the festival circuit

A Review of Every Single Act at Gov Ball 2022

Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

The Governors Ball, otherwise known as the music festival where tristate-area teens flood the 7 train to smoke weed for the first time, took place this past weekend at Citi Field with a lineup that included J. Cole, Halsey, Kid Cudi, and not Migos. Attending a festival of this sort can be overwhelming, with dozens of acts available to check out over the course of three days. A lesser attendee might struggle with the many decisions that have to be made about which acts to see and when, paralyzed by thoughts of what they might be missing. To head off those anxieties, I opted for an alternate tack: I set out to see every band at Gov Ball, even if only briefly. Over the course of 72 hours, that amounted to 64 performances on three separate stages, all of it held together by waves of teenage sweat and an incalculable amount of Liquid Death spon-con.

You might think that approaching Gov Ball in this manner would affect my ability to appreciate each of those performances. You would be wrong. But also, sorta right.

Day One — Honey, the Kids Are Moshing

Plastic Picnic — Friday, 12 p.m.
A long line at the press-credential pickup threatened to jeopardize my timeline, calling for desperate measures: As the first act, ’80s-inspired pop-rock band Plastic Picnic, started their set, I cut to the front of the media line by pretending to recycle my water bottle. Credential in hand, I accidentally trap myself backstage trying to get into the festival and only end up hearing one song — which sounded like a Stranger Things needle drop, if Stranger Things took place in Brooklyn — from behind an 18-wheeler. Instant karma.

Jon Garbus and JT Turret‚ Friday, 12:10 p.m.
I free myself from backstage purgatory only to find myself next to the GoPuff stage. The three stages are set up like a horseshoe, with the Gov Ball NYC main stage and the tiny Seltzer Session venue on one side, while the smaller GoPuff and Bacardi stages are on the other. While it’s only a short run between the two smaller stages, walking to the main stage requires about six or seven minutes of dodging teenagers and long lines at food vendors.

On the GoPuff stage, I see what appears to be a security guard belting Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So” to a dozen or so fans excitedly singing along. Later, I would find out that he was Gov Ball’s stage manager, Garbus, who is retiring after more than ten years with the organization; so, after a last-minute cancellation from pop-punk band Ultra Q, the festival lets him fill in. Soon after he finishes his number, Garbus is swiftly replaced by JT Turret, who starts singing about being from Long Island, naturally.

BETWEEN FRIENDS — Friday, 12:20 p.m. 
Savannah, one half of sibling duo BETWEEN FRIENDS, brings a Squishmallow stuffed animal onstage — thus completing the Gen-Z indie-artist trilogy of being TikTok famous, making popular bedroom pop, and having an obsession with plush dolls.

Julia Wolf — Friday, 1 p.m. 
I head over to watch Julia Wolf, an indie-pop singer who’s been slowly picking up steam online. She’s got a strong voice, and, much like her shimmery music, she sort of floats around the main stage like she’s a little too cool for it all. I stay for four songs, but as someone who was born in the late ’90s, I’m required to sprint over to Aly & AJ in the hopes they play “Potential Breakup Song (Explicit).”

Aly & AJ — Friday, 1:10 p.m. 
Aly & AJ did not, in fact, play “Potential Breakup Song (Explicit).” Or “Potential Breakup Song (Clean).”

Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Paris Texas — Friday, 1:30 p.m.
A group of teenage boys is attempting to mosh during rap duo Paris Texas’s genre-bending set.

Samia — Friday, 2:15 p.m. 
Samia makes upbeat songs with sad lyrics (see “Big Wheel”) in the style of Maggie Rogers, who she’s opening for in November. But onstage, she keeps doing this one dance move that involves hurling her body forward while flailing her arms around wildly like a pinwheel. It’s distracting, and I worry for her safety.

Blu DeTiger — Friday, 2:35 p.m. 
A relatively new artist who went TikTok viral for her 2020 deadpan track “Figure It Out,” Blu DeTiger performs like someone with far more experience, confidently crooning and whipping her blond locks all over the stage while expertly strumming her bass guitar. I later found out she went to high school with one of my best friends. She went by Blu then, too.

