This weekend saw New York’s Flushing Meadows-Corona Park the most vibrant it has ever been. Tall trees wrapped in hot pink fuzzy fabric, arcs of colorful balloons splayed across the sky and a flower-covered Statue of Liberty with dope shades and an American traditional sleeve were amongst the first things to greet you, setting the vibe for three action-packed days of excitement. Inked was there and we’re here to give everyone who couldn’t make it a taste of everything that proved seamlessly pleasant, fell utterly mid, and had our souls ascending from our bodies.
Let’s start with the positives. For one thing, the venue was wonderful. Compared to the hard pavement of Citi Field’s parking lot last year, the expansive fields and lush trees of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park made for a welcome change of scenery, giving a true festival vibe that acres of asphalt just can’t do. The park’s size and layout proved effective in keeping the crowd spread out to avoid too much chaos. In terms of crowd control during actual performances, I’ve gotta hand it to the organizers this year for keeping everyone hydrated, constantly throwing out packets of water and dowsing the crowd with water guns during each set. While it may sound scuffed on paper, it kept everyone happy for the most part.
The disappointments were few and far between, but one thing I’ll say is I paid way too much for some objectively mid food. We all know festival food is insanely overpriced, but $18 for a burnt burger patty with lettuce, tomato, cold cheese and a raw bun is essentially robbery. The only other con was the amount of dust accumulating in the air from the nonstop foot traffic. Sometimes I felt like I was actually in the desert coughing up a lung, and I’d often come out of a cloud of dirt with a full layer of dust in my hair. Notably, though, the skies did remain clear of the bright-orange apocalyptic overcast that enveloped the city days before and threatened the cancellation of the event.
Now that all that’s out of the way, let’s get into the fun part: the performances! This year’s lineup was genuinely stacked, featuring headliners like Lil Uzi Vert, Lizzo and Kendrick Lamar. Here were our favorite performances of the weekend:
Previous XXL freshman KayCyy made his Governors Ball debut this year, and he didn’t hold anything back. Many know the rapper as someone who helped produce songs on Kanye West’s “Donda,” but real fans knew that KayCyy has several solo projects under his belt, including last year’s luscious LP “Get Used To It” and a more dance-y collab album “TW2052” with French DJ Gesaffelstein. KayCyy gave us a little taste of it all, gliding from ethereal ballads to ground-shaking bangers.
Remi Wolf’s addition to this year’s lineup came a bit late, but make no mistake, her performance was anything but last minute. As expected, the pop singer’s energy was unmatched, as was her wardrobe (she sported a bright red trucker hat that said “Nice”). Her tunes filled the crowd’s hearts with jubilation, present in her hits like “Sexy Villain” and “Anthony Kiedis.” She even whipped out a cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” which she absolutely killed.
Producer Metro Boomin, the mastermind behind hits like “Glock In My Lap” and “Creepin’,” got the chance to take center stage, laying down banger after banger. About halfway through the trap extravaganza, the crowd found itself beneath a raging downpour that at one point had fans barely able to see the performer, but that didn’t matter—the beats kept coming through, and everyone continued to jump and mosh despite soaking from head to toe. It was truly a beautiful moment.
Lil Uzi Vert
As the sky went dark, the stage lights went neon for the one and only Lil Uzi. The feisty trap star not only pleased his die-hard fans with his set, but won over any of those who weren’t familiar with his music as well. Songs like “Do What I Want” and “New Patek” hit even harder live than you could imagine, and he even covered Playboi Carti’s “Wokeuplikethis*” to bring last year’s headliner back to the stage in spirit. He couldn’t end the night without his biggest hits “XO TOUR Llif3” and “Just Wanna Rock,” which ended up being played 3-4 times (I lost count). Notably, about a quarter into the show, Uzi stopped the music to tell the crowd to help someone off the ground. Not wanting another Astroworld Festival on his hands, he spent several minutes yelling at fans to stop trying to touch him as he knelt down at the edge of his platform to ensure the fan’s safety. Good on you, Uzi, and the performance was legendary, too.
