Waking up early on a particularly bright Saturday morning, I felt exhausted. I had gone to see The 1975 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, June 1, and attended the first day of The Governors Ball Music Festival the day after. However, I was excited for the new experiences and musical highlights the day would bring.
I picked up a close friend from home and we traveled back to the Midtown East ferry to meet up with Hannah Nice ’19 [Full Disclosure: Nice is the Assistant Social Media Editor for The Miscellany News]. As I watched my friends meet for the first time and bond over artists, I felt like a proud parent. The enthusiastic crowd on the ferry looked even younger that day, and I couldn’t help but smirk at their poorly constructed flower crowns. But I remembered that we all went through similar phases and shuddered thinking about 15-year-old Patrick’s abysmal sense of style.
We arrived back on the island and had some time before the first set of the day. Hannah eagerly sought out an açaí bowl while my other friend Nick took in his surroundings. We then went to see the first performers of the day, Lo Moon. Hannah and I would be interviewing them later on, and after researching them for a week, I was excited to see them in person. They only had one song called “Loveless” released at the time of the performance, which is a seven-minute melodramatic indie ballad with which I instantly fell in love.
The other songs Lo Moon performed that day were surprisingly different. They were more uplifting and pop-rock sounding, which was an interesting diversification of their musical style. Hannah and Nick loved them and continued to talk about the set for days after the last notes to “Loveless,” their final song, ended.
We then ran to the Gov Ball main stage to see Dua Lipa, an English and Albanian artist who had recently taken over the charts with “Be the One” and her collaboration with Martin Garrix, “Scared to be Lonely.” She has a massive fanbase for a newcomer, and she performed a mixture of new sounds from her old singles and from her self-titled debut album.
While “Blow Your Mind” and “Be the One” were flawless pop performances, I was disappointed with the performance of her new music, which was lackluster because most people in the crowd did not know it. However, Dua still left us in an early afternoon high with her modern pop sounds.
As we sat down on the lawn to eat, the indie band Saint Motel started to play their set. While I had never been a big fan of their music, their live performance was incredible and led us to run back to the stage and dance. “Puzzle Pieces,” “Move” and “For Elise” brought such positive vibes to the entire audience with their upbeat lyrics and great stage presence. I highly recommend giving the band a listen.
Hannah and I then went to interview Welles and Lo Moon to discuss their unique sounds and what performing at the festival meant to them. Both artists were genuine and receptive. Hannah and I definitely had a “fangirl moment” as we stood around all of the artists in the press tent. After wrapping up our Lo Moon interview, we ran into Dua Lipa, who gave us a quick hug before running off to a photoshoot for Nylon Magazine.
Afterwards, we met back up with Nick and waited at the artist signing tent to meet Banks. No, not Azealia Banks. Banks is an alternative singer who I absolutely adore, and after much persistence I was finally able to speak with her.
Being able to tell an artist how much their music means to you is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Banks was so sweet and I couldn’t help myself as the words spilled out of me. “Fuck Em Only We Know” is one of my favorite songs of all time, and being able to convey that to her was a feeling I cannot put into words.
We then had some time to kill and watched Marshmello, an EDM artist who performed an abysmal DJ set to drunk audience members. We left after about eight minutes. I had seen Flume at the same stage the night before, and the difference in artistry between Flume and Marshmello was tremendous. Flume creates a mesmerizing visual story with his electropop beats, while Marshmello yells at the crowd and plays unoriginal dance music.
We then went to the Bacardi stage where Banks would perform in an hour and queued up. The crowd was a lot older than in previous sets and people were pushing forward in attempt to get closer, but I was not moving from my spot eight rows from her microphone. At this point it was 7:15 p.m. and I was exhausted, dehydrated and desperately had to pee, but I knew it would all be worth it once Banks emerged onto the stage.
At exactly 8 p.m., the introduction to “Poltergeist” started and I lost all of my already waning composure. Banks came out with two ghost-like dancers who paralleled her movements, and the ensuing performance felt like visual art. Banks glided across the stage, encased in a veil with overhead stage lights occasionally casting down on her. No background screen was necessary, as Banks’ voice and movements created their own picture. She truly was a goddess.
Banks went through many of her hit singles and songs from her recently released second album, “The Altar,” but three songs stood out in particular. A surprise performance of “Brain” had me shaking and holding back tears as I screamed the lyrics back to her. Additionally, I was joking with a Banks fan I attended the show with that she would do “Better,” and we both shrieked when that dream came to fruition. She asked everyone to put down their phones and continued from “Better” into a freestyle of her repeating “I can love you better than he can.”
The final highlight was the dancing during “Waiting Game.” I will never get over Banks’ gorgeous movements that mirrored her dancers during the instrumentals of the song. The entire crowd was astonished by the beauty. If you ever get a chance to see Banks perform, make sure you take advantage of it. Very few artists are capable of doing so much with so little and making you feel so close to her even when you’re in a sea of thousands.
Unfortunately, we had to leave Banks’ set a little early to run over to the main stage where Phoenix would be headlining. Surprisingly, we were able to get very close, even closer than we were at 1:30 p.m. for Dua Lipa at the same stage. Childish Gambino was performing at the same time and this was his only performance for the entire year, so the Phoenix crowd was much smaller. It consisted of my small group of angsty teens, clusters of older adults and drunk Europeans. But I was not complaining.
By this point Hannah and I were both dead tired and could barely stand, but Phoenix is one of Nick’s favorite bands. He was having the time of his life as Hannah and I held each other up, trying to dance off the pain and exhaustion. The set was simple, with the band standing in a line with backing visuals on a large glass panel behind them. For a band that has been around since the early 2000s and is much older than other artists at Gov Ball, they had a really good stage presence, and the lead singer even crowd-surfed during an encore of “Ti Amo.” My personal favorite was the consecutive performance of “Love Like a Sunset (Parts I and II).” Part I produced a tremendous amount of excitement, as you could literally feel your heartbeat mirroring the heavy instrumentals. The transition into Part II flowed perfectly and provided a rush of relief, as the instrumentals returned to their normal alternative pop sound.
Once the last notes of “Ti Amo” ended, we proceeded to sprint a mile to the ferry and I was inundated with the feelings that accompanied the day. This was it. We were leaving Gov Ball, this secluded musical paradise. As I sat on the ferry and watched the fireworks go off, I looked at the city skyline and couldn’t help tearing up thinking about how much would change in my life in the coming years. But I will always have my friends and music as constants, and that makes life and all of its struggles so worth it.