NYC festival fills niche in industry

From June 2-4, Randall’s Island will be packed with passionate music fans attending Governor’s Ball Music Festival, which is now in its seventh year. / Courtesy of Forest Woodward

The thought that there weren’t any major music festivals in New York City in the early 2000s may be quite surprising to festival-goers.. With millions of people located in the city and the tri-state area surrounding it, one would think that this is the perfect place to showcase the most popular artists of the day and those who are currently emerging onto the music scene. Yet rain delays and political issues prevented any tri-state festival from flourishing. The Governors Ball Music Festival filled this niche in 2011, debuting as a one-day music and arts festival that celebrates the diversity of genres and styles of music that are produced today. This year’s festival, now in its seventh year, will be held in Randall’s Island Park from June 2 to 4.

Rock, electronic, hip-hop, indie, Americana, pop and folk are just a few of the styles of music featured each year at Gov Ball. Produced by Founders Entertainment, which also debuted The Meadows Music & Arts Festival last year, Gov Ball has been met with critical and social acclaim from concert-goers.

In addition to the featured artists, food trucks, Silent Disco and a motley of activities provide a break for those who aren’t willing to try to get barricade for their favorite artist, which entails waiting in the front of the stage for hours before the performer comes on. Festival-goers who are over the age of 21 will have the opportunity to head to an Oasis area that will have plenty of shade, food vendors and beverages. Over 50,000 people traverse to Randall’s Island to attend the festival each day, with around 150,000 aggregating over the three-day period.

In its inaugural year, Gov Ball was held on Governor’s Island and amassed the highest attendance ever seen on the island. Its debut had artists such as Empire of the Sun, Mac Miller and Pretty Lights, but the expansion in number of days and dramatic rise in popularity has led to artists such as Chance the Rapper, Phoenix and Tool claiming the headlining spots this year.

After receiving excellent reviews, the festival returned in 2012 on Randall’s Island Park with a two-day lineup with larger artists, which included Kid Cudi, Passion Pit and Major Lazer. Vogue then praised Gov Ball as “The summer music festival New Yorkers can finally call their own” (Vogue Magazine, “30 Days of Summer,” 05.25.2012). Changing the location also eased transportation issues, as one could only get to Governor’s Island by ferry.

In its third year, Gov Ball expanded to three days of music, including Guns N’ Roses, Kings of Leon and Kanye West. 2014 had headliners Disclosure, Vampire Weekend, Outkast and Skrillex. 2015 saw female artists in the headlining position, with popular alternative artists Lana Del Ray, Florence and the Machine and Björk holding high spots in addition to Drake and Flume.

In its most popular year yet, the 2016 Gov Ball sold out and had The Strokes, The Killers and Kanye West. The theatricality of The Killers and their opening with the iconic “Mr. Brightside” lead to a successful and rousing performance. Then, The Strokes’ Saturday performance combined hit singles with their lesser-known tracks. Their onstage banter, surprise encore emergence and fireworks display ended a spectacular evening. Unfortunately, the festival has been plagued with rain delays and cancellations over the years, with thunderstorms preventing Kings of Leon from performing in 2013 and Kanye West in 2016, as Sunday’s shows were canceled.

Kanye being Kanye, the rain did not stop him from making an appearance outside Webster Hall, a concert venue in the East Village, at 2 a.m. to over 4,000 people. While he didn’t perform due to the unsafe conditions, Two Door Cinema Club, Courtney Barnett, Prophets of Rage, Vic Mensa and Galantis held shows throughout the city that Sunday.

While these lineups have showcased impressive diversity in regards to genres of music and performance style, this year’s headliners promise to be the best ones yet. Chance the Rapper, the headliner on Friday, has emerged as one of the most popular artists in the music industry due to his successful merging of rap and gospel music. His third mixtape, “Coloring Book,” was preceded by appearances on Kanye West’s album “The Life of Pablo” on the track “Ultralight Beam” and writing contributions on several other songs, including “Waves.”

“Coloring Book” was released exclusively on Apple Music and had almost 58 million streams in its first week, landing at number eight on the Billboard 200. It won three Grammy awards and was the first streaming-exclusive album to ever receive a nomination. At only 24 years old, this Chicago native is only going up from here. He previously performed at Gov Ball in 2014, but as an artist performing in the middle of the day to a smaller crowd. Now Chance has been given the coveted headlining spot. Popular tracks that will be mainstays in his performance include “All Night,” “All We Got,” “Blessings” and “Angels.”

