NYC was united in the lush and green location, energized performances, and fun brand activations that marked the 3-day music festival. 

For a while, it looked as if the Governor’s Ball festival would succumb to weather conditions— it had weathered literal thunderstorms, and artist cancellations in previous years— but it prevailed. Amid rain and smoke, the Governor’s Ball festival soldered on, letting more than 100,000 festivalgoers experience a lineup with over 60 artists, plenty of food vendors, and brand-based activities. Located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park this year, the atmosphere of the festival felt like summer: large crowds, flowing drinks, and shining sun throughout the weekend with scorching temperatures marking Saturday and Sunday. Easily accessible from the Mets- Willets Point stop on the 7 train, the festival’s new location made the concert into a quick summer getaway. The green, lush grounds gave concertgoers plenty of room to sit and relax if a break was needed or soak up the sun as they listened to artists such as Ice Spice, Lizzo, Maude Latour, Cee Central, and Giveon. However, this made fans have to walk long distances to make their way from stage to stage in the sprawling venue. For a first-time attendee like me, these were welcome changes as they gave me plenty of room to get lost in sponsored exhibits from M&M, About Face Beauty, Dusse, Barcardi, and more as well as eat food catered by the Queens Night Market. The festival felt like a magical experience: a concert mixed with a summer camp experience, with everyone getting ready to have fun and discover new music at one of the biggest concerts of the summer.

The Governor’s Ball weekend kicked off on Thursday night with an after-dark show featuring Saba at SOB and continued into the weekend with rousing performances from Metro Boomin’ on Friday,  a performance from Phony Ppl at Irving Plaza on Saturday, and Flipturn and Early Eyes on Sunday. With sponsors such as Bud Light and Budweiser, party attendees were able to soak in the party atmosphere and get a taste of what the festival has to offer while looking out at the city.

On Friday, Haim kicked off the festivities with hits such as “Don’t Save Me’ and “Gasoline” as well as a performance of Cher’s “Believe”, energizing the crowd for what was to come.  During the night, the audience looked forward to performances from Lizzo, the headliner for Friday night, and rapper Lil’ Uzi Vert. The former executed her performances with perfect vocals and captivating choreography on the main stage while the latter made the audience bounce with his energetic performance on the Gopuff stage. However, everyone was anxiously waiting for rising rapper Ice Spice, who put on a confident, energetic performance. Despite the light rain, the crowd was hyped for the Bronx rapper,  eagerly rapping along and jumping to hits such as “Munch’ and “In Ha Mood” along with the new single “Princess Diana.” During part of the performance, the audience made its way into the photo pit as Ice Spice performed her verse on Pink Panthress’ single “Boy’s A Liar Part 2.’ For big names such as Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, and Lil’ Baby, the crowds were energized and ready to jam with their favorite artists.

Ice Spice performs at Governor’s Ball festival. (PC: Deanie Chen)

Saturday kicked off with an emotional performance from Suki Waterhouse and saw alt-pop sensation Kenny Hoopla earn the title of rising star within the pop genre.  The second day of the festival was historic for K-pop group Aespa as they made their Governor’s Ball debut. Performing hits such as  “Black Mamba” and “Spicy” and engaging in stunning choreography, the girl group showed the crowd why they are world-famous. Elsewhere, Finneas performed at the Go Puff stage,  a long walk from the media tent and other areas of the park, and Rina Sayama brought down the house with outfit changes, expressive performances,  and dramatic choreography, as she performed her hit  “Hold The Girl” and other songs. Lauve put on a mesmerizing performance, letting the audience sing along with his melodic voice. Later in the afternoon, indie pop darling Maude Latour made her debut at the festival, performing her EP Twin Flame and interspersing her set with storytelling, honing in on her ability to make relatable tunes. At one point, the singer directed the audience to get low before jumping around as she performed her hit “Heaven.” Odezza concluded the second night of the festival with EDM and pyrotechnics.

Sunday saw singer Giveon give a heartfelt performance of his R&B hits, tugging at the heartstrings of the crowd on the main stage while  Pusha T garnered attention from the crowd at Barcardi stage by bringing a snow globe of cash on stage.  Sabrina Claudio gave a commanding performance while wearing a nude bodysuit that caused a wardrobe malfunction. Pink Pantheress took the main stage, carrying a purse and Kendrick Lamar closed out the festival with a rousing performance, fans waiting to see the Pulitzer prize-winning artist in the flesh. Swarming the stage, Lamar brought out special guests for his performance, making it into an unforgettable set.  Although he gave a great performance, Lil’ Nas X had to restart his set due to audio issues, with some of the other sets being too loud or too low for both artists and crowds.

In between sets, festivalgoers could check out brand activations such as the offering from About Face, Halsey’s makeup company, which offered quick mini makeovers and products while hydrating with Liquid Death mountain water or Barcardi. Tacos, pizza cupcakes (yes, they are exactly what they sound like and they are delicious,), pizza from the restaurant Roberta’s, and donuts from a family-owned shop called Doughnuttery.  In true New York fashion, the festival provided a wide array of foods from multiple vendors, giving fans a taste of the choices that the city has to offer.

For the entirety of the weekend,  attendees did seem to enjoy themselves in a safe, fun atmosphere. Security guards were ready to spray people who needed to cool down with water-filled Nerf guns, legible signage made it easy to navigate the park, and fans leaned into the feeling of comradery, dancing on shoulders and sparking conversations about artists with others. Overall, the Governor’s Ball Festival outdid itself, proving why it is one of NYC’s most anticipated events of the summer. For a weekend, New York City was united, coming together to enjoy the talent that the festival had to offer. The whole city is already dreaming about the festival set up for 2024.

Aespa performs at the Governor’s Ball Festival. (PC:: Roger Ho)