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A day-by-day review of the Governors Ball Music Festival

<h6>Davina Thompson / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Davina Thompson / The Daily Princetonian

Saturday

By Claire Shin

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Contributing Prospect writer Claire Shin at the Governors Ball.
Courtesy of Ruth Lee

Headliners: A$AP Rocky and J Balvin

Notable Performers: Megan Thee Stallion, Pink Sweat$, Phoebe Bridgers, Aminé

Featuring relatively new yet explosive stars like Pink Sweat$ and Megan Thee Stallion, the lineup for Saturday’s Governors Ball music festival (Gov Ball) was exciting for hardcore R&B and hip-hop fans and interested spectators alike.

One difficult aspect was the horrendous crowding. I think Gov Ball sold too many tickets. My friend and I left Pink Sweat$ an hour early so that we could get a good view of one of our favorite artists, Megan Thee Stallion. Given the growing size of the crowds, I had a sneaking suspicion that an hour wouldn’t be enough; I was right.

We managed to grab decent spots, but it was clear that many festival-goers were rather determined to get a good view of one of 2021’s most popular rappers. They pushed past us and made our area in the front-to-middle section of the crowd much more packed, to the extent that my friend had to leave due to claustrophobia.

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Shortly after the performance, the crowding got so bad that we decided it would be better to just leave the festival before headliners A$AP Rocky and J Balvin, who were bound to draw even more people, arrived.

However, I never attended a performance I didn’t like. I loved them all so much that it almost overshadowed the general unpleasantness of the rest of the experience.

I’m so grateful I ran into rising pop-punk star Sarah Barrios at the GrubHub stage in the morning; I got her songs stuck in my head shortly after, and I’ll definitely be checking out her music later.

We also marveled at Charlotte Lawrence’s voice, which seemed optimized for Lawrence’s typically depressing ballads but could also soar and belt whenever appropriate. I almost cried during her performance of an unreleased song called “Bodybag.”

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The sibling DJ duo The Brothers Macklovitch provided a great place for dance music that wasn’t so bass-heavy that we felt obligated to jump, but not so soft as to be boring. 

The performance from Pink Sweat$ was top-notch, especially the talented band members and Pink Sweat$’ soulful high belts. Needless to say, I’ve been successfully converted to a Pink Sweat$ fan.

The three-time Grammy winner Megan Thee Stallion was almost 20 minutes late, though this was forgotten the moment she stepped onto the stage — to echo the words of the hippies behind me, “Hot girls are always late!” I loved the performance itself; Megan’s many talents never cease to amaze me, from her solid, self-confident tone to her dancing skills.

Holistically, Gov Ball 2021 was not a very good experience, even with all the planning and foresight that I invested into our trip. A good 75 percent of the festival was waiting while the other 25 percent was the actual artist performances. In between performances, especially during the evening, we had to endure a great deal of crowding, and it was dangerous to move anywhere. To make matters worse, hardly anyone was wearing a mask.

To be fair, I think this is something that most seasoned music festival-goers expect. They stick through the hours of idle standing because it really is wiped away by the magic of hearing artists perform. And as I screamed the lyrics to “Body” by Megan Thee Stallion, shimmying back and forth and pumping my arms in the air in sheer hype, I found myself feeling the same way.

Sunday

By Davina Thompson

Post Malone performing at Governors Ball.
Davina Thompson / The Daily Princetonian

Headliner: Post Malone 

Notable Performers: 21 Savage, Burna Boy, Princess Nokia, Dominic Fike, Young Thug, Special Guest: Roddy Rich

Sunday was a thrilling day for music enthusiasts as a diverse array of artists beautifully closed out Gov Ball 2021. From Afrobeats with Burna Boy and Amaarae to rap with Post Malone, there was truly something for everyone. For Sunday’s review of Gov Ball, I will focus on the crowd energy, artist stage presence, and my overall experience of the festival. 

Amaarae, an alternative artist, was the first stop of the day after some friends with whom I was navigating wanted to check her out. Though I wasn’t familiar with her music, I found myself bobbing to “Fancy,” which was an interesting mix of Afropop and indie. She kept the crowd mesmerized with her relaxed stage presence and lyricism. 

After Amaarae, my friends and I decided to grab a quick meal of overpriced chicken tenders and mediocre pork tacos. That would be our only meal of the day, as the rest of our time was filled with waiting in large crowds or vibing to music.

After eating, we were off to see Princess Nokia, a breakout artist with the hit songs “I Like Him” and “Tomboy.” Princess Nokia brought sporadic bursts of energy, with high and low moments. She rapped and danced through multiple wardrobe malfunctions that ranged from difficulty removing her tearaway pants to several nip slips. At the end of her set, she expressed gratitude for being back in New York performing for fans. Her backup dancers were a highlight for me, as they performed West African-inspired dance moves to Princess Nokia’s classic “Brujas.” 

Burna Boy, a Nigerian rapper and singer, continued the West African ambiance with his charismatic and playful dance moves. Burna Boy’s energetic cadence offered a fresh sound of Afropop/Afrorap that attracted a very large audience of fans and curious spectators. However, I left halfway through Burna Boy’s set to get a good spot for alternative/rap/rock artist Dominic Fike. 

Fike’s performance was one of my favorites throughout my day. His versatility captivated fans with every song, and his stage presence felt comforting and welcoming — especially with songs like “She Wants My Money” and “Vampire.” I sang along to his songs and enjoyed his live rendition of “3 nights,” which he performed twice during his set. Dominic looked delighted as he performed and cracked a few jokes during his set.

After an exhilarating time with Dominic Fike, the crowd quickly dispersed and made their way across the festival grounds to the main stage for the highly anticipated artist 21 Savage. However, the mood changed from excitement to annoyance as 30 minutes passed and 21 Savage was nowhere to be seen. Speculation about his arrest days prior on charges related to his 2019 ICE arrest circulated through the confused crowd. The crowd expressed their irritation through a series of sporadic boos, at one point shouting “fuck 21” in unison. 

However, the atmosphere quickly shifted when 21 Savage finally came on stage, an hour and 20 minutes after his set time, rapping a fan-favorite: “Red Opps.” The sighs and grunts turned into screams and head nods as the crowd rapped along to “10 Freaky Girls” and “Bankaccount.” With no acknowledgment of his lateness, 21 Savage quickly went through his set in 25 minutes, only mentioning that “they [the organizers of Gov Ball] cut my set short.”

For the last set of the night, my friends and I stood in the same spot for over an hour to get a good view of the headliner artist. As we waited with hundreds of fans, multiple people were hauled out of the tightly packed crowd for passing out. After a third person dropped, Gov Ball staff started to hand out water to exhausted and agitated fans.

After we had been waiting for an hour, Post Malone came out — 20 minutes past his set time — with a bang that some would say “Wow”(ed) the crowd. He engaged the audience throughout the night, at one point even responding to a crowd chant calling for him to chug the drink that he brought on stage. Malone exceeded expectations by performing a mix of his hype songs, like “Better Now” and “Circles,” and acoustic songs like “Stay.” Later in the night, Malone brought out guest performers Young Thug, 21 Savage, and Roddy Rich, who performed his hit song “The Box.” Malone ended the night by thanking fans, noting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on performances, and closing with his song “Congratulations,” accompanied by fireworks.  

Claire Shin is a Contributing Writer for The Prospect at the 'Prince.' She can be reached at claireshin@princeton.edu, on Instagram and TikTok at @claireshin86

Davina Thompson is a Contributing Writer for The Prospect at the 'Prince.' She can be reached at davinathompson@princeton.edu, or on Instagram @davina.thom

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