The Governors Ball Music Festival brought the heat earlier this month as it returned to its typical June weekend (June 10-12, 2022) after briefly switching to a September date in 2021. The festival brought a packed, genre-blending lineup with something for everyone on each day. Despite a fickle weather forecast, sunshine persisted throughout the weekend, with just a few periodic drops of rain on Sunday. In case you couldn’t make the festival this year, here are our thoughts and photos from 14 sets at Governors Ball 2022 for you to live vicariously though.
Paris Texas (Barcadí Stage)
Paris Texas took the Barcadí Stage after Between Friends, and had a small but dedicated group of fans swarm the front in anticipation for their set. The duo opened with “CASINO” and “SITUATIONS” off their 2021 project ‘BOY ANONYMOUS,’ immediately hyping up the crowd. New songs were sprinkled throughout the set, which we can expect to hear again soon as the duo announced that they will be releasing their debut album in the foreseeable future (as predicted in our pre-show coverage!). The mosh was overwhelming yet exhilarating, and always hit the right beat drops. The duo closed their set with “FORCE OF HABIT,” and left fans craving more.
Samia (GOVBALLNYC Stage)
Despite growing up in L.A, Samia came to Governors Ball every year in high school — she even smoked weed at the festival for the first time. Of her set, she told the crowd, “It’s gonna be really sad most of the time, then moments of joy, then sad again.” Samia’s sentiment rang true, as though she sprinkled in some joyful tunes, most of her music tackles depressive topics. When she sang “Is There Something in the Movies?” she prefaced it with, “I’m so sorry to do this at 3pm.” Samia’s big stage presence filled the main stage with exuberance. As she let loose with unique dance moves, she paraded around barefoot in a fashion that seemed oddly coordinated yet also spontaneous – and we loved it. She performed a new song “Mad at Me,” which will be on her upcoming album (the name of which has yet to be announced). “Triptych” and “Big Wheel” were played back-to-back, sending attendees even deeper into their feels. She closed with a chilling rendition of “Maps” by Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, a perfect cover for her gentle yet piercing voice.
Black Pumas (GOVBALLNYC Stage) ★ DAY FAVORITE
With an abundance of solo acts on the lineup, Black Pumas did indeed bring some passion and vitality to the festival with a full band, including back-up singers and other instrumentals. Singer Eric Burton kicked off the set with 100 percent energy by jumping off the stage into the photo pit to sing to the crowd during their first song, “Next to You.” They came as a surprise on the lineup, but stuck out in a good way. Their stage presence and soul-infused music makes listeners feel surrounded by the sound, and their energy reverberated back and forth from the crowd to light up the festival. The group covered songwriter Rodriguez’s “Sugar Man,” which they also released a recorded version of on the expanded edition of their self-titled album. They closed with a special version of “Colors,” prolonging the end to showcase Burton’s powerful, harmonious vocals.
Kid Cudi (GOVBALLNYC Stage)
Cudi opened with “Tequila Shots” off his latest album and debuted his new song “Do What I Want” towards the end of his closing set. His set was a Project X-level moment for those who grew up listening to bangers of his, such as “Day N’ Nite” (which he surprisingly did not play), “REVOFEV,” and “Mr. Rager,” as well as for the younger teenagers who recently discovered his music. A few of his songs have gained traction on TikTok, extending his legacy to younger generations and making for a diverse crowd at his set. Ending his set with “Pursuit of Happiness,” a wave of both enthusiasm and nostalgia swept through the crowd. This quintessential classic provided an elite culmination to a perfectly executed set and lively festival day.