Coi Leray — Friday, 2:45 p.m. 
The teens let their Shein freak flags fly during Leray’s high-energy set — especially when she hits a split into a twerk.

Kaleena Zanders (Bud Light Seltzer stage) — Friday, 3:05 p.m. 
Zanders is the first artist I see at the Bud Light Seltzer Sessions, where fans can watch artists perform intimate 25-minute sets while drinking $14 Bud Light Seltzers. Zanders’s incredible vocal range makes her an instant standout. So does her promise that everyone in the front row will get one of the marquee seltzers (though I never actually see those materialize).

Though I attended every Bud Light Seltzer Session, this is the only one I’m going to bother mentioning since the events were often uneventful stripped-down versions of the featured acts’ main-stage performances. Sorry to Bud Light Seltzer.

Beabadoobee — Friday, 3:30 p.m. 
The modest crowd gathered during Beabadoobee’s set seems to only be familiar with her TikTok-famous “death bed (coffee for your head),” a song that was inescapable during Quarantine season one.

Channel Tres — Friday, 3:50 p.m. 
Meanwhile, everyone dances to Channel Tres, who delivers horny bop after horny bop alongside a squad of trained backup dancers in bucket hats and clout goggles.

JPEGMAFIA — Friday, 4:15 p.m. 
Next door, the crowd is bouncing around to rapper JPEGMAFIA, whose music I can hear from Channel Tres’s set despite Gov Ball’s earlier promises that there wouldn’t be sound bleed between stages. JPEGMAFIA eventually calms things down with an inexplicable-yet-charming cover of “Call Me Maybe.”

Black Pumas — Friday, 5 p.m. 
While my feet are starting to ache from sprinting back and forth between stages, Black Pumas’ are just getting started. Lead singer Eric Burton dances so hard he knocks his hat and sunnies off, almost yowling his lyrics as he jumps into the crowd to deliver his sermons.

Skepta — Friday, 5:20 p.m. 
After hearing British rapper Skepta pronounce “water” like “wah-uh,” the people standing next to me will not stop imitating British accents. It’s dumb and comforting, like Love Island.

The Knocks — Friday, 6 p.m. 
During the ten minutes I catch of the Knocks, they get the pit jumping with a remix of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

A$AP Ferg — Friday, 6:30 p.m. 
Off to watch Migos … Lil Wayne … A$AP Ferg on the main stage. Despite a sea of Weezy T-shirts, the crowd isn’t mad about the evening’s replacement act, who kicks it off hot with “New Level.” Ferg even tells the story of how he ended up performing last minute, saying he was literally just sitting on his couch earlier in the day when the festival called him, debunking my theory that they keep A$AP Ferg in cold storage for occasions like this one.

Quinn XCII — Friday, 7 p.m. 
Quinn unfortunately asks the audience to call him “daddy” as women sprint by to get a good spot for Jack Harlow next door.

KFC spokesperson Jack Harlow Photo: Nina Westervelt/Shutterstock

Jack Harlow — Friday, 8 p.m.
Women — as young as 7 and as old as 50, from what I can tell — have been slowly getting sunburnt for hours waiting for Jack Harlow. Bad news: His set gets pushed back 45 minutes. Maybe he’s just picking up a quick Kentucky Fried Favorite? Once Jack gets onstage, I’m disappointed. He doesn’t seem to know how to engage his audience outside of his big hits, and he keeps talking about how he looks like a shroom dealer. But a woman I previously saw working the Tito’s booth doesn’t seem to mind, tearing up during “SUVs (Black on Black).” Meanwhile, literal condom balloons fly high in the air.

Louis the Child — Friday, 8:30 p.m. 
Even after a long day, Louis the Child still manages to bring me to my feet with hits “Better Not” and “Blasé.”

Kid Cudi — Friday, 8:45 p.m. 
After misreading my schedule (and wasting time by busting down to Louis the Child), I’m 45 minutes late to Kid Cudi. Luckily, I run into my little brother and his friends who, like most of the people here, came from the Jersey suburbs to get drunk and nearly vomit during Jack Harlow’s performance. He tells me Cudi was “awesome” and that I missed hits like “The Scotts,” “Mr. Rager,” and the premiere of a new song, “Do What I Want.” Thankfully I still make it in time to see people rush the stage for the party that is “Pursuit of Happiness.”

