For those of you that were fortunate to attend the Governor’s Ball Music Festival in New York this past weekend, you’re probably still riding the high of a three-day festival of music, art, and food trucks. For the rest, let me fill you in.
I went to Gov Ball on a whim. A friend of mine had found tickets the day before on Craigslist, being sold by a suburban mom whose daughter could not longer attend. We had no plan whatsoever, just a couple of wristbands and a ferry ticket. While many would say that having a strategic and informed plan of attack is imperative in a festival setting, I found the spontaneity of our trip made it all the more enjoyable.
The first act we saw was The Strumbellas, who have been identified as an “alternative country and indie rock” band. I was already familiar with a few of their songs, but seeing them perform live made me grow attached to some of their lesser-known pieces as well. With the sun beating down around three in the afternoon, we couldn’t help but dance to the sound of the violin and the emotional wails of lead singer, Simon Ward. When the chorus of their most popular song, “Spirits,” hit, everyone in the crowd seemed to take it in together, relishing every moment of the powerful, driving music.
After that first concert, we were feeling on Cloud Nine. Having no agenda in place, we wandered around the Randall’s Island, stopping whenever we saw an art installation that would make for the perfect Instagram, or a food truck selling overpriced, but oh-so worth it grilled cheese. This was one of the highlights of the festival for me. Because we had no list of acts that we had to see or places we needed to be at certain times, I took in everything and discovered new artists that I never would have listened to before, but now have grown to love. There’s always those few headliners at every festival, the ones that almost the entire population flocks to at the end of the night. While seeing those performers is a goal, I found it even more fulfilling to find new acts that grew my song library. For example, I never heard of Danny Brown and never really listened to Bleachers. But after stumbling into their concerts over the weekend, I can say I found new and diverse artists that I appreciate just as much as Chance The Rapper.
As much reverence as I give to finding new music, my absolute favorite act of the festival was the one and only, Lorde. Now I’ve always been a fan of the New Zealand singer, with hits likes “Royals” and “Tennis Court” highlighting my high school years. But seeing Lorde perform live gave me even more respect for her as an artist. She moves in odd, quirky spasms that at first seem a little pyscho, but then you look at her face, hear her voice, and realize how invested she is in the material. She gives herself completely to the music and everything she does comes from a place of necessity. Lorde does not perform the way she does to get a reaction from the crowd – she does it because she has to.
During her set Lorde gave us a sneak peek at her new album with the song “Perfect Places,” which I have been listening to on repeat ever since. The song discusses wanting to break away from a mundane life and go to “perfect places.” At the end of the song, though, Lorde sings, “What the f*ck are perfect places,” telling us that there really is no such thing as a perfect place, and that we can make our own. “Perfect Places” was a more upbeat, dancing-with-your-girlfriends type of song. But Lorde slowed it down with a cover of “Hang With Me,” which was slow, and raw, and moving. It was a truly indescribable experience hearing her sing with such passion. It was as if she was truly telling a story and, at times, it felt like the audience was peering into pages from her diary, like we were seeing something so intimate we almost wanted to avert our eyes. By the end of the song, you felt fulfilled in a way only music can make you feel fulfilled.