Every year, Governor’s Ball seems to get bigger, but not necessarily better. As far as event turn out is concerned, an estimated 50,000 people were in attendance from June 5th-7th, which might be a new record for the festival, but it was an overwhelming environment when trying to roam through the muddy fields. There were a lot of characters on Randall’s Island this past weekend, but it was apparent that the Tumblr generation was present. LAX bros didn’t stand a chance against festival fashionistas and guys wearing punny t-shirts that said things like “YOU ARE MY ROCK, MY DWAYNE, MY JOHNSON”.
There are enough genres represented for everyone to explore their musical interests throughout the weekend, but it was hard not to notice how segregated the schedule was day-to-day. Friday was mostly hip-hop/R&B acts on the main stage, and the morning started with Rae Sremmurd. Unfortunately, Slim Jimmy took a hard fall off the stage at some point after “No Flex Zone” and busted open his leg during their set. Even after being rushed behind the DJ booth with medics tending to his injury, Slim Jimmy kept talking to the crowd, insisting that he wasn’t dead and that anyone with footage should post it on Instagram. (After he was taken away, Swae Lee dubbed his brother the “turn up king” and finished the set with “No Type.”) Chromeo surprised its audience with Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, and he sang “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” as an intro to “I Could Be Wrong.”
Florence & The Machine was the calm after the storm, the perfect act to lay on the hill during. As I walked around all of the bodies in the grass, I almost tripped over a man that was staring up at the sky. He looked so peaceful with the most innocent smile on his face. He was truly content with the universe. About halfway through her set, Florence Welsh spotted a fan in the crowd with a sign that read “Hug?” She beckoned the girl to crowd surf to the stage, and after what felt like forever, the girl made it and she proceeded to reward her efforts with a hug from every member of the band.
Never in my life have I have related more to someone at a festival than a woman I spotted wearing a grey “ONLY HERE FOR DRAKE” t-shirt. Throughout the day, I passed several people decked out in official OVO merchandise and DIY Drake meme apparel. (One of my friends showed up with her crew and they all had matching “WOES” hats.) I even saw a Drake look-alike in the front row– he had the whole look locked down, from the OVO crewneck sweatshirt to Drake’s signature hair cut.
I’m proud to say that Drake was by far the best performer of the entire weekend. In 2010, I saw him live for the first time at Bamboozle Festival (RIP) so that was all I had to compare, but he has come such a long way since the Drake from five years ago. The crowd was on another level, almost too turnt to function before he opened with “Legend.” At one point, a standing near me girl leaned close and confided that she was peeing into a wine cup because she didn’t want to leave and miss Drake. A little mud, or pee wasn’t going to stop anyone from enjoying this moment, and it was kind of beautiful to be a part of in a bizarre way. (As Drake himself would say, we were all here for a good time not a long time.)
At first, I was slightly disappointed that Drake didn’t bring out any guests. He kept trolling us by teasing about Beyonce, The Weeknd, ILOVEMAKONNEN and Nicki Minaj, but no one else ever came out. I figured that Future was a guarantee since his set was earlier that day, but nope. He just kept rolling through the hits one by one. Guest appearances are something that festival goers have come to expect of the headliners, but I was reminded that when the talent themselves is entertaining enough, it’s not necessary. Drake was giving us all him, for real. He literally took us into the jungle with a custom forest on stage– we were in the 6ix, running with our woes and nothing was the same.
It was hard for me to believe Drake when he kept saying that we were the best audience he’s ever had, but my respect for him has reached new heights. The highlight of the night was yelling “just hold on, we’re going home” in the subway at 125th Street, followed by other hilarious Drake quotes. Upon arriving to 14th Street-Union Square, everyone exclaimed, “We made it!”
On Saturday, Randall’s Island was a soaked and barren wasteland; most people with three-day wristbands were not interested in the schedule so they didn’t even bother to return. Those that did were dedicated Deadmau5 fans, and they were equipped with everything from hula-hoops and glow sticks to mouse heads, balloons, and many other outrageous items. (Apparently, Deadmau5’s performance was disrupted by technical difficulties though, but I’m sure they raged on.)
Bjork emerged on stage dressed as a butterfly. She attracted a strange crowd that included confused teenagers, longtime die-hard fans and grown men in overalls. She had a full live orchestra, and it was a pretty surreal experience. “Look at her, that’s what nature feels like,” said a guy behind me. “She is a strand of nature.”
Teens couldn’t handle the sight of insects reproducing on the screens, outwardly squealing and cringing in disgust at close-up images of moths laying eggs and slugs engaging in intercourse. It was annoying to say the least, I mean, they were in the presence of a legend, but it happens.
Choosing between SBTRKT and Flume was hard, but the fact that Koenig graced the stage for “New Dorp New York” made the latter a victory. (I’m still surprised that Little Dragon didn’t come out for “Wildfire,” but you can’t win them all.)
Sunday was all about Lana Del Rey. There was so much hype surrounding her performance, but I’m sad to say that she did not deliver. Before the day even began, I got sick in my friend’s apartment. We were listening to Lana Del Rey and in all honesty, she sounded better through the speakers in the other room while I vommed in the bathroom than she did live on stage at Governor’s Ball.
The afternoon started with Tame Impala, who cast the perfect carefree vibe. I’m not one of their biggest fans, but they were a pleasure to watch, as their set included trippy, psychedelic videos. For those who weren’t familiar with most of Tame Impala’s discography, waiting until the end of their set was worth it– they played “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” that song everyone has heard at least once while shopping in Urban Outfitters. From there, the only other act on my radar for the day was Flying Lotus.
I randomly wound up seeing Weird Al, and it was hilarious to overhear the youths singing the original versions of “White and Nerdy” and “Aluminum Foil,” only to be puzzled as to why he was saying different words and then march off. (For the record, I think Weird Al is before some people’s time now. ‘90s kids, we’re getting old! RIP millennials.)
Lana Del Rey started off with one of the largest crowds of the night, and after fifteen minutes of what felt like an eternity of silence, herds of people bolted from the Honda Stage. “She’s not even trying,” a girl in a floral crown said to her friend as they walked away. More girls continued to whine about how they couldn’t hear her, yelling into their phones about how much this sucked. People didn’t even try to go to The Black Keys– they straight up left the festival.
It was one of the most disappointing performances I have ever witnessed, a true American tragedy happening right in front of me. My friends and I couldn’t figure out why though. Was it the sound system? Was it her voice? Was it the grounds? Was it where we were standing? After moving around a few times, we concluded that perhaps these outdoor environments are not conducive to Lana’s raspy, soft-spoken voice. She’s probably better in a small, intimate space like a bar… or a casino. Today, Lana shared a photo on Instagram of her backstage in what one can assume was her dressing room. The caption reads “Couldn’t hear a thing last night. Sorry bout that. Next time we will make it perfect. Photo: fc”.
During “Summertime Sadness,” I befriended a girl after she asked for my consent before throwing a handful of confetti and glitter on us. Her friends were dressed as pirates and apologized for her behavior, admitting that it was her first festival ever. I felt bad for her, but realized that she probably wouldn’t even remember how awful this was anyway because she was under the influence of something. The whole set turned into drunk karaoke, but once The Black Keys’ sound started drowning out all the noise from across the island, it was time to bounce.
The best part of the day was when it finally came to an end. As I walked across the RFK Bridge for what could potentially be the last time, I could hear “Brooklyn Baby” in the distance. I let out a deep sigh, wondering if I would find myself in the same place next year.