My First Gov Ball Experience: The Inside Scoop

Growing up in New Jersey, I’m not sure how I made it all the way to 2019 for my first ever Governor’s Ball. This three-day festival is an East Coast classic. The festival is tucked away on Randall’s Island – right across the river from Harlem. Nearly everyone I grew up with made it to at least one Gov Ball before heading out to college, so as a recent college grad I felt the need to finally check this off my list. 

My main reason for choosing this year to finally purchase that Gov Ball pass was the lineup. Typically, I’ve considered this a more hip-hop focused festival, but this year’s lineup was so diverse it hit every corner of my music taste. From Tyler, the Creator, to Clairo, to Florence and the Machine, to The 1975, to The Strokes, to Bazzi, to SZA, to Lil Wayne, to Lily Allen, to Charli XCX, to BROCKHAMPTON the list goes on and on and on. 

I can always appreciate a festival that has all walks of life on stage, not just genres but race, gender, sexuality, and more. With so much diversity I almost never had to make a hard choice between sets. Each set time had multiple genres, so you were never stuck picking between two artists who were super similar. For example: Kasey Musgraves paired up with Vince Staples, Jessie Reyez paired with Hippo Campus, or Florence and the Machine paired with Major Lazer. As with any festival, there were a few conflicts, but the schedule was clearly thought out in a way to make it easy for everyone to see their favorite artists.

Personally, Day 1 was my favorite. By the time we got in to the city, walked the bridge, and got through bag check (honestly the quickest security process I’ve seen at a festival) we had only missed one set and the rest of the day was full of back to back great music. My highlights were Tyler, the Creator, Lil Wayne, Jessie Reyez, and Amber Mark who I stumbled across while grabbing food. Saturday was a little lighter on shows for me, my highlights being The 1975, SABA, and Major Lazer.

Tyler, the Creator
Credit: Kaitlyn Rafferty

At this point, let’s talk about the less positive notes. Obviously, the biggest was the storm on Sunday. Due to weather, the festival decided to postpone gates and unfortunately, ended up evacuating around 9:30. It was a bummer that the day time/afternoon ended up being sunny and gorgeous, but after receiving a follow up email from Governor’s Ball on Monday it is clear they were tracking the storm and had expected it to hit earlier. Overall, more bummed than angry since the festival had our best interests in mind – they can’t control the weather. I could complain a little about the age of the crowd and the amount of alcohol they consumed (shout out the girl who threw up on my friend! Hope you got to the medic tent okay, please hydrate.) but that would make me seem old and I’m not ready to accept that yet.

BUT BACK TO THE POSITIVES – there were so many! What is more positive than food? This festival may be my top choice food-wise so far. I didn’t eat anything the whole weekend that I didn’t love. They had food choices for absolutely everybody – burgers, pizza, doughnuts, bagels, ice cream, vegan options, fried chicken, you get the point. Honorary shout outs go to Home Frite (fries and chicken wings), Beyond Sushi (vegan and vegetarian sushi!), and John’s Juice (non-alcoholic juice served in watermelons, coconuts, and pineapples). But let me talk about one thing that changed my life. Ramen. Burgers. Never in my life have I bitten in to something so beautiful, so delicious, that I immediately had to sit down and laugh (literally, I almost choked because I could not stop giggling). If you are a foodie – this festival might be worth it for the food alone. 

Credit: Ramen Burger Instagram @RamenBurger

And finally, the activities outside of music. There were definitely plenty of photo-op spots throughout the festival. Huge murals with different art and artists on each side. A beautiful memorial for beloved Mac Miller. Balloon arches that crossed the whole festival grounds that you were allowed to carry the ends to. A glass mirror maze that sprayed super pretty colors over the grass. Each piece of art had clear credit to the artist – an art school graduate I appreciate that a ton. 

Lil Wayne performing on the Bacardi stage at Governors Ball 2019
Lil Wayne
Credit: Kaitlyn Rafferty

People truly treated this as a place-to-be festival as well with their fashion. I must have turned to my friends once every 15 minutes saying “LOOK AT THAT OUTFIT” “WAIT NO LOOK AT THOSE PANTS!!” over and over and over. People came to DRESS. But on June 1st, they went above and beyond and threw a mini-pride celebration inside the festival. There were rainbow beer cans, a mini parade, drag queens, and the works!

So… some final thoughts on my first (but definitely not last) Gov Ball experience. First, you should go, and don’t wait as long as I did to do so. Not only will you be in a gorgeous park with a view of the city, you’ll find yourself with an incredible line up, eating amazing food, and enjoying every second you’re in the festival. If you’re looking for a festival that cares about every last detail of the fan experience, including sincerely owning up to the weather feedback within 24 hours of the festival closing, this is the place. Nothing but love for my first Gov Ball experience.

Brockhampton performing on the main stage at Governors Ball 2019
Credit: Kaitlyn Rafferty

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