Review: Governor's Ball 2021, A Strong Return for Festivals

Updated: Oct 20

By: EMMA CHEATHAM / STAFF WRITER

Following its cancellation due to COVID-19 in 2020, the Governor's Ball Music Festival came back for its 10th birthday celebration on September 24-26, 2021. (Photo: Emma Cheatham)

For my first music festival in two years — and my first one in New York City — Governor’s Ball 2021 was the perfect New York experience. The lively festival took place during the weekend of September 24-26, in the parking lot of Citi Field, with the 7 train rumbling in the background. Headliners like Billie Eilish, J Balvin, A$AP Rocky, and Post Malone, Governor’s Ball made a striking return for its 10th birthday celebration.


Stepping into the festival, it's likely you would have forgotten COVID-19 even existed with thousands of live music lovers and drunk teenagers running around maskless that will quickly take you away from the realities of our world.


The festival required its attendees to be vaccinated and would not let festival-goers into the actual festival unless they were wearing the designated yellow wristband proving they had been vaccinated at least two weeks before the festival started. Masks were completely optional as the Governor’s Ball followed all state and federal COVID-19 regulations.


Billie Eilish absolutely rocked the audience with her high-energy and teen angst. Despite her young age and adorable pigtails, Eilish used this opportunity onstage to bring awareness to climate change and challenged anyone who didn’t believe in it. The statement was sincere, but definitely went over the heads of the hundreds of fans standing on Liquid Death cans and empty beer bottles.


The energy of Eilish’s set fluctuated between head-banging while shoving the person next to you against the barricades and swaying softly while trying to hold back tears. Eilish’s confidence as a performer and young woman was truly inspiring and was a warm welcome back to the world of live music.


This was singer and song-writer Billie Eilish's second Governor's Ball, where she performed songs such as "Happier Than Ever" and "You Should See Me in a Crown." (Photo: Emma Cheatham)

After not headlining a music festival since 2011, rapper A$AP Rocky crushed his performance like the seasoned pro he is. His set was a mix of old favorites, current jams, and a couple unreleased songs. He was the perfect candidate to bring the Saturday lineup to a close. Rocky’s vibrant energy and visuals moved the crowd into a “survival of the fittest” mode, with many brutal mosh pits breaking out. Rocky’s girlfriend and fellow artist Rihanna, was also spotted in the crowd, sending the music fans into a frenzy.


In start contrast to A$AP Rocky's set, 21 Savage’s set can only be described as a total let-down. The crowd was rightfully enraged when he delayed his set by an hour, only to endure mediocre rapping and visuals; let’s just say--it wasn’t worth the wait. 21 Savage’s lateness set off a ripple effect and caused Young Thug’s set to be approximately 45 minutes late. The rapper was certainly underwhelming to his fans who waited for his performance all day to only receive a performance of five songs.


Post Malone’s performance was nothing short of wonderful. He began his set on a floating stage with his hit song, “Wow,” which certainly “wowed” the crowd. Malone’s expertise and enthusiasm brought back all the energy that was lost from 21 Savage’s earlier performance on the same stage. He not only showed true gratification and genuine self-consciousness, but also brought back fellow rappers 21 Savage, Young Thug, and Roddy Rich — who was not even scheduled to perform at the festival! Malone gave 21 Savage and Young Thug the redemption they deserved while still being the center of everyone’s attention, because — come on, it’s Post Malone!

Post Malone put on an electrifying set at the festival. (Photo: Emma Cheatham)

Phoebe Bridgers delivered an emotional set that brought out a choir in the crowd. Everyone was suddenly taken back to lockdown, where it seems everyone began listening to her heavy, emotional tunes. Many tears were shed, including my own, when Bridgers sang hits like “Punisher,” “Moon Song,” and “Chinese Satellite.” An especially great moment was her cover of “That Funny Feeling” by comedian Bo Burnham, following Bridgers stopping the crowd and her own band for a medical emergency in the crowd. Her strong beliefs and raw talent really stood out in the lineup of the festival.


24kGoldn was among the many rappers to perform at the festival. (Photo: Emma Cheatham)

Other notable mentions from the festival include an energizing performance from Megan Thee Stallion, Dominic Fike’s raw, stripped down set, a lively performance from breakout artist 24kGoldn, J Balvin’s flaming set as the first Latin artist to headline the festival, and a hypnotizing performance from the electronic trio Rufus Du Sol. Through the highs and lows of the weekend at Governor's Ball, it sure does feel good to have live music and festivals back.

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