Governors Ball 2011

My Experience at Governors Ball

So finally the day arrived. Saturday, June 18, 2011. The inaugural Governors Ball Music Festival featuring plenty of electronic, dance, and hip-hop acts to keep everyone dancing for the whole 12 hours. The event took place at Governors Island in New York, and for those who aren’t familiar with the venue, it’s an island with large, open fields that are perfect for these sort of events.

My friends and I decided to hit up the diner prior to the event, figuring it’ll be nice to get a full meal in before paying $10 for cheese-steaks on the island. I also had a coffee plus five Cafe Patron shots to keep me awake throughout the entire day. We were running a little late and didn’t hit the ferry line until around 1 p.m. I have to admit, compared to last year’s Passion Pit / Tokyo Police Club show at the same venue, the ferries moved at a much quicker pace this time around. I think we only waited for about ten to fifteen minutes before boarding a ferry. After a short ride, we walked through the entrance and took in the festival grounds.

Right in front of us was the merchandise tent. Jazz and I bought the colorful, plastic sunglasses with Governors Ball printed on the side. We were surrounded by food and beer vendors. It was like I was in heaven. In the distance, Passion Pit’s DJ set was going on and people were already dancing. Instead of watching, we explored the grounds and got ourselves acquainted with where everything was. We located the basketball and volleyball courts, the two main stages, and a few meeting points in case we all get separated (since there was almost no reception throughout the day).

Finally, it was time to watch some performances. First was a hip-hop duo called Das Racist. Since we weren’t too familiar with them, we stayed for a few songs before departing for the volleyball courts. We jumped on the court and started playing a few games. There’s nothing like playing some drunken volleyball with even drunker people.

Once we got our v-ball fix out of the way, it was time for Mac Miller and his high-energy, hip-hop performance singing about girls, alcohol, and weed. He even said that the best thing about these type of festivals is that you can smoke all the weed you want. Even though I wasn’t too familiar with all of his songs, his set was very entertaining and the crowd was definitely into him. I left after he played my favorite track “Knock Knock” for more beer.

This was the portion of the festival when we didn’t really want to see anyone in particular. We had a few hours to kill, and mostly everyone took that time to lay on the grass and relax (or nap). While my group was sleeping, I took that time to venture to the basketball courts, shot around a bit and eventually played a pick-up 2-on-2 game (which we won 11-9). Not going to lie, I immediately regretted the decision to play basketball when I returned to my group. As they were well-rested and ready to tackle the remainder of the festival, I was exhausted with two jammed fingers. But I sucked it up and continued on.

Empire of the Sun took the stage around 8 p.m. and boy, they were not what I expected. They were one of the only bands to play throughout the day, but their style of rock blended with electronic and beats to dance to fit perfectly in. What surprised me with was how weird their stage presence was. The singer was wearing blue tights from neck to toe, there were a number of dancers who frequently had costume changes, and then psychedelic videos playing on the large screen behind the band. But through all of the glamor, they sounded great and people were having a fun time listening to them. I have to admit I felt a little bad leaving early to get a good spot for Girl Talk, but I’m sure I’ll see Empire of the Sun sooner or later.

GIRL TALK! This was the third (maybe fourth?) time seeing Gregg Gillis and his mash-up performance. Why do I keep coming back to a relatively similar show so often? Because it’s simply one of the most fun live experiences I’ve had through all my years of attending concerts. It’s hard to explain the joy of dancing to his mash-ups with thousands of other people while being bombarded with confetti, beach balls, and being blinded by a spectacular light show. This show was no different and Girl Talk completely raged for 90 minutes. I have to say that the two moments when the crowd went the craziest is when Girl Talk sampled Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.” Like usual, Gregg put on one amazing show. Can’t wait to see him again.

After Girl Talk, my group had to locate everyone and catch our breath. Because of this, we were at the very back of the crowd for Pretty Lights, but that didn’t matter to me. Pretty Lights (Derek Smith) put one one hell of a show. With his insane stage set-up illuminating the entire crowd with stunning visuals, strobes, and (pretty) lights, I haven’t been this amazed as a light-show since seeing the Electric Parade in Disney World as a five-year-old. Oh, and he had some impressive beats and rhythms that had his fans dancing non-stop. I wish I could’ve stayed longer, but we decided to get an early jump on the ferry to get home.

Is it too soon to say that Governors Ball was the best concert of the entire year? Well, so far it is for me and I doubt this can be topped. As for the whole experience, for the most part everything went smoothly. The only complaint I would say was how they marketed the event as one with “no over-lapping sets,” but with only a few minutes in-between sets and about a five minute walk, you were going to miss some of the next artist’s music. Oh, and that if you didn’t leave the current stage early for a good spot on the next stage, you were stuck all the way in the back behind the beer tents. These complaints didn’t take away from the amazing time I had, it’s just an observation that could possibly be fixed for next year (hopefully!).

Oh, and I guess another gripe would be how expensive the food and beer was, but I doubt that will change. There was only two types of beer all event long: Magic Hat 12 oz. can for $7 or SixPoint Sweet Action 16 oz. can for $9. Somehow towards the end, I bought a four-pack of the SixPoint for $32. Score… but yeah, I spent $110 on beer + one cheese-steak. Yowzaas!

Once more, kudos to the job done for the Governors Ball Music Festival. When I first bought the tickets, I thought a $90 admission fee was steep, but now I realize that it was just the right amount to pay for a memorable concert. Can’t wait until next year!

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