Day Two — The TikTokification of the CitiField Parking Lot

OCTAVIO the Dweeb — Saturday, 12 p.m. 
Back bright and a little too early for punk rocker OCTAVIO the Dweeb. He has a strong voice that inspires two guys in the crowd to leapfrog over each other.

Dehd — Saturday, 12:10 p.m. 
The crowd respectfully bops and sways along to Chicago surf-rock band Dehd. Unfortunately, I can also very clearly hear the emo music from Millington next door, and as someone who used to be on Tumblr, I’m drawn like a moth to the flame.

Millington — Saturday, 12:20 p.m. 
As an aforementioned reformed emo eid, I’ve seen a lot of pop-punk shows. But never in my life have I witnessed an emo band with a full brass section, headbanging and swinging their trombones (not a euphemism) in unison to a lead singer that is overpronouncing his words like Tom DeLonge from Blink-182. A group of 17-year-olds, probably called Josh from Westchester and Cody from Short Hills, are attempting to mosh, while teenage girls in matching Love on Tour–inspired outfits dance along.

almost monday — Saturday, 1 p.m. 
I attempt to cut through backstage again to save time, and a security guard accuses me of sneaking around to meet the lead singer of almost monday. Sir, if I wanted an indie man, I would smoke a cigarette with my brown hair in a messy bun outside a Brooklyn record store just like good fanfiction taught me!!

Valley — Saturday, 1:10 p.m. 
Because the set times are more spread out today, I can stay to watch most of Valley’s dreamy performance. They put in work pumping up the early afternoon audience.

Tom Odell — Saturday, 1:20 p.m. 
Odell is clearly very talented. But his songs are a lot slower, and I’m losing my adrenaline from the backstage incident, so I go back to Valley to dance.

BENEE — Saturday, 2:15 p.m. 
The early afternoon crowd is pretty low energy, and like Beabadoobee, no one seems to know BENEE’s stuff outside of her viral songs “Supalonely” and “Glitter.” She starts screaming “Kiss Me Through the Phone” to wake them up (it didn’t work).

Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Peach Tree Rascals — Saturday, 2:35 p.m. 
I watch Peach Tree Rascals sing their TikTok famous song “Mariposa,” while my roommate gets her hair done for free at the OGX stand. At this point, festival culture is so corporatized that it seems more unique to not have your hair done for this.

Gus Dapperton — Saturday, 3 p.m. 
Dapperton — looking dapper (heyo) in a sweet brown tie — is the biggest name (and gets the biggest crowd) of the afternoon so far. The audience sways from side to side and sings along to “Prune, You Talk Funny.”

Tove Lo — Saturday, 3:30 p.m. 
Swedish pop star Tove Lo — wearing a strappy bra, leather assless chaps, and two long braids — swings herself around the stage, twerking and, at one point, completing what appears to be a set of glute bridges.

YG — Saturday, 3:50 p.m. 
I’m devastated to leave Tove Lo, but alas, the journey must go on. When I get to YG, everyone is excited to sing “FDT” — even Josh and Cody from the suburbs!

Diesel a.k.a. Shaq — Saturday, 4:30 p.m. 
Shaquille O’Neal, NBA Hall of Famer and one-time platinum-selling rapper, uses his 60-minute slot to showcase one of his newer talents: DJ-ing. DJ Shaq, or DJ Diesel, or whatever he’s called these days (DJ General Insurance?) demands mosh pits every ten minutes on the dot. A festivalgoer who appears to never skip arm day is then invited onstage to stand next to O’Neal, which sadly makes this guy look like Polly Pocket.

Still Woozy — Saturday, 5 p.m. 
Still Woozy runs around stage like he’s in a marathon, sweating through his button-down (which he eventually takes off) and shaking his hips in frantic figure eights. Every member of his band then takes a turn running around the stage while his bassist, in a flouncy Selke dress, sits on Woozy while he’s screaming lyrics.

