Over the years Randall’s Island has been home to many events, both big and small. However, in recent years there has been one event that has stood out among the rest. This festival of course being Governors Ball! Three days of music, activities, great food, and friends. Each year Gov Ball, as it is affectionately known, keeps tweaking little things from the food and activities, to big things such as the lineup, allowing it to get better and better each year. Gov ball takes place on Randall’s Island just east of Manhattan, giving it an ideal setting for both a festival and the surrounding days of the festival. With no further ado, allow me to give you a comprehensive look at what makes this awesome East Coast festival tick.
Related: Festival Essentials
This year there were several different ways to travel to Gov Ball. The first of which was a subway/bus combination. You could take the 4, 5, or 6 uptown to 125th Street. Once there, people were switching to the x80 express bus located at 125th and Lexington Avenue which dropped you off directly at the festival. The second way of getting there was by far the quickest, and in my opinion, the fastest. This route consisted of hopping on the Manhattan Ferry at 35th street and FDR Drive. Not only was this method of transportation the fastest but it provided an incredible view of the Manhattan skyline traveling both to and from the festival. If you were coming from Brooklyn there were also shuttle services provided. The Brooklyn shuttle was picking people up from the Brooklyn Bowl located at N. 12th Street and Wythe. The last option when traveling to the festival was also the cheapest, walking or riding your bike. Festival goers could travel to Randall’s Island by foot or bike from Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens by taking the RFK Triborough Bridge.
Also Read: What is Governors Ball?
Once you arrived at the festival gate, there were a few steps needed to be taken before actually entering the festival. Festival goers arriving by ferry had to check in and get a ferry shuttle bracelet allowing them to use the ferry on the return trip back to Manhattan. After this was taken care of, everyone started to file toward the entrance. A new feature this year to Gov Ball was the ticketless entry. This year each festival goer was mailed a wristband that contained a RFID chip. This wristband would provide that person access to the festival for the days they purchased tickets. To enter the festival all that needed to be done was simply to scan your wrist band at the entrance. Once through security that’s where the fun really began!
This year’s festival layout was extremely similar to previous years. Upon entering the festival, you walked into a central meeting space. To the left was both the Honda and Big Apple stage. To the right was the Gotham Tent, silent disco, specialty bars, food trucks, and the GOVBALLNYC stage. Between the Honda stage and the Big Apple stage there was another central meeting spot around an enormous statue of liberty sculpture along with a variety of lawn games for festival goers to enjoy. When heading towards the main stage, (which is the main stage?) there was a similar set up with lawn games as well as a big circle of tents selling merchandise, food, and beverages. Many festival goers were using this space to lay out a blanket, avoid the crowds by the stages and enjoy some fun in the sun with friends.
One huge highlight for me this year had to be the food selection. I have been to plenty of festivals over the years all providing their fair share of food options, but NOTHING has compared to the options given at Gov Ball. Not only was grub I indulged in fantastic, but the selection catered to all audiences and provided all sorts of styles and flavors. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options were also provided! Food providers for this year included Luke’s Lobster, Burger Joint New York, Café Habana, Mighty Quinn’s, Greenpoint Fish and Lobster Co., Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Tres Carnes, Ramen Burger, Papaya King, Kimchi Taco, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, Asia Dog, Davey’s Ice Cream, Coco & Co, Jacks Sliders and Sushi, and much much more. For a full list of food options, either to find that awesome eat you experienced or to find more delightful selections, feel free to check them all out here. If you came to the festival full and were looking to quench your thirst instead, fear not, there were also great beverage choices. Beverage options include beer and wine of all types, specialty coconut water out of an actual coconut (Coco & Co.), Hippie Dips fruit smoothies, Brooklyn Soda Works, and much more. For those festival goers who needed something fast and simple Gov Ball also provided free water stations though out the entire festival grounds.
With the weather being questionable on Day 1 there was a lot of skeptical fans going in, but when the music started nothing else seemed to matter. Rae Sremmurd got the GOVBALLNYC Stage real hyped with his performance. They may have gotten a little too hyped though, as mid performance Slim Jimmy tried to hop onto a speaker from the stage and slipped and badly cut his leg. Continuing through the day Gorgon City rocked the Gotham Tent as Charli XCX followed on the Honda Stage. The night began, funk duo Chromeo took to the GOVBALLSTAGE to give an amazing performance. Mid performance the crowd was surprised as Vampire Weekends front man Ezra Koenig walked onto stage to join the duo for a song. As the night fell other great artists continue to please the crowd such as ODESZA, The Decemberists, and RATATAT. As Florence and the Machine finished their amazing performance the crowd grew from large to huge. The end of the night was here and the one and only Drake took to the stage. He performed a power packed set and even getting the crowd to scream out the lyrics to “Know Yourself” as the stage exploded with smoke and sparks. Needless to say, night 1 set the bar high for the rest of the weekend!
