Gov Ball: An Excuse for Teenage Rebellion
Credit: Carly Mraz
Spending the day at the Governors Ball Music Festival is like taking part in an enormous serenade while simultaneously being wedged in the middle of an unhinged carnival. The ground shakes from wild mosh pits as headliners take the stage and lines wind through the park for popular food vendors such as Big Mozz mozzarella sticks. Its wide variety of performers and trendy, instagrammable food selection draw approximately 150,000 festival-goers to Randall’s Island every June for the three-day festival. Since its establishment in 2011, Gov Ball, as it’s popularly known, has become one of the most sought-after music festivals on the East Coast, featuring some of America’s biggest musicians like Kanye West, Travis Scott, and Halsey; it has created a cult-like following among NYC teens and young adults whose attendance has been consistently increasing since the event’s inception. This year’s festival features a robust, well-curated lineup of top musicians like SZA, Lil Wayne, and Major Lazer, all of whom retain a strong following with the city’s youth. Other artists include rock-staple Florence + the Machine, newly-viral rapper Sheck Wes, and popular EDM duo Louis The Child.
The age demographic Gov Ball attracts is relatively young, with 32 being considered old for event attendees (sorry, teachers!). The musical lineup and trendy, hip vibe of the festival attract this young audience and provide an excuse for teenage rebellion; One look at the festival’s pages of rules and you will know exactly what its organizers are afraid will happen when packs of these teenagers show up. You mean I have to leave my picnic basket at home? What?! How could I leave the house without my seven-foot aluminum totem? I mean that is just ridiculous! Many students at Packer attend Gov Ball, including Packer student Lea Wong who said: “Gov Ball is a great place to listen to multiple artists in one setting and to also discover many new artists; it’s a fun vibe because it happens at an exciting time of the year when school is ending.”
While Gov Ball and other music festivals such as Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits have created their own unique identities with huge individual followings, their success is primarily due to the accomplishments of their predecessor: Coachella. Since its start in 1999, Coachella has become one of the most prominent music events in the industry, attracting more than 250,000 people over its two weekend duration. Coachella’s less accessible ticket prices are made up for by its stellar lineup. This year’s headliners include pop princess Ariana Grande, rock band Tame Impala, and Grammy-winning rapper Childish Gambino. The enormous success of Coachella has ultimately inspired almost all subsequent music festivals, including Gov Ball, and still remains the most popular, highest-grossing music festival in the country. Yet this year, Gov Ball seems to be closing in, as Coachella has received major backlash in the past few months because its owner, Philip Anschutz, was exposed for giving money to Pro-Gun and Anti-LGBT charities. Complex Magazine reported that anti-gay organizations such as Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council have been receiving approximately $190,000 from Anschutz.
Will this catch the attention of the public and the music industry, and perhaps cause performers to cancel or attendance to drop? Should attendees look into the politics and views of those running the festivals they support? This brings into question whether or not one can separate the artist from the art or, in this case, the owner from the festival. With the Coachella controversy in play and Gov Ball’s long-awaited arrival, this New York City festival seems to be on track to reach, or perhaps surpass, Coachella’s star status this year.