Because it’s not just about the music
East coast, west coast rivalry dies once music fests come into play. Point: West coast. But you might sense a shift in this monopoly over the next few years. Last weekend, New York’s Governors Ball proved that it had this music festival thing down in just its second year. The most logical complaint is that the fest was a little too neatly-packaged – excruciating lines and heat strokes are what make Coachella so special, right? At Gov’s, the biggest setback amounted to a few shimmering rain drops during Beck’s finale set, which, noted by the singer, became roughly magical.
This is all to say that in turning Randall’s Island into a two–day playground for fans of Major Lazer and Fiona Apple alike, those in charge of the festival were smashingly successful.
Stretched over two days and two sets and one East River banked island, the entire event was structured around constant movement (this was a blessing in that the crowd who showed up solely for Diplo and Duck Sauce left the grounds after Saturday). Crowds gently dissipated toward the other stage near the end of each set, giving everyone a dose of air and space that kept morale high throughout the weekend. Some complained that this strategy ensured that if you stuck around until the end of one set, you’d earn yourself a subpar spot at the next. But with a relatively restrained (dare I say, polite?) audience, the competition was hardly cutthroat.
And as alcohol was technically prohibited, certain concertgoers chose to BYO. Surprisingly, though, this laid back approach wasn’t immediately abused — that is, not ruined for the next generation of ‘ballers, you’re welcome. The Foster’s oil cans for sale were a permanent fixture in most hands, but the weekend never turned into a shit show. Smoking was casual and indiscrete, though less pervasive than you might expect.
Gov Ball had two other important features (aside from the music). A slew of random divergences served to enliven the music weary, a series of drop-dead delicious food trucks to refuel them. I won’t waste time talking about the lawn games and the silent disco (who comes to a music fest to play croquet, and/or to wear headphones?), but they did contribute to the playful, none-too-serious atmosphere at the festival’s grassy fields. The food, though, was serious. Suffice it to say that taste buds I never knew existed blossomed in my mouth. It’ll be hard to top that next year.
Gov Ball knows its audience remarkably well (how else could you explain the near perfect divide of musical acts between Saturday and Sunday?), and appeased them accordingly over the weekend. Such knowledge led to a laissez-faire ambience which kept anxiety at bay. And that’s exactly how it should be – I don’t want to lose my marbles waiting in line for a porta-potty. I want to lose them screaming, “WHERE IT’S AT!” alongside Beck. And I did.