Rosca's Ramblings

Rosca’s Ramblings: Drowning on an Island But Make it a Music Festival

Emily Rosca | The PhoenixAfter postponing gates to 6:30 p.m., The Governors Ball Music Festival was evacuated due to thunderstorms Sunday, June 2.

Ten teenagers arrive at an island expecting a weekend of pumpin’ partying and carefree life-living. But then they start dying, one-by-one and they must band together to find the killer. That plotline — from Gretchen McNeil’s Agatha Christie-inspired novel “Ten” — was the first thing that came to mind when the third day of The Governors Ball Music Festival evacuated.

The ninth annual Governors Ball was held this past weekend, May 31 through June 2, at Randall’s Island Park, just east of Manhattan across the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. Three days of music, dancing and friends on an island sounded like a vacation.

The first two days were dandy. Tyler, The Creator’s headlining performance Friday was one of my favorites. In the short time since “IGOR” has been released, the artist has received so much acclaim and seeing him perform songs from the album live for the first time in New York was special beyond words. One of my favorite house artists Zhu gave an electrifying performance Saturday. His show was one I was most excited for and my friends and I ended up deep in the crowd — an experience in it of itself.

But the third day wasn’t having it. Around 8:30 a.m. Sunday, the Governors Ball team sent out a memo via multiple platforms instructing festival-goers not to come to Randall’s Island Park until more information would be announced concerning the weather. Three hours later, doors had been pushed to 6:30 p.m. from the normal 11:45 a.m.

It never did rain like they thought it would. It was a beautiful, 80-degree day in New York City, and we weren’t able to spend it at Randall’s Island Park.

Acts were rearranged to fit as many as possible into the new fest hours — 6:45 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. — but artists including Parcels, Ric Wilson, Soccer Mommy and Charli XCX weren’t rescheduled. The Strokes, originally Sunday’s only headliner, was joined by SZA, whose set got pushed into the same time frame.

Ultimately neither got to perform. A message appeared on screens at multiple stages and blared through the loudspeakers. The festival was to be evacuated immediately due to an impending storm.

My friends and I, having gotten on the grounds at 6:45 p.m. to see rapper Noname, were standing front and center at the American Eagle stage’s barricade to see KAYTRANADA’s 9:30 p.m. show. Moments after the gut-wrenching announcement was made, the hip-hop artist made his way on-stage, mic-less, apologizing to the large crowd that had gathered to see his highly anticipated performance.

At this moment, what I feared was going to happen, did.

I’ve read many thrillers in my lifetime. They’re my favorite to read. You can’t put the book down and you get spikes of energy when the characters are walking around in the dark looking for the murderer or what have you.

My love of these novels has also instilled a sense of paranoia in me. My father has commented too many times about my tendency of jumping when someone comes too close to me when I’m deep in my thoughts.

That very paranoia made an appearance — naturally, I’d argue — once the evacuation message was posted. It wasn’t raining yet. Everyone was upset their favorite artists weren’t going to perform, but they continued standing around on the fields and food vendors continued selling their goods. I was dying to try a ramen burger while at Governors Ball, but that wasn’t the time.

Some of my worst nightmares stem from novels I’ve read, and being trapped on an island in a storm is unfortunately one of them. The thing with this specific island is it’s only accessible by bridge and I have an irrational fear of them. I can cross a bridge fine but not if I think too much about it.

I dragged my friends out of the crowd because I was picturing being trapped on an island during a storm with nowhere to go, and if people were going to continue chilling, we should at least get a head start.

Not even 10 minutes later, the storm started. We evacuated through the east exit and with each step we took the rain poured harder. Everyone was soaked to the bone. Some forward-thinking folks brought ponchos. To bring one myself hadn’t occurred to me, but had it, I probably would’ve still left it at home for the sole reason of not wanting to carry it.

So began the soaking of the white t-shirt.

As the wind reached 50 mph, I wondered if my soaked Eastpak fanny pack would protect my phone, and most importantly my film. Aside from truly fearing whether or not we’d get off the island safely, I was upset at the possibility of my film not making it through the journey.

People across the island and the social media universe compared Sunday’s Governors Ball to the infamous Fyre Fest — Billy McFarland’s luxury music festival-turned-disaster. Sewers were flooding areas under the bridge, barricades were being knocked over while many people stood huddled trying their phones and planning how to get off the island.

At least we weren’t jipped of thousands of dollars. Governors Ball founders posted a message on the festival’s website Monday evening saying all Sunday ticket purchasers would be fully refunded and those who bought three-day passes would be refunded pro-rata.

“There was no doubt in our mind that this was the right and necessary thing to do,” the message read.

When you’re evacuating thousands of people off an island in a storm, it’s understandable some things might go wrong. What if Mr. Chalamet would have been among the fest-goers at Governors Ball raging with his buds? It wasn’t the most organized music festival, but I do thank its disorder for introducing me to some of the folks who’ll be pals for a long time. (We met the first day while waiting in line for our media passes that should’ve been ready by the time gates opened, not an hour after.)

In our attempt to flee the island on foot, we stumbled into a massive pond of collected rain and the water seeped into my Dr. Martens. Time seemed to slow as it pooled in and drenched my previously still-not-soaked ankle socks, and I shook my head at the fact I didn’t pack enough tall socks.

After running in circles trying to find a way back onto the bridge, we decided our best bet would be to wait with hundreds of people for a shuttle to drive us across the bridge to safety.

It was a miracle we made it onto a shuttle. As one pulled up right in front of us, dozens of people poured into the vehicle and I thought about what a hero the driver was. Did he think when he woke up that morning he’d be driving hundreds of (probably drunk) teenagers off an island in a storm?

Everyone cheered on the driver and began singing Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.” The music never does stop.

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