Photography: Jono Bernstein
The best part of NYC’s Governor’s Ball isn’t the music, the food or all the activities; it’s the people. Upon entering the gates, Gov Ball volunteers greeted festival goers with smiles and high fives, setting the tone for a fun weekend.
We kicked day one off with the beautiful harmonies and dance beats of Meg Mac, followed by crowd favorite, Bully. where singer/guitarist Alicia Bognann screamed, wailed, thrashed and hid behind a curtain of blonde hair. During a chat with the band they confessed that if they only had 24 hours in NYC they would spend most of it eating NYC’s food: “Pizza, bagels and dumplings.” squealed Bognann.
After their set, we did just that, and perused the food options—more than 50—all native to NYC. It wouldn’t feel right skipping pizza at a NYC festival. Even The Knocks and Transviolet confessed to us that one of their favorite things about this city is the abundance and accessibility of dollar slice. We mowed down on burgers from Black Tap, sriracha-seasoned noms from Lawless Jerky, sushi burritos from Uma Temakria and hot cheesy pizza from Valducci’s, while sitting in the grass in-between acts.
Matt and Kim burst onto the stage like an excited confetti gun. Not even 30 seconds into their first song, Matt was already leaping up and down as Kim stood on her kick drum slapping her booty to the crowd’s delight. As Brooklyn locals, hey celebrated the New York crowd and noted the importance of playing a NYC-run and hosted festival.
Most of the artists performing this year are NYC-based, making Governors Ball feel like a backyard festival. Brooklyn-based duo The Knocks praise Gov Ball saying, “We get to play on our home turf, so our friends and family get to see us perform in a festival environment, which is amazing. The energy of the fans in NYC is next level and are always down to dance and have fun with us. There’s an electricity in the air at Gov Ball that you can’t really describe. It’s surreal, and when it’s all over, we get to go back to our own apartments.” Gov Ball is a festival by NYC, for NYC.
Father John Misty remained the festival king with his tall lanky body and bushy beard winning the hearts of screaming fans. He crooned. He jumped. He begged on his knees. He saluted the crowd. He cried into the mic. He kept all eyes on him, and him alone.
Bloc Party was ferocious, loud and beautiful to watch during sunset. Singer/guitarist Kele Okereke was lost in a haze of smoke and pastel light, making each power chord ring a little louder.
Beck hasn’t aged a single day since his first hit single in 1994. He danced across the stage like the king of cool, easily surprising the average festival goer with just how many hit songs his impressive repertoire boasts. There was no shortage of dancing in the pit or the lawn of blanket chillers.
Julian Casablancas is the father of modern day Lower East Side rock. He’s synonymous with what the NYC sound has become and hasn’t lost one bit of his idyllic stage presence. However, the real treat of The Strokes performance was watching Albert Hammond Jr. shred all those classic riffs and leads we’ve come to know so well.
On day two, Mandy Lee and her bandmates of Misterwives kickstarted the dance party. Beach balls tossed through the crowd, as the the sea of people jump around with hands in the air. Lee danced, skipped, shook, giggled and, at times, almost fell, but never missed a note.
Go HAIM or go home. This band sang louder, danced harder and welcomed the rain which drenched Gov Ball during their set. The show went on strong and diehard fans sang along, happily dancing in the rain and mud. The three sisters almost seemed excited by the downpour, and by the end of their set, shook rain from their wet hair and thanked New Yorkers for caring about seeing good music, rain or shine.
The highlight of day two, was Purity Ring’s all encompassing performance. Like true artists, this duo’s stage design, lighting, costuming, choreography and song selection created a mood and atmosphere like no other performer at Gov Ball. The tent covering their stage was more crowded than ever, as festival goers pushed in closer to avoid the rain and gawk at their magical lighting set-up. Singer Megan James floated between the strings of lights, like a winged creature in a gorgeous cat suit.
We played mini golf. We tipped over life size jenga. We took selfies in photo booths. We ate too, too much. We napped in the grass. We danced in the rain. And we cried when day three was canceled. We’ll see you next year Gov Ball, you’re doing great.