Day one of Governors Ball 2019 featured performances from some of the most talented artists in Hip Hop and Pop and while some sets went exactly how one would expect them to go there were shows that managed to surprise viewers in unexpected ways.
Mitski, one of the earlier performers in the day appeared on the Honda stage and played a set brimming with shoegaze and melodic vocals. “This is me breaking the fourth wall a bit to say thank you for being here.” From that point, Mitski retreated into her performance. She moved slowly and deliberately across the stage and incorporated a table and chair into the choreography as she sang clearly and delicately, “I don’t need the world to see/ that I’ve been the best I can be” from “Frances Forever.” For “I Will” Mitski spread her body along the white table and not only sang to the crowd, but to all of those who felt scared or unsure of themselves.
On the Bacardi stage, Dev Hynes in Blood Orange fashion performed a mind-blowing and mystical set complete with a grand piano, saxophone and backup singers. He opened with “Saint” and blended nostalgic sounding drum machines and keyboards with lyrics exploring oppression and anxiety. Hynes is not a typical performer who stands behind a microphone while the rest of the band makes him look and sound good. Instead, he collaborates with the members of his band and frequently gives them the spotlight where they are allowed to explore their own sound. One of his backup singers, Ian Isiah sang “Holy Will” and his voice crescendoed with the lyrics “Lord I just wanna be highly favored in Thee.” The majority of his show featured songs from his newest release Negro Swan, but he did not leave his Freetown Sound fans disappointed when he sang “Augustine” and “Best to You” and again gave the rest of the band their time to shine.
The crowd with the most braces and the least amount of facial hair on Friday was at the Brockhampton set. The opening song, “Summer” saw one of the members of the boy band ascend the crowd in a crane and silver moon suit. When it ended, a giant, gold plane held up by an inflatable blue hand crept out onto the stage and the rest of the group descended from the glittering jet. They all sang “Boogie” in matching moon suits and darted around the stage as if they were all marking their own territory. The whole set was entertaining and filled with moshing and audience participation, but two songs stuck. “Queer” and “New Orleans” electrified listeners and stirred the crowd into a socially aware mass. Despite all the negative connotations that one might associate with “boy bands” Brockhampton does everything to shatter those stereotypes. They are inclusive, politically informed, sing about causes that matter and wrap it all up in entertaining and pulsing beats. They closed with “1999 Wildfire” and the audience ran and danced in that massive pit of woke youths.
If there was one person to pull off a giant white hat, bedazzled sunglasses and a Gucci shirt that award would go to Lil Wayne. With the help of DJ T. Lewis, Lil Wayne played bangers like “A Milli,” “Mr. Carter,” “The Motto,” “6 Foot 7 Foot” and “I’m Goin In.” He cycled through of his early and later hits including “Uproar” from the 2018 release The Carter V. Through all of the crowd pleasers Lil Wayne made his thankfulness known. Halfway through the set, he stopped to say that he would be nothing without his fans and repeated himself several more times both in that moment and for the remainder of his performance. He said he hoped if people take away one thing from this evening he wanted it to be how gracious he is for the fans who supported him.
Gesaffelstein was one of the few if not the only electro house performer on Friday. The French DJ, dressed in a metal suit concealed his face behind a metal mask resembling a Ken doll, imbued his show with loud, sinister beats and enough smoke to choke the whole of Randall’s Island. He stood atop an elevated stage where he adjusted his turntables and scratched out ambient harmonics. Behind him were three large, rectangular pieces that shifted as the songs changed and revealed trippy and muted visuals. Gesaffelstein slowly faded out as the audience slipped away from the Honda stage and made their way to Tyler the Creator’s set.
At the GOVBALLNYC stage, a spotlight and simple blue curtain hung untouched. The lights extinguished and Tyler the Creator dressed in a bowl cut wig and neon yellow suit walked out. He opened with “Igor’s Theme” and despite the album being out for only two weeks, the audience sang back every single word. For “I Think” Tyler showed his prowess as a dancer and confounded the audience as he slid across the stage. He apologized to the crowd about his singing voice before starting “911” but again surprised everyone with just how good he sounded. Despite being infamous for violent and at times misogynistic lyrics, Tyler the Creator was surprisingly wholesome. His set was intense as he thrashed around the stage and screamed “Beginner’s luck, you not my first, who gives a fuck” but he does it through a lense of goofiness. It allows Tyler to be angry and emotional, but not vulnerable and it somehow makes his rage more accessible. As his set continued, though, he slowly began to peel the layers back as he changed out of his Igor costume and into clothes resembling himself. Only then, did his vulnerability manifest. On “Gone Gone/Thank You” his falsetto, expressive and melancholy, opened the crowd up to heartbroken themes as he sang, “Whether it’s rain or shine, I know I’m fine for now/ my love’s gone, my love’s gone.” In a set peppered with anger, sadness and angst Tyler the Creator managed to construct an environment where he and the crowd could empathize and act out their rage through music and dancing.
New Magic Wand
Who Dat Boy
Gone Gone/Thank You
See You Again
Are We Still Friends
Photo Credit Mauricio Alvarado