As of right now, Gov Ball will mark French rock band Phoenix’s first string of performance since 2014 when they promoted their 2013 album “Bankrupt” across the United States. With each LP released, Phoenix continues to build on their quite particular sound that has attracted a fan base throughout the world. The band has commented about how much they love to perform live, and many are hopeful that new music will be released in concurrence with their upcoming tour. Look out for favorites such as “Entertainment,” “Trying to be Cool” and “1901.”

Many younger festival-goers may not know Sunday’s headliner Tool. An American rock band from Los Angeles, the group has been together since 1990. Their last album was released in 2006, titled “10,000 Days,” so one may be asking why they received the top spot at one of the country’s biggest music festivals. The festival’s producers are eager to bring in artists that have a large presence in the music industry but may not have made appearances in the concert scene, and particularly in the city, in a while. After an eight-year hiatus, the band has renewed touring, and Gov Ball marks Tool’s first performance in New York City in 11 years. Like Phoenix, the band surely has an album coming soon that will provide new material for eager fans and for those at the festival.

While Chance, Phoenix and Tool may be the sole reasons you head to Gov Ball, there are other immensely talented performers that will also be performing on Randall’s Island. Childish Gambino will be making a rare appearance, as he has been busy filming an upcoming Star Wars film. Lorde, Flume and Charli XCX are not shy to festival performances and will be performing new material. In addition, upcoming artists such as Dua Lipa and Banks deserve just as much recognition as those at the top of everyone’s lists.

After the release of the massive single “Royals” and her debut album “Pure Heroine,” Lorde retreated back into the shadows to find her next record’s story. “Melodrama” will be released this June, and the concept that underlies the album is going to a house party. Lorde has changed the alternative pop music industry forever, and her unique style is championed by all. With the releases of “Green Light” and “Liability” along with a commanding Coachella performance, Lorde has proven she is not one to miss out on.

Harley Edward Streten, also known as Flume, is an Australian artist that has worked with Lorde, Sam Smith and Disclosure in creating his unique electropop sound. His second studio album, “Skin,” won Best Dance/Electronic Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards. “Never Be like You,” “Say it” and “You and Me” have made him an integral artist in the electronic and pop music industry. If you are looking to dance, make sure to catch Flume’s set.

You may know her from Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” or the radio hit “Boom Clap,” but Charli XCX has completely reinvented herself with her 2017 mixtape “Number 1 Angel.” This dance-pop mixtape is filled with female guest appearances from MØ, Raye, Uffie, Abra and Cupcakke. Charli knows how to party, and it is a virtual guarantee that her performance will be packed with energy, champagne and pop hits.

A personal favorite of mine, Banks has achieved critical and social acclaim, yet not to the extent of other artists of less acclaim. Her 2014 album “Goddess” is one of the best alternative records to be released, and the 2016 LP “The Altar” continued her rise as one of the preeminent artists in the music industry. She has a very quintessential style when performing live that one needs to watch to fully understand, so definitely keep an eye out for her performance on Saturday and popular tracks such as “Goddess,” “Poltergeist,” “Gemini Feed” and “Waiting Game.”

One may have been hearing the name Dua Lipa in the media quite often lately. The English artist has recently achieved commercial success with her song “Be the One” and her collaboration with Martin Garrix, “Scared to be Lonely.” After these releases and after opening for Troye Sivan in the fall, she has booked a string of festival performances throughout the world in promotion of her self-titled debut LP, which will be released this June. Look out for tracks “Hotter than Hell,” “Be the One” and a surprise appearance from Garrix.

While the performers and location may help a concert-goer decide which festival to head to, one also has to think about who they’re giving their money to. Billionaire Philip Anschutz, the owner of Coachella, was linked this year to right-wing groups that support anti-LGBT legislation and deny climate change. One may just be thinking about the music, but it is pertinent to be conscious of who you are funneling money to by attending a certain festival.

One might also not see their favorite act on the lineup because of scheduling difficulties or the confusing rules that surround performing at a music festival. An act usually cannot perform within 50 miles of the festival within three months of it in order to keep up the high demand that accompanies having your sole performance in the New York City area being at the festival. Who knows, maybe your favorite artist might make a surprise guest appearance?

Governors Ball Music Festival lies at the heart of New York City and emulates the incredibly diverse, explosive energy one feels when visiting the city that never sleeps. No city can compare to it and no festival has the same essence. It has established itself as a mainstay in the festival scene and in the culture of the city itself. Whether you are going to wait hours in front of the barricade to witness Lorde’s mesmerizing dancing or you want to sample from all of the different food trucks, this festival has something for everyone.

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