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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

60 artists, 3 days: An honest review of Governors Ball

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Billie Eilish is pictured performing at Gov Ball on Sept. 24.

Three days in harsh sunlight, surrounded at any given time by hundreds — if not thousands — of people: glitter, neon polyester and discarded hard seltzer cans everywhere. The Governors Ball Music Festival 2021 was, simply put, a lot.

The line-up from Sept. 24–26 featured 60 acts, ranging from Nigerian Afrobeats singer Burna Boy to Canadian country artist Orville Peck. The headliners included Billie Eilish, ASAP Rocky, J Balvin and Post Malone.

So, here’s a rundown of the best, and worst, parts of Gov Ball 2021.

The Friday line-up was by far the best. Indie group Laundry Dayopened the festival’s main stage with a vibrant performance of some of its best songs, including “Lavender” (2018), “Harvard” (2019) and “Friends” (2019). This show was one of the most notable of the entire festival, a personal and energetic set that showcased the band’s versatility and unique style.

However, it was Leon Bridges, Bartees Strange and Orville Peck who really set Friday apart. Leon Bridges performed an emotional, groovy and entirely unique set that featured each of his bandmates and backup singers while Bartees Strangedelivered classic rock bangers that shook the light fixtures. Odie and Earthgang also had great shows, but the surprise success of the day was Orville Peck.

A country musician described as a “masked gay crooner” by Billboard, Peck delivered a live show that was nothing short of amazing. With a deep warbling voice that is the contemporary successor of classic country legends, his demeanor and performance were over-exaggerated and yet strangely endearing. As Peck moved through the track list of his debut album “Pony” (2019), he also performed an electric cover of the Lady Gaga song “Born This Way” (2011), an iconic anthem of the LGBTQ community, toward the end of his set. The performance was fresh and inspired, enough to make this author rethink her prejudices against country music.

The mainstage concluded with a remarkable performance by Kehlani and the headlining Billie Eilish show. As soon as the Kehlani set ended, the wait began. While about half of the festival-goers moved to watch 24kGoldn or Portugal. The Man at two of the other three stages, the other half crammed in as close to the main stage as possible towait over an hour for Billie Eilish.

Eilish's set was amazing. Visually and audibly stunning, it was probably the best headlining act of all three days.Eilish cried onstage as she reminisced to her fans about the first time she performed at Gov Ball in 2018.

Segueing into the Saturday line-up, Bleachers, Megan Thee Stallion, Phoebe Bridgers and King Princess stole the show. Bleachers was perfectly eccentric and entirely amazing while Phoebe Bridgers brought a significant portion of the crowd to tears during “I Know The End” (2020) and “Savior Complex” (2020). One of the most memorable parts of her set was when she performed a cover of the song “That Funny Feeling” from Bo Burnham’s Netflix special “Inside” (2021). Stripped down to a bare guitar and just her voice, Bridgers had the crowd silently entranced, in what was one of the most moving moments of the entire festival.

Unfortunately, headliner ASAP Rocky underperformed. Though he’s known for his unique style and ability to rile a crowd, his set fell flat. Instead of rapping his lyrics, he mostly yelled incoherently over the backing tracks. Despite how talented ASAP Rocky is, his performance was dull.

The Sunday shows proved the most disappointing though Burna Boy and Umi were bright spots. 21 Savage went on stage almost an hour late and was therefore only able to perform for a mere 20 minutes (though he did make an appearance later during Post Malone’s set)

Post Malone was popular as expected, and his show was easy to be enthusiastic about. However, there wasn’t anything particularly special about his performance other than the crowd’s energy.

The largest issue with Gov Ball, however, arose from a seeming inability to address some safety concerns. During the Billie Eilish set, and in the stifling hours spent standing beforehand, there were numerous medical emergencies, which had to be addressed by medical staff. It was nearly impossible to summon the staff during the performances, in part because of the natural chaos of live shows. So, there would be sections of the crowd screaming for medics who never arrived. This is true of many other large shows, but the lack of aid from security and staff was shocking enough to be referenced by Eilish and Bridgers during their respective sets. It’s clear more needs to be done to protect festival-goers.

That being said, there were some moments in Gov Ball that were absolutely incredible. If you have the opportunity, go to a music festival: It’ll cost a pretty penny, but will also be an intense, unforgettable experience.