Chelsea Cutler — Saturday, 5:20 p.m. 
I have to support Cutler since she’s repping a Jets jersey — as a fan myself, I know that takes courage. But in the middle of her set, I spot a TikTok influencer I hate standing merely ten feet away from me and almost make a run for it — until I notice I’m a good three inches taller than her boyfriend, which makes me feel better.

Denzel Curry — Saturday, 6 p.m. 
Curry drops a Western-style intro positing him as a hazarding lone ranger, and I spot some of my first crowd-surfing of the weekend.

Joji — Saturday, 7 p.m. 
After Roddy Ricch’s set is canceled last-minute — which I later find out is due to him getting arrested — I make my way over to Joji, where the crowd has grown exponentially. Above the audience is one giant cloud of weed smoke, and everyone sways along to the music with their hands above their heads like they’re in stoner church.

Ashnikko Saturday, 7:30 p.m. 
At this point, I’ve hit what I’ve come to know as my daily 7 p.m. Governors wall, which consists of my lower back pleading that it can’t hold up my body anymore and my stomach craving something that isn’t gentrified nachos. I sit down for Ashnikko, who is dressed like a combination alien-slash-mermaid and provides the energy that, at this point, I simply do not have. Her fans go nuts for the pyrotechnics accompanying “Tantrum” and the lyrics to “Manners,” where she raps “that dick tastes like a Yankee candle.” During her TikTok-famous “Daisy,” I spot a different NYC-based TikToker I’m not a fan of — they seem to congregate with their own!

Flume — Saturday, 8:30 p.m. 
Another DJ set. The crowd bounces up and down for Flume’s synths, but people aren’t dancing as much as they were for Louis the Child. Since I won’t be making the same mistake I made yesterday prior to Cudi’s headlining set, I stay until “You & Me” before breaking into a full-out sprint when I hear the first notes of Halsey’s “Nightmare.”

Halsey — Saturday, 8:45 p.m. 
As someone who’s publicly lambasted TikTok’s effect on music, it’s ironic Halsey is headlining a day dominated by artists bolstered by the app; her voice, black-and-white lighting, and horror-style backdrops make it look like she’s haunting the stage like a specter — perhaps a ghost of the industry’s past. But she seems to know how to play into the TikTok hype, too, with an excellent cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.”

Photo: Nina Westervelt/Shutterstock

Day Three — All’s Fair in Gov and War

Jax — Sunday, 12:20 p.m. 
Day three and I’m back to start the day with Jax, better known as “the girl who does famous songs from the girl’s perspective.” Her afternoon set includes an insane-but-somehow-works mash-up of “Toxic,” “Jiggle, Jiggle,” and “W.A.P.” She even brings out Wheatus (who she says she just Twitter DM’d to get them here) for a cover of “Teenage Dirtbag.”

The Brummies — Sunday, 1 p.m. 
Birmingham rockers the Brummies are miraculously rocking matching violet coveralls and feather boas despite the heat.

Ken Car$on — Sunday, 1:10 p.m. 
Gov Ball goes absolutely nuts for Ken Car$on. The crowd is about the same size as Flume’s, the ground is shaking, and a massive mosh pit opens up. Inexplicably, though, he ends after just 20 minutes — maybe Josh and Cody got a little too lit and scared Ken off?

Del Water Gap — Sunday, 1:30 p.m. 
I’m a fan of Del Water Gap — and by fan I mean I’ve heard a few of their songs and think it sounds cool to say I’m a fan. The band is definitely more popular with Liv from New Canaan and Steph from Monmouth in matching Princess Polly than my guys Josh and Cody. My roommate once again takes this time to visit the OGX tent (“no heat tools today!”).

My roommate getting the full OGX hair tent treatment

Duckwrth — Sunday, 2:15 p.m. 
Duckwrth leads the crowd in a synchronized slide and says he hopes there “isn’t a dry booty in the house.” Whether that be from heat or excitement, we’ll never know.

Soccer Mommy — Sunday, 2:45 p.m. 
The audience does a cute hand dance to “Feel It All the Time.”

J.I.D. — Sunday, 3:30 p.m. 
J.I.D. gathers a massive crