Choosing to party at outdoor summer festivals is always a crap shoot. Attendees of The Governors Ball Music & Arts Festival, which took place May 31st – June 2nd on Randall’s Island, learned that lesson the hard way.
If you tuned into Twitter (aka the Entitled Millennial Broadcasting Network) sometime over the last 48 or so hours , you may have caught wind of GovBallNYC‘s chaotic day 3, which saw delayed gate times and eventually an emergency evacuation of the island.
Long story short, the three-day curse of Randall’s Island returned with a vengeance this year, and mother nature had different plans for the tens of thousands of attendees who showed up on Sunday evening after waiting all day to see acts like SZA, Sheck Wes, Louis the Child, Kaytranada and other top tier names. About an hour before The Strokes were scheduled to take the stage, an unexpectedly strong storm became the unofficial headliner.
People were so flustered at how Sunday went down, that many have lost sight of how great the rest of the weekend was. The promoters and producers behind the beloved city festival said they won’t try to “sugar coat” things – they admit that Sunday’s logistics got pretty messy. In an effort to clear the air, they’ve decided to tackle concerns transparently and honestly. Hell, they even hosted an AMA on Reddit at 1 PM today and gave fans the chance to provide any feedback. They will be answering questions for the next 24 hours, should you wish to voice your own opinions.
We scanned the page, and the organizers have their hands full. So, instead of bitching about everything we didn’t get to see due to life-threatening storm conditions that were outside of anyone’s control, we’re going to give a shout out to all of the great memories and good vibes we felt at the 9th annual installment of New York City’s favorite music festival.
1.) Festival fashion was on point. Okay, first of all, did you see Gesaffelstein‘s metallic cast body suit? That was one of the coolest festival giddups we’ve seen to date, and let us remind you, we were at the very first Governors Ball (yes, back when it was on Governors Island!) The french producer’s unique appearance added a whole element of mystique and cool to his set, during which he presented a powerful mix of new and old hits. Personally, we weren’t the biggest fans of ‘Hyperion’, but seeing him blast the tracks live made us rethink EVERYTHING. Honorary mention goes to electronic producer Zhu for wearing a custom jacket made entirely of festival wristbands. “See this Governors Ball? That’s how you know it’s special!” he yelled while snapping the new artist band to his garb. The only thing cooler than his outfit was his super slick live performances of newish tracks from his 2018 LP ‘Ringo’s Desert’. Zhu’s house band – a saxophone player and electric guitarist – were also incredible. Those two slayed the whole damn time.
2.) Brunch was lit. Fans had every reason to get to the island early this year. Certain vendors brought their own thoughtfully curated brunch experiences right to Randall’s. I mean, who wouldn’t want to start their day off with a Jameson coffee cocktail and donut Skewers in GovBall’s plush “Best Kept Secret” area for adults 21+? Personally, we can’t think of anything cooler than scarfing down San Matteo‘s wood oven fired cacio e pepe pizzas with cracked eggs while watching huge acts like Elohim or Hippocampus either. This was a delicious addition.
3.) PRIDE was alive. In celebration of PRIDE month, artists, vendors and festival organizers went to new heights to show their support. Bud Light premiered a rainbow colored PRIDE bottle. On Saturday, colorful PRIDE Parades took off from three separate locations and pop-up drag performances took center stage. Hell, Country Music sweetheart Kacey Musgraves even had her whole band sporting the LGBTQ+ community’s signature colors. It was a great tribute, and attendees were feeling the love, no doubt!
4.) More to explore. For the first time in years, GovBallNYC introduced the new Bud Light Dive Bar Sessions Stage featuring performances from artists like Leland, The Underachievers, Jeremy Zucker and Shaed, giving those who were 21+ a chance to experience emerging artists like up close and personally. We also LOVED the DJs who were spinning disco beats at the Bacardi Bay and Tito’s Vodka bars all weekend. What better way to wash down some craft cocktails than with beats? In addition, all of the activations were really on point this year – Aperol Spritz gets the award for “Most Grammable Hangout”, but Bacardi definitely takes home the win for best drink with their sour and sweet 2019 Gov Ball Punch that left us buzzin’ in all the best ways.
5.) The organizers really do care. Founders is one of those precious few independent production companies who are out there making shit happen. Sunday’s weather forecast left them between a rock and a hard place, but they did the right thing by offering refunds to Sunday and 3-day pass holders. The evacuation sounded like a shit show (we missed that part, thankfully), but it also sounded unavoidable based on the transparent statement they sent to fans yesterday via e-mail (read it here). We know they’ll find a way to recover from the backlash, because we honestly can’t imagine what a summer in NYC would be like without The Governors Ball.
Could they benefit from improvements? Well, of course. My biggest criticism of the homegrown festival is the trash issue. In terms of the sheer volume of garbage on the ground, I can’t think of another festival that rivals it. But then again, it takes place in Manhattan – a literal dumpster – so at least it is on brand. More trash receptacles please!
Going to an outdoor music festival comes with its own set of risks. We’ve been trapped under the RFK Bridge a handful of times due to inclement weather. It sucks, but we go back to Randall’s Island because there really is nothing else that gets the heart pumping like a well-organized festival, and for the better half of a decade, Governors Ball has been just that.