Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the seventh annual Governors Ball Music Festival, held on Randall’s Island in New York City. It marked a series of firsts for me: first multiple-day, multiple-stage festival, first time interviewing artists and first time many of my college friends would meet my hometown ones. The festival itself felt like a dream, and I found myself wishing to never leave the paradise of music, art and culture that was Gov Ball. Of course, I could have done without the abundance of underage frat bros trying to get people to buy them Miller Lites. But we all have to make sacrifices.
For the first day, my close friend and Assistant Social Media Editor for The Miscellany News Hannah Nice ’18 and I met in midtown east before taking a ferry to Randall’s Island. The ferry was packed with 15- and 16-year-olds who looked like they had just stepped out of a Forever 21 catalogue. Hannah and I couldn’t help but laugh at the bucket hats and poorly placed glitter.
After arriving on the island and picking up our press passes, we ran to the Gov Ball main stage to see Tkay Maidza, a severely underrated Australian rapper. Tkay killed her set, performing to an enthusiastic crowd that consisted primarily of Chance the Rapper fans who were trying to get barricade for his headlining performance. For those who aren’t aware, barricade is the front row of the stage, and some people camp out for hours to get as close as possible to their favorite performer. It’s a combination of passion and insanity, but I applauded those who were willing to hold in their bladders and stand for 11 hours.
We then proceeded to walk around the island, which was covered with 50,000 festival-goers, food trucks and photo booths. We got to meet Tkay at a signing event, and she was so sweet, recalling our terrible dancing from the second row of her set. As we were walking to Kehlani’s 3 p.m. performance, we watched what appeared to be a coked-out Mark Ronson climbing on top of a stage and belting electro-pop tunes. I later learned that it was the artist Francis and the Lights, and for days I couldn’t get the extremely compelling song “Friends” out of my head.
Five minutes before Kehlani comes on, Hannah and I find ourselves surrounded by drunk high schoolers who are passing out and throwing up next to us. Keep in mind it’s only 3:00 and the festival gates have only been open for three hours. Kehlani was gorgeous and had a great stage presence, but we felt uncomfortable where we were standing and left her set early to see Charli XCX, one of my favorite pop artists.
Charli came out in a full-length metallic gray rain jacket and a red Solo cup, chanting to the crowd, “Gov Ball are you ready to fucking dance?” I had been trying to see her live since 2014 and was ecstatic to be only feet away from her. Her performance consisted mostly of tracks from her recently released mixtape, “Number One Angel,” while also throwing in crowd favorites such as “Fancy,” “I Love It” and “Boom Clap.” While my other friend and I almost got into a fight with a drunk 15-year-old girl in front of me, Charli’s set hyped up the crowd, even when it started downpouring during “I Love It.” At the end, she brought out rapper and Twitter icon Cupcakke for their song “Lipgloss,” and the crowd lost it. If you ever need to throw a killer house party, just invite Charli and Cupcakke.
Following Charli, we chilled and listened to Tove Lo, who was quite underwhelming. One couldn’t help but cringe every time she missed a note or was off-pitch, but obviously the crowd went crazy when she played “Habits” as her finale. We then waited in line for about an hour for food, which was delicious, but there was no structure in how lines were formed and most people ended up cutting to pay $7 for fries.
After eating as fast as we could, we ran to the stage where Lorde would be performing. She was the artist I was most looking forward to, and I had high expectations. Ever since hearing her debut album “Pure Heroine” in 2013, I made it one of my life goals to see her live. At 7:30 p.m. she emerged, covered in a veil and broodingly chanting the beginning verses of “Green Light” in a poetic nature. Lorde then went into “Tennis Court,” and she slowly took off her veil. She didn’t come here to play. She came to perform.
The set behind her consisted of a rectangular box that hung about 20 feet above the stage. At the end of “Tennis Court,” about 10 people climbed up into it. Lorde had previously explained that the concept surrounding her second album, “Melodrama,” is a house party, and that is exactly what was reflected by the events inside the blue-tinged box. People were holding red Solo cups and dancing, but every event—or, more specifically, every movement—was dictated by the vibes of the music. When “Ribs” ended, everyone dropped to the floor, appearing lifeless, and the audience couldn’t help but gasp.
Lorde performed many favorites from “Pure Heroine,” in addition to unreleased songs from “Melodrama.” These included “Perfect Places,” “Sober” and the album’s title track. Additionally, lead singer of Bleachers and Lorde’s chief writing partner for “Melodrama” Jack Antonoff came out to sing “Liability” and “Hang with Me,” a beautiful cover of a Robyn song.
During “Team,” her second-to-last song, Lorde jumped over to the barricades to dance with fans, and the crowd around me rushed forward. Now, I have been to almost 30 concerts, but I have never been so crushed by the masses of people surrounding me. However, it was all worth it. Hearing “Green Light” in person, watching Lorde do her idiosyncratic dancing, and seeing the fireworks burst out of the stage as the last chorus to “Green Light” was sung were moments I will never forget. I urge anyone who is a fan to see Lorde live. It is truly life changing.
Immediately after we recovered from the madness that was Lorde and her fans, we ran to Flume and arrived just as the instrumentals to “Helix” were beginning. While I am not a huge EDM fan, I appreciate Flume and the creative concepts that surround his albums. For the hour we stayed, Flume brought us into his world with stunning visuals and electronic beats. While I was hoping that Lorde would come out for his remix of “Tennis Court,” Flume did not disappoint. A personal favorite visual was watching a stunning flower grow throughout a song on the screen behind the artist and its sudden collapse as the beat dropped.
Finally, it was time for the day’s headliner, Chance the Rapper. Coming out to “Mixtape,” Chance had tremendous stage presence for his entire one-hour-and-15-minute performance. He would run across the stage during interludes, interact with the crowd and occasionally fireworks would spark out of the top of the stage. While he performed favorites such as “All Night,” “Same Drugs” and “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” what I found enrapturing was his cover of Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam.” Performed halfway through his show, it provided a beautiful break in the set, and even a break in the insanity of the day. Overall, Chance did not disappoint, and as we left Randall’s Island as the final fireworks went off, I couldn’t help but wonder what was to come tomorrow.