Ice Spice’s set started off with someone getting on stage and announcing, “We’ve got a missing child.” After about 10 minutes of scrambling, the kid was found, and the bops proceeded. Ice Spice pretty much played her whole discography, which had the crowd belting every lyric word-for-word. One look into the sea of people also revealed multiple signs and shirts proclaiming oneself as a munch, and I wouldn’t doubt a single one of them.
Lindsey Jordan is truly one of the most lovable singer-songwriters out there. It was hard not to stare beady-eyed and heart aflutter as she crooned through songs like “Glory” and “Forever (Sailing)” with her trusty guitar and high-top converse. Snail Mail’s performance was the perfect balance of chill and uplifting, and her endearing personality shone through even the early afternoon sun’s hottest rays.
Japanese-British singer Rina Sawayama gave everything to her performance that we could’ve wanted and more. She played most of the show in a billowy button up and blue jeans, which made for a casual-chic look. Towards the end, she ripped it all off to reveal fiery red lingerie, which needless to say had the entire crowd’s jaws on the floor. Rina’s set was one of my favorites because it was so theatrical—she was often roleplaying with her dancers and acting out scenes using props like chairs and newspapers. She is undoubtedly a star to behold and left everything on the stage, having us only wishing her set was longer.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Kenny Beats, but I was definitely not disappointed. The DJ/producer has a plethora of work, whether collaborations with major artists or his first LP that dropped last year. Instead of playing those numbers, though, he opted for a full-on hype hour playing and mixing songs he knew everyone would want to hear, from Britney Spears’ “Toxic” to Kendrick’s “family ties” and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll.” Basically, he played a whole set of bangers and crowd favorites while also sprinkling his Kenny Beats magic into each track, creating masterful transitions and layers of sounds that had everyone losing their minds. The whole set was so fun, it ended up feeling like five minutes.
Rarely are our ears blessed with a voice as soul-soothing as Giveon’s. In my books, he definitely won the award for the most heartfelt performance, ensuring that by the time he was done, everybody would be in their emotional bags getting nostalgic about their past relationships. That didn’t make the show a downer by any means—Giveon’s performance was unrestrained, passionate and heart-wrenching. Not to mention, the singer and his band were all decked out in bright white, emulating doves flying up to heaven. Tears were shed and regrettable texts were sent, but we wouldn’t expect any other reaction to the moving singer.
Kendrick Lamar was the last act on the last day, and he was the only one performing at his time. You can imagine just how unbelievably packed it was, and how palpable the anticipation was in the air. I showed up about 30 minutes before he started, and still ended up about 40 rows back with only a meager view on my tippy-toes (several shifting mosh pits eventually brought me closer). Nonetheless, the show was incredible. Kendrick came out in a fluorescent orange outfit, and was the only one on stage for 90% of the show, but that’s all that was needed. He played classics like “Backseat Freestyle,” “Money Trees” and “Swimming Pools,” as well as more recent crowd pleasers like “HUMBLE.” and “Die Hard.” Nothing, though, could’ve prepared the crowd for when the beat dropped for “Alright”—a moment of uproarious synergy that just can’t be replicated.
One of the highlights was when Kendrick brought out Baby Keem on “family ties.” The crowd had been cheering for Keem all night in hopes he’d make an appearance, so when he finally appeared, everyone went absolutely nuts. Seeing the two do their thing together on one of the hardest songs of the last year was an unreal experience—you truly had to be there.
Apologies for ending on a negative note, but I thought this post would be severely lacking in tea if I didn’t mention my least favorite performance, which had to be PinkPantheress. Stans, do not send me death threats—she is insanely cute, but her performance was so same-y that I started falling asleep during it. I can’t speak for everyone, but the roughly 10 people in my group were essentially waiting for “Just for me” and “Boy’s a liar” the entire time. It was worth seeing her to hear those songs, but other than that it felt quite uneventful. Not to mention that she came 20 minutes late and then finished early.
All in all, this year’s Governors Ball was one to remember. The venue was great, the vibes were up, and (most of) the artists went all out. A word of caution to future attendees that you might be surrounded by teenagers a lot of the time, but if you strategically drown out their high-pitched cheers and avoid the crowds of them standing in circles wearing Nike Blazers, you’ll definitely have a great time and want to come back around for the next one.