Valley (Gopuff Stage and Bud Light Seltzer Session) ★ DAY FAVORITE
Valley, a Toronto-based indie-pop band composed of the multitalented Rob Laska, Michael Brandolino, Alex Dimauro, and Karah James, made the most of an early set on a cloudy day and delivered an invigorating start to our Saturday morning. While their recorded music seems more relaxed, Valley’s energy triples in concert. The band drew a decent-sized audience and facilitated engagement from the crowd by having us sink to the floor and jump up during the beat drop during one of their tracks. Various band members covered a range of instruments onstage, which helped keep the set exciting and unpredictable. The band announced that they will be returning to New York next year and are working on a new album that’s “half-written” and “gonna be f—king great!”
Not only was this Valley’s “first time playing a festival this size,” but they got to play two sets as well! After their 1:30pm set on the Gopuff Stage, they also held an intimate Bud Light Seltzer Session at 6:00pm. Laska danced through the crowd during “Oh shit… are we in love?” — an upbeat song about accidentally stumbling into love quicker than expected. While both their sets had great energy, the personality of the later session definitely triumphed over their main set. I wasn’t too familiar with Valley before Governors Ball, but their stellar performances definitely made me a fan, and I’ve started exploring their discography since.
Unfortunately, my phone, ID, and credit cards got stolen out of my bag during their later set, which of course sent me into distress and a bit of a panic for the next hour or so.
Still Woozy (GOVBALLNYC Stage) ★ WEEKEND FAVORITE
Sven Gamsky, known by his stage name ‘Still Woozy,’ puts on such an incredible performance that it’s nearly impossible to not find yourself overflowing with joy at his set. Not only do his vocals sound just as good live as they do recorded, Gamsky and his band clearly have fun onstage together, which allows the crowd to reflect that same positive energy. The band took numerous dance breaks throughout his set, especially during the song “All Along” off his debut album If This Isn’t Nice I Don’t Know What Is, where him and bassist Tani (aka Legwurk) completely let loose with carefree moves across the stage. Though his album was just released last summer, the success of multiple singles over the past few years has built him a solid fan base. Everyone showed up to the GOVBALLNYC Stage ready to have a good time at his set. The vibes were impeccable and the crowd was respectful of one another, giving people room to jump and dance. Though songs like “Goodie Bag” and “Habit” gained more recognition and excitement from the crowd, there was never a dull moment. You could hear fans singing along throughout the entire set, as he truly has no bad songs.
Beyond being an incredibly entertaining performer, Gamsky was so kind when I was lucky enough to meet him in the media tent later that evening. In line with the chaos the weekend had in store, I met him after crying over my items getting stolen, and chatted while on hold with my credit card company. He expressed sympathy for my situation and helped turn a horrible moment into a more joyful memory.
Full disclosure: Still Woozy was quite literally #3 on my 2021 Spotify Wrapped, and I pretty much exclusively listened to his album for months after its release, so getting the chance to speak with him — especially at such a low point of the weekend — meant the world to me!
Joji (Gopuff Stage)
Joji put on an excellent show playing all his classic songs, including “Yeah Right,” “Like You Do,” and “Gimme Love.” While he’s strayed far from his YouTube roots, he still includes humor in his set and used his mic stand as a prop, dragging it around the stage in a comical manner. His visuals help facilitate the emotional experience his set moves attendees through, and he interacted with his band by moving throughout the stage into the keyboardist’s section on occasion. Joji closed with both an acoustic and classic rendition of “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK,” his most popular song that has amounted a near-billion streams on Spotify.
Flume (Gopuff Stage)
At this point, I was so stressed about my items getting stolen that I considered going home early to avoid getting lost in the dense crowds headed towards the subway at the end of the night. However, Flume was one of the sets I was most excited for, as I saw him in 2016 in Queens and at his 2017 Governors Ball set, which was incredible and exhilarating and something I needed to experience again. As I was deciding what to do with the rest of the night, I spotted someone who had become a bit of a meme between my best friend and I after he put me on his shoulders at Governors Ball 2019 during The 1975’s set. With nothing to lose at this point, I approached him to confirm that it was really him. Once his identity was confirmed, we were all sent into laughter and headed towards Flume’s set to recreate the memory. So, during “Insane,” I went up on his shoulders and had a reminiscent moment during the set of an artist I loved as a teenager. The nostalgia of Flume’s music is what makes his set so magical, as songs like “You & Me” are peak ‘2014 Tumblr’ vibes. Flume brought out various guests who were also on the festival lineup, including Kai, Laurel, and Tove Lo, to perform their features on his songs. Not only did this bring the excitement of guest appearances to his set, but it made his set extra special as it added live vocals during to an EDM set.
