage and announced (amid a torrent of projectile water bottles and other random garbage) that everyone must leave the grounds and that the band has already left the island. That brought on another wave of “boos,” but at that point, it was hopeless, and more people started to leave. We started to head to the exits, stepping around flipped tables and picnic benches, the ground filled with more trash than I’d seen all weekend.
The storm the festival warned about hit as we neared the gates, leaving us cold, sad, soaked and still Strokes-less. We ran under one of the bridges that connected the island to the city among hundreds of other festival-goers as the thunder cracked and the rain continued to pour. The storm stopped after about half an hour; we called an Uber home, and the weekend was over. Cloudless skies for 95 percent of the weekend, all to be ruined by one measly, 30-minute storm at the worst time possible.
However disappointed I was (and still am), I cannot hold any sort of a grudge toward Governors Ball as a festival. They handled the situation very professionally, issued full refunds for single-day ticket purchasers and partial refunds to three-day ticket purchasers. They even answered questions from the public on Reddit the day after where they clarified any confusion from festival-goers.
To Governors Ball, I say thank you for what you were able to provide over the weekend. And to The Strokes, please don’t break up before I am able to catch you again.