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Words / JoAnn Zhang

Photos / Josh Sobel, N. Bradley, Sophie Harris, Anna Downs

(Chappel Roan, by N. Bradley)

Highlights of the 2024 Governer’s Ball? The unexpected smash hits in the lineup (Chappell Roan, ahem), the bright, breezy weather, the crowd control, the food (hot tips below). Lowlights— or slight cons, according to some festival-goers? A smaller roster of stars compared with recent years, and the choice of The Killers over 21 Savage for Saturday’s headline (controversial take, I know!).

Chappell Roan knocked my socks off— literally. I danced so much, I gave myself blisters. Often it feels awkward to dance to a song you don’t know, but I’d never heard so much as a lyric before her Sunday set, and I was utterly captivated by her drag-queen-esque dramatics and the shared energy of the crowd— it was like we were part of one giant dancing body. When she sang “HOTTOGO,” the entire crowd put up their arms to spell out the letters like a cunty YMCA. And she didn’t just walk onstage– she rode inside a giant apple, and emerged painted green in full Statue of Liberty getup, while smoking a blunt. Can you spell (with your arms) ICONIC? She wasn’t all glitz, either. She made two strikingly brave statements about justice onstage. She called for freedom for people “in occupied territories,” seeming to reference Israel’s war and colonization of Palestine. She also told the crowd that the White House had invited her to perform for PRIDE, but that she’d turned them down. “We want liberty, justice, and freedom for all. When you do that, that’s when I’ll come,” she announced, to massive cheers. Don’t you love a pop star with a backbone?

(P1Harmony, by N. Bradley)

Other outstanding acts included SZA, who had the crowd alternating between tears and twerking. Her performance, which included machetes, a wrecking ball, and a poignant sunrise in the backdrop, was an uninterrupted force of drama, dance, and beautiful song. Post Malone let a teary fan sing “Stay” onstage with him while the audience sang/wailed along below, hugging each other and swapping cigarettes. Faye Webster didn’t have to say or do much, with her natural fey swagger, to get the crowd in hysterics. Yung Gravy and Dominic Fike, on the other hand, really put it on for the crowd, though in antipodal ways, with Gravy handing out roses, cereal, and water, and Fike seemingly taking pot shots at Post Malone by calling him a pop artist. During his set, Fike, with great acrobatic grace, flung himself about the stage in the throes of his music, pausing to opine that New York had the most beautiful women in the world, and to claim that he gave up cigarettes to prepare for his Gov Ball set. Hard sacrifices, Dominic.

(Yung Gravy, by Josh Sobel)

This Gov Ball was my first, so I sourced opinions from native New Yorkers (and New Jerseyers) about whether the crowd control had actually improved this year. While I spotted a few swooning individuals getting fireman-carried out of the crowd, according to longtime Gov Ballers, the crowd control has markedly improved from previous years. The improvement was seemingly thanks to efforts on all fronts; Don Toliver paused his set to ask the crowd to move back, and Yung Gravy handed out snacks and water. During the 21 Savage set, a man pushing out of the crowd fell unconscious, and several audience members jumped in to help him onto his feet and to guide him out. 

(Kevin Abstract, by Anna Downs)

If you want to stay on your feet and survive the fight to the front of the crowd, you’ve got to fuel up. The food options at an all-day festival are of utmost importance. Yes, the lines are long. Yes, it’s all expensive. But here are the eats most worthy of your time and money (IMO). John’s Juice, a fresh-juice stand that serves their juice inside either a mini watermelon or pineapple, is a Gov Ball staple, highly Instagrammable, and is a goblet of Eden on a hot festival day. Plus, you get refills for only two bucks— it’s great value. I loved the chicken tenders and fries from Fuku— the fries had some barbecue-chip-esque seasoning— and the sandwich, while good, did not come with fries, so be warned, potato-lovers. Among the many burger options at the festival, the burger from Gotham Burger Social Club was the top dog for me, and it contained pickled jalapeños (+100 points for that).

(Faye Webster, by Sophie Harris)

I and some other festival goers had a bone to pick– or perhaps to query about– concerning Saturday’s setlist, which gave The Killers the biggest time slot of the day. The Killers attracts an older crowd than 21 Savage, so as a Gen Z-er, I am biased— but it would seem that 21 Savage, being the more popular artist according to his current Spotify stream numbers, should have the bigger slot— particularly due to his popularity with the typical Gov Ball teens-and-twenties demographic. But The Killers’ headline spot seemed to successfully attract an older demographic not typically out in numbers at Gov Ball. It was probably a sound business decision— it just didn’t appeal to my taste in sound.

(Post Malone, by N. Bradley)

Maybe that difference in audience is to blame, but it also seemed there were fewer big names than in previous years. One Gov Ball attendee remembered her previous Gov Balls more fondly, telling me, “One year I went and they had Tyler the Creator, Brockhampton, and Lil Wayne all in one day.” 

Still, this year, enthralling performances from headliners and on-the-rise artists alike provided the rare treat of discovering new favorites at a music festival. The weather was right, the food was scrumptious, and the music was bumping— what more could a girl ask for?


(21 Savage, by Josh Sobel)




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