Halsey (GOVBALLNYC Stage)
Halsey came to the festival eight years ago — the same day that she was signed — and then played on a side stage in 2018. Headlining Governors Ball has been a dream of Halsey’s since she was a teenager, so this was a special performance for both her and her fans. Her visuals appeared to be themed around her pregnancy, which is on par for her pattern of using art to represent life events or themes in her music (i.e., creating the immersive ‘BADLANDS’ experience around her first album). Her vocals were crisp, and she tackled a beautiful cover of “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush before closing with her hit single “Without Me” and “I am not a woman, I’m a god” off her latest album.
COIN (Gopuff Stage)
COIN brightened up a cloudy morning with an enthusiastic set that delivered exactly what was expected of an exuberant boy-band like themselves. They performed a mix of songs off various albums, including some from their recent release Uncanny Valley. Halfway through the set, they slowed things down with a performance of “Malibu 1992,” a reminiscent song about heartbreak and longing, as well as a personal favorite of mine. The set livened back up immediately, with Chase Lawrence earning screams from the crowd after climbing up the side of the stage and running down the center barricade. Without my phone, I got some laughs from the crowd as I held my iPad mini up for a quick video. Honestly, it only added to the chaos of my entire experience, and made for some funny jokes between my friends and I after their set. COIN definitely helped pulled me out of my post-getting-everything-stolen-funk, so I especially appreciated their high energy and the crowd’s excitement.
Clairo (GOVBALLNYC Stage)
According to Clairo herself, this set was “officially the worst show ever,” requiring an apology from her to fans after her set was continuously delayed by technical difficulties, even after she already took the stage. Her mic stopped working, and loud feedback pierced the crowd (and band’s) ears at the start of her performance. While Clairo handled the situation with grace, her positive attitude could only go so far. The technical difficulties proved to be a bad omen for the rest of her set, as though the music and her vocals sounded beautiful, it was overshadowed by an absolutely unbearable crowd. Clairo’s song “Blouse” from her most recent album Sling addresses being overly sexualized in the music industry, and came into attention recently after videos of her being catcalled on stage during its performance circulated on Twitter. While performing this song at Governors Ball, attendees muttered things like, ‘This is so f–king boring!’ and yelled at her to play “Sofia,” her most popular song that gained traction on TikTok in 2020. She pulled a significant crowd to the main stage – probably one of the largest for a non-headliner – who brought the energy for her last three songs, “Amoeba,” “Pretty Girl,” and “Sofia,” during which an unexpected mosh-pit even opened up. However, by that point, I was already fed up by the crowd’s disrespect and lack of concert etiquette, so found it difficult to enjoy her set overall. I’m looking forward to seeing her rescheduled headlining show at The Fillmore Philadelphia next month, where I hope a more respectful crowd and smoother production helps make for a better experience.
Japanese Breakfast (BACARDÍ Stage)
Michelle Zauner, better known by her stage name Japanese Breakfast or “JBrekkie,” provided a necessary breather from the younger, more chaotic crowds with a very pleasant and energetic set on the Bacardí Stage, which was more secluded than the other stages as well. The stage was vibrant with floral accents that decorated instruments with color, and her performance drew an older crowd of individuals who seemed genuinely happy to be there. Zauner interacted with the crowd by giving backstories to select songs, and moved around the stage with enthusiasm. The energy was lifted during popular songs, such as “Road Head,” as well as during my favorite of hers, “Boyish,” but positive vibes remained consistent throughout her entire set.
Glass Animals (GOVBALLNYC Stage)
Obviously, the best part of Glass Animals’ set was hearing “Heat Waves” on a hot day in the actual ‘middle of June.’ It was just one of those perfect moments that took the whole experience up a notch for the crowd. Though this was a high point for their set, their whole performance delivered. This part of the day was hectic, as Clairo, JBrekkie, and Glass Animals all had back-to-back sets with slight overlaps, and JBrekkie performed on the furthest stage from the main where Clairo and Glass Animals played. Additionally, their 6:30pm set fell right at that point of the weekend where the absolute exhaustion of a three-day festival started to hit. Nonetheless, Glass Animals kept the energy going, and I hung out in the back of the crowd with my best friend. Glass Animals frontman Dave Bayley has impeccable stage presence, and we could feel his energy pulling at us even from a distance. Their visuals were a standout for the weekend as well, with bright colors to compliment their vibrant music and neon-signs that filled the main stage. I was told that near the front, the crowd was tight and unbreathable, souring a great performance for attendees close to the stage. However, with room to dance in the back, it was a pleasant and fun set to enjoy with friends.
J. Cole (GOVBALLNYC Stage) ★ DAY FAVORITE
J. Cole is outstanding performer, and it’s apparent at his sets that he’s been in the game for a long time. He performed a mix of newer songs, tracks he’s featured on (i.e., “a lot” by 21 Savage, “Planez” by Jeremih, and more), as well as shortened snippets of his most popular songs, such as “Wet Dreamz.” J. Cole brought out JID and Kenny Mason to perform their song “Stick” for the first time all together, which prompted massive mosh pit outbreaks throughout the crowd. The energy remained high for the rest of the set, culminating with the “one song left on the table,” which of course was “No Role Modelz,” a 2014 track that was recently coined the longest charting song (2274 consecutive days) in Spotify history. After his set ended, the last few moments of Playboi Carti’s set could be heard on the way out the door, allowing attendees to ride the high from J. Cole’s headlining performance even as we prepared to unwind for the week ahead following such a memorable weekend.
The festival had great luck when it came to weather, with sunshine all three days and clear, cool nights for headlining performances all weekend. Friday drew an older crowd than other days, and Sunday had by far the youngest crowd, as certain sets had overwhelming numbers of high schoolers in attendance, which on occasion negatively impacted the atmosphere due to pushing or other annoyances to older attendees. In 2020, Governors Ball intended to implement an 18+ policy (or under 18 with an adult 21+), but ditched this for their return in 2021. However, murmors from festival goers demonstrated that there still may be a want for this policy by long-time attendees. Sunday also seemed to be the most packed of the three days, which made it difficult to walk throughout the festival, especially towards the end of the night before J. Cole’s set. Additionally, many food vendors had limited options by that point (circa 8pm), and lines were incredibly long. Along with long food lines, bathroom lines stretched throughout the green space, so more restrooms could have helped with wait times and spacing issues. Furthermore, Governors Ball ditched the 360º layout this year, and rather than walking across steps to get from the GOVBALLNYC Stage to the Barcadí Stage, people had to walk all the way around the festival, which could take up to 10 minutes. Since many artists either overlapped or fell back-to-back, this made it difficult to catch multiple sets in a row.
Nonetheless, the energy at the festival was bright and uplifting, with amazing performances throughout. The 21+ areas had great photo opportunities and drink options, and the food vendors covered a vast array of preferences, including multiple vegan options. Each day ended with a gorgeous sunset that added an extra layer of magic to the festival. Most importantly, Governors Ball wasn’t lacking in the music department, as though their focus falls on indie and rap acts with hints of soul and EDM, there were sets that catered to everyone’s music taste. If we could do it all over again, we still would, despite any roadblocks along the way.
Words/Review by Alyssa Goldberg
All photos by Susie McKeon