Day 2 was upon us, the sun finally was breaking through the clouds and festival goers were pouring into the gates fast. When the sun reached its high point in the sky, people began to lay down their blankets, pick up some lawn games, snag a free Slurpee, and visit the food trucks. The early birds began to stroll around the festival as they eagerly awaited the start to the music. The afternoon got rolling with Holychild, ASTR, and Clean Bandit, but the real boom was Rustie in the Gotham Tent. This was my second year at the festival and this is by far the wildest I have seen that tent get that early in the day. The Gotham Tent was packed as Rustie threw down some beats and the crowd began to party. Following his act was Marina and The Diamonds at the Main stage jamming out to a packed crowd under the sun. To bring us into the evening, Kiesza blew the speakers off the Gotham Tent. Her dance moves and hits had so many viewers that the tent was overflowing. The sun set Little Dragon, Atmosphere, Future Islands and Bjork led the way(go in depth here). Bjork created an incredible experience for the audience, bringing out her own orchestra to join her. Once sun finally set for the day, Flume took to the Big Apple Stage and played one of the most creative and mood altering sets I have ever experienced. The fields were still a little wet from the previous day’s rain, but that didn’t stop the fans from packing the stage to enjoy his creativity. The night drew to a close and the sky was completely black, Deadmau5 took the stage. He ebuting his brand new stage set up at Gov Ball and it sure was a spectacle. The performance started slow as he had some technical difficulties with his set up but recovered and finished strong. His stage started as almost a sphere surrounded by a larger sphere or cage. As the set continued the spheres and circular elements started to peel away until the crowd was just left with the DJ booth and the Mau5 head. As the clock ticked down it was clear that the fans were very divided between Deadmau5 and Ryan Adams. Both stages were extremely crowded and a good amount of fans stayed to the very end. As far as weather and music, Day 2 was the perfect environment for any festival goer.
Last but certainly not least comes Sunday Day 3, the weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky compared to previous days. Compared to the first two days the festival it wasn’t too crowded, it was easy to get around. Over at the Honda stage was Canadian “FOOLS GOLD” A-Trak. He played a killer set with all favorites like is collab with Tommy Trash – Tuna Melt, which pumped up the crowd with his collab. with Milo & Otis. Up is next is, “Out The Speakers”, and everyone’s favorite — “Push (feat. Andrew Wyatt)”. He played a solid 40 min set because there was some technical difficulties with the sound system but his dedicated fans still stood by and waited for the sound to come back on. Moving along to the Gotham Tent for “Weird Al” Yankovic — promoting his new album “Mandatory Fun” out now on iTunes. The tent was packed because of all the people, the crowd expanded out to the field. People with their blankets started to dance as Weird Al played crowd favorite “Word Crimes”and “Tacky”. As we make ways back to the Honda Stage for Colorado’s weed loving Big Gigantic. Playing all kinds of favorites with their saxophone, drum & bass tunes like — “Get em High’, Touch The Sky, Tell Me, Aloe Blacc – I Need A Dollar (Big G remix), Sky High, and everyone’s favorite “Blue Dream”. Finishing off the Honda stage, was the gorgeous and talented Lana Del Ray. Completing the festival were grammy winning The Black Keys. Frontman Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney energized the crowd, beginning with “Dead and Gone” and finishing with “Lonely Boy,'” and “Little Black Submarine” — all tracks off their seventh studio album, El Camino. There were plenty of other favorite tunes including another Camino track — “Gold on the Ceiling,” “Fever” from Turn Blue, “Next Girl,” and “Howling For You” — both from Brothers. Colored lights were flashing as they closed the festival with their incredible headlining set.
Governor’s Ball is one of the best music festivals that NYC offers to the community. Introducing old and new acts, reaching all parts of the musical genres. Boasted a heavy electronic lineup compared to previous iterations, sporting the likes of Getter, Hot Chip, SBTRKT, A-Trak, and plenty more. The 5th edition of the NYC music festival was massive success. Can’t wait to see what Governor’s Ball 2016 has in store for us.