Like clockwork. Something happens to me every single time New York’s Governors Ball comes around, forcing me to cancel plans to partake in the city’s annual music festival.
I’m still kicking myself for 2014, when a nasty injury to my right foot prevented me from watching one of OutKast’s (final?) performances ever. Or, I would’ve kicked myself if I was even able to put weight on my foot to begin with. I couldn’t even walk to my bathroom properly that day; there was no way I’d be able to stand for 6+ hours on it. Meanwhile, 2015 was the Drake Year, but a nasty case or bronchitis (and the subsequent brokenness that comes with being a first-time homeowner) prevented me from participating in that too.
So here I am, on my third attempt, fighting through yet another bothersome cold, but this time I’m sitting on an overcrowded ferry headed to Randall’s Island to see the likes of Miguel, De La Soul, Kanye West and a myriad of other acts perform, whooping cough be damned. And despite the fact that both The Roots Picnic and Hot 97’s Summer Jam had the arguably better lineups, I’ve come to Governors Ball both out of travel convenience and to see what else white people have been hiding from us outside of lacrosse and regattas.
After getting my press passes, I headed over to the Big Apple Stage to take in the sights: a giant bust of the Statue Of Liberty covered in graffiti here, a GOV BALL NYC sign on a hill there, Kanye West merchandise booth in the middle. I hopscotched through a throng of weed smoke and barefoot (White) people head to the Big Apple Stage, where I’d catch De La Soul run through their near-three decades of music to a largely melanin-less crowd of men and women of various ages getting buck when the Native Tongue legends ran through “Much More,” “Stakes Is High,” and “Me, Myself, & I.” Clearly aware of their elder statesmen status in music while rapping to a crowd mostly peppered with men and women who likely weren’t even born when their debut album 3 Feet High and Rising was released, they stopped their show mid-set to ask “How many of you out there are under 30?” before thanking the crowd for their support, ending their show with “Trainwreck” from their ninth album and the Anonymous Nobody.
I’d begun to wonder where all the Black folk had scampered off to, until I headed to the Honda Stage where Miguel was performing. Sure enough, they are all there. Men, women, women, women, and more women. Women standing, women perched atop the shoulders of men like Batman on a rooftop, women feeling men up to his songs… are people listening to his music or trying to get pregnant to his music on a grassy knoll?
At this point it began to rain like gangbusters, coincidentally at the same time The Mighty Migs began to lead the crowd in a singalong of “do you like drugs?!” The rain only got stronger throughout his set, but it only made his set – oddly enough – that much better. Seriously, this is one of the livest live performances I’ve ever experienced, and a major part of that is due to the torrential downpour that has now turned everything into wet noodles ankle deep in mud. This actually transformed his performance into something rather euphoric; being encompassed by a crowd of ecstatic (and drunk. And high) revelers collectively singing along to various Wildheart tracks while drenched to your boxer briefs puts you in an almost rapturous, hypnotic state.
Despite being on a man made island that’s essentially stones throw away from Rikers Island, Governors Ball is massive in its minuteness. Five large stages are sprawled across the land, with various amenities throughout: Porto potties (Honda Stage), a roof (Bacardi Stage), or food courts (Big Apple Stage). With no more than two acts performing simultaneously on opposite ends of the grounds, you could either catch Mac Miller holding court to a rabid legion of youngsters or HAIM tributing Prince in between their own songs during their concert. However, by this point the rain — which was a soothing, lukewarm stream during Miguel’s performance — had turned into a cold, bone-aching wash, turning my socks into sponges and sneakers into ankle weights and ultimately chasing me off the island.
By the time the swelling in my feet and ankles had contracted I was all but excited to head back to Randall’s Island for Day 3, where Kanye West was scheduled to wrap up the concert. However, the weather had other plans, and a “severe weather and a high likelihood of lightning in the area” warning cancelled the festival altogether. So, I spent the day instead cooking, drinking, and sleeping the feeling back into my legs. While I was low-key pissed that Governors Ball was cancelled, at this point in my life my body is put together with hemp and chewing gum; my feet needed the recovery time. Plus, with Kanye West (among many other guests) scheduled as “surprise” performances at SummerJam, I could not risk pneumonia from the comfort of my couch thanks to a live stream.
Governors Ball was, honestly, an relatively amazing experience. The next time I pull up on it, however, I don’t think being sober will be in the cards.