“A fan on Reddit once asked ‘why do you guys always choose the rainiest weekend of the year for the festival,’ an ex-festival employee told me backstage. “But it’s always been the first weekend in June, nothing more than that. We just always have bad luck.” Of course, history repeats itself, as the gates for the final day of Governors Ball 2019 were delayed several hours due to storms, only for the island to be evacuated after only a handful of rescheduled sets.
The impending storms were an omnipresent cloud that hung over Randall’s Island for the entirety of the weekend, with showers the day before the festival leaving the field saturated, muddy, and difficult to maneuver. But the threat of weather very rarely took away from the always-diverse musical lineup that took charge of the small island off the coast of eastern Manhattan, featuring one of Tyler, The Creator’s first live performances of tracks from his new No. 1 album Igor and Brockhampton’s earth-shattering first show of 2019.
Overall, the weekend was jam-packed with great music, all with the backdrop of the beautiful Manhattan skyline. Although Sunday’s evacuation meant the cancellation of anticipated sets from both SZA and The Strokes, here are some of the weekend’s standout performances.
Florence & The Machine
Spinning and frolicking across the stage for nearly two hours as a festival headliner is no easy feat, but it is one for which Florence Welch has become known over the last few years. Her band was as tight as ever, an always-impressive backing accompaniment for the English musician, with the music and woman together perfectly embodying the word whimsical. “American women, you deserve so much better!” she chanted early in the set, to deafening cheers from the festival’s mostly teenaged crowd. Although Florence & The Machine seemed an odd choice to headline a festival with such a young demographic, the large crowd became quickly entranced with and charmed by the British powerhouse, sticking it out through the end of the evening with an inspired rendition “Shake It Out.”
With his inhaler in his back pocket, Vince Staples took the Honda Stage for a late-afternoon set without a care in the world. For nearly an hour, he balanced cuts from his latest effort, 2018’s FM! with well-received tracks from Big Fish Theory and Summertime ’06, somehow managing to put together an absolutely invigorating show without seeming to put in an ounce of effort — it’s actually very endearing and cool! At one point, a wig covered in mud began bouncing around atop the crowd, prompting the California hip-hop maven to stop the show entirely and ask them to toss it on-stage. “This is the grossest sh*t I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said as he prodded at the ball of mess.
Somewhere between the release of Puberty 2 and 2018’s monstrous Be The Cowboy, Mitski stopped playing “concerts.” Instead, the shows became just that: shows — theatrical performances that embody the best parts of concert, performance art, and dance recital. Atop a white table at center-stage in the late afternoon, Mitski showed off her impressive choreography, seamlessly translating her intimate stage show to one of the least intimate settings in the live music industry and making for one of the most memorable performances of the weekend. Perhaps one day, Mitski’s Be The Cowboy tour will be remembered in the same vein as Stop Making Sense.
As perfectly curated and egocentric as we’ve come to expect (and maybe even love?), Matty Healy and co. brought the hits to a beautiful golden hour set that left me also wondering, “is The 1975 a rock band?” With tongue-in-cheek visuals including critical press quotes of their work, Healy made the set all about him, begging the crowd to keep cheering to make himself feel loved. All that said, the band sounded absolutely impeccable, turning casual fans into stans with their impressive live sound and non-stop energy. Healy even took time to echo his sentiments about the importance of female empowerment, before launching into a song with the first lines, “We’re f*cking in a car, shooting heroin / saying controversial things just for the hell of it,” which I found only slightly ironic.
What’s left to say about Queen Kacey? As soon as she walked onto the main Gov Ball stage surprisingly early in the afternoon, it was clear that she has the whole world wrapped around her finger. The crowd stretched as far as the eye could see, filled with cowboy hats and rainbow flags, welcoming the arrival of Pride Month in New York City and going absolutely ballistic when Musgraves stepped onto the stage. “I don’t even know what f*cking time it is!” she exclaimed, just back in the States from a trip to Australia and Japan. “But we’re gonna have some fun.” Still in celebration mode on the heels of her surprise Album Of The Year win at the Grammys earlier this year, tracks from Golden Hour received incredible amounts of excitement, with the crowd at times singing even louder than the massive PA system project Musgraves’ pitch-perfect voice across the field.
When I saw Brockhampton in Detroit in early 2018, it was immediately clear that they were going to take over the world. Other than the release of Kevin Abstract’s Arizona Baby back in April, Brockhampton has been more or less silent since the conclusion of the Iridescence tour in late 2018. But that didn’t seem to matter to the thousands that gathered at the Gov Ball stage for the Hardest Working Boy Band In Show Business who roared as the group’s most gifted singer Bearface mounted a crane that took him across the whole crowd for an opening rendition of “Summer” before the entire group emerged from a metal plane for their most fun song, “Boogie.” Brockhampton is officially back, and it’s feeling more and more likely that they’ll have a new album before year’s end.
Tyler The Creator
Sure, his merch sold out within two hours of gates opening — it always does. But those that couldn’t get their hands on the limited Igor merch had more time to race to the Gov Ball stage to wait for Tyler The Creator. With one of the biggest crowds of the weekend, Tyler emerged in his yellow suit and blonde bob wig for one of the first live performances of Igor tracks since the album’s release in mid-May, quickly turning the mass of bodies into a frenzied dance party.
After a few Igor cuts, the Odd Future mastermind escaped backstage for a quick costume change into his classic shorts, button-down Golf tee, and hat. With the stripping of the more self-serious Igor persona came the more rebellious Tyler we’ve come to know and love. “You guys have the worst seats in the house,” he admonished of the high-paying VIP spectators off to the side of the stage. “Enjoy the next five seconds because I’m going back over here and you won’t ever see me again.”
With a career-spanning setlist, Tyler’s headlining set also gave him an opportunity to acknowledge his past and play cuts like “Yonkers” and “Tamale,” tracks that he for the most part would avoid during performances in support of Flower Boy, widely acknowledged to be his first truly mature record. Finally, Tyler is ready to embrace his past and build upon it, and the Igor era is a very promising look at what’s to come from the young creator.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.