After days of thunderstorms across the city, blue skies gave way to sunshine for the first day of New York City’s ninth annual Governors Ball Music Festival, taking place May 31 through June 2. Headlining the three-day festival are rapper Tyler, The Creator, indie rock group Florence and the Machine and rock band The Strokes.
The first day packed more than 20 artists across five stages on Randall’s Island, located just east of Manhattan across the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. Some of the most popular and well-known artists graced stages — from boy-band sensation Brockhampton to iconic rapper Lil Wayne — keeping fest-goers dancing and scream-singing with abandon from the first act at noon to the last one at 11 p.m. Other musicians who performed included The Internet, Mitski, Hippo Campus, MØ, Jorja Smith, The Voidz and Gesaffelstein.
Friday’s headliner Tyler, The Creator took to Gov Ball NYC, the festival’s main stage, to perform “IGOR,” his fifth and latest studio album dropped May 17, for the first time in New York. His 9:45 p.m. set was the only headlining set of the night, attracting thousands of fans and people curious to see him live.
Prior to performances, stage screens flashed facts of the festival — more than one million people have attended Governors Ball over the past eight years. Still being a newer festival, it’s become a New York staple, bringing big-name rappers and bands, as well as up-and-coming pop and R&B artists, to a unique location in the Big Apple.
Still Woozy, American Eagle stage
12:45 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Being among the first sets of the day, Still Woozy — the stage name of Sven Gamsky — knows how to draw a crowd and woo them with his fused indie-electronic tunes. Outfitted in a blue and white striped long-sleeve shirt with navy khakis, Still Woozy indulged audiences with some of his classics including “Goodie Bag,” “Habit” and “Lava,” as well as new pieces from his latest extended play (EP) “Lately.”
For an up-and-coming artist having yet to release a full-length album, Still Woozy has procured nearly three million monthly listeners on Spotify and a dedicated fan base — proof in the number of people who showed up to the earlier, often less crowded, set time.
The artist was joined by his drummer and backup guitarist — some of his close buddies, the artist told the crowd — on the stage decorated with nothing but the group’s instruments. The three performed for 45 minutes at the American Eagle stage and didn’t once cease being themselves. When there was a momentary lapse in music-playing, Still Woozy or his guitarist took to the mic to talk to the audience.
“How’s it going in the swamp over there?” they’d ask the attendees who ended up in a mosh of mud and water. The artists were amused by the people in “the swamp” and checked in on them on multiple occasions during the set, encouraging the rest of the crowd to send love to those earnest fans.
His drummer provided an ironic commentary on marriage, but he told people, despite their opinions on the matter, to profess their love to whoever they care for because life is short. One fan took it to heart and offered her bra as a sign of some soft fuzzy feelings.
Still Woozy closed out his set with “Lava,” a single released earlier this year. He said it would be his last song, and he stuck with it. No encore was desired, but fans cheered and sang along.
Amber Mark, Gov Ball NYC stage
3 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Four dancers each dressed in neutral-colored leotards and sheer sparkly tie-knot tops ran across the Gov Ball NYC stage into position as R&B/pop artist Amber Mark made her way on-stage for her 3 p.m. performance. Dressed in a sheer sparkly top over a bralette with a glittery skirt and thigh-high boots, the 23-year-old singer went right into song, performing tracks including “Monsoon” and “S P A C E” from her latest album, “3:33am.”
Currently based in New York, Mark grew up across Asia and Europe. Her songs reflect the different international styles, evident in the hip-hop and R&B-influenced pop songs, tinged with hints of electronic. Since 2016 when the artist released her first song, she’s amassed more than 1.6 million monthly listeners on Spotify and a seal of approval from iconic soul band Sade.
Halfway into her set, Mark sang “Love Is Stronger Than Pride,” an emotional ballad about people uniting in times of difficulty. Her lyrics and soft voice were brought to life visually through her backup dancers ballet-like dancing.
The dancers accompanied Mark for the majority of her set and enhanced her dreamy singing tenfold. Mark kept listeners bobbing their heads from the set’s start to finish.
Jessie Reyez, Bacardi stage
3:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
“I like to sing about shit I don’t like to talk about,” reads Jessie Reyez’s bio on Spotify. This statement is evident not only in her raw, personal experiences she sings about but the sentiments she shares on-stage.
The Canadian singer-songwriter took to the Bacardi stage at 3:45 p.m. for an hour-long set. Fans gathered around the stage in crowds and on the outskirts, picnicking and enjoying her set from the comfort of the lawn and personal space.
Reyez empowers women through her lyrics and lets them know it’s okay to be by yourself and achieve success without a man. Sporting a Toronto Raptors number 24 jersey, she performed songs across both albums — “Kiddo” (2017) and “Being Human In Public” (2018) — including “Gatekeeper,” “Body Count,” “Figures” and “Straight Jacket.” Being versatile in her work, she has a beautifully melodic singing voice and a distinct rapping ability — both personas intertwined in her work.
On several occasions throughout her set, she sat on a stool and talked to her audience, detailing the backgrounds of songs and how they came to be. As she’d get emotional and share deep thoughts, the crowd got riled up proving Reyez knows how to get an audience to feel her lyrics.
Brockhampton, Gov Ball NYC stage
6:45 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The self-described boy-band of the century took to the Gov Ball NYC stage and induced the rowdiest of rowdy festival-goers in the massive crowd that collected for the 6:45 p.m. set. In a crowd that extended past the stage’s soundbox — thinning out further back but still a steady number of viewers — audiences jumped and fist-pumped aimlessly for an hour and 15 minutes.
Promptly at 6:45 p.m. appeared vocalist Ciarán McDonald to the left of the stage on a silver crane donning a metallic space suit, introing “SUMMER,” a hit from the band’s album “Saturation II.” Making his way through the air, he landed on stage where Brockhampton’s members were revealed sitting in a gold airplane.
The group went on to perform songs, spanning several albums, including “BOOGIE,” “ZIPPER,” “GUMMY,” “BLEACH” and “1997 DIANA.” While hundreds attempted to push their way to the front of the stage preserved through the formation of mosh pits, others began shoving their way out of the crowd. It requires a certain personality and devotion to a group to stand so many bodies pushing, shoving and sweating that some didn’t deem necessary or simply couldn’t stand.
Tyler, The Creator, Gov Ball NYC stage
9:45 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The rapper and genre-transcending artist, Tyler Okonma — known by his stage name Tyler, The Creator — is just that, a creator. Just two weeks after debuting his critically acclaimed album “IGOR,” fans knew every word to the album, and the artist thanked his Governors Ball crowd in pure awe for that.
Tyler, The Creator’s Governors Ball set marked his first time performing his latest album live in New York, and the festival attendees knew that. Crowds began gathering in hot anticipation of Tyler, The Creator’s headlining performance hours before his set. “IGOR” merchandise sold out at the merch stand, festival-goers donned the album’s paraphernalia and some dedicated fans wore blonde wigs and cropped pants in honor of the rapper’s “IGOR” persona.
Promptly at 9:45 p.m., stage lights ablaze and phone cameras recording, sound amplified from the speakers signaling Tyler’s coming. Donning a neon yellow suit and blonde wig, the artist appeared on-stage singing “IGOR’S THEME,” the first track of the album.
Songs off “IGOR” didn’t make a prominent appearance at first. He performed “NEW MAGIC WAND” before singing “I THINK,” and then went into some of the tracks that marked his career including “911,” “Mr. Lonely” and “Yonkers.” The second half of his set featured several consecutive “IGOR” songs, including “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU,” “WHAT’S GOOD,” “ERFQUAKE” and “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?”
Tyler is not only a great performer with his personas and quirky dancing but he provides hilarious commentary on life and his audience, pointing out funny things he sees or thinks. At Governors Ball, he walked over to the right of the stage and said the people standing on the side of the stage had the worst view. He told them to enjoy their view of him “for the next five seconds” before he goes back center-stage. They did, and likely continued to enjoy his performance along with the rest of his vast audience for the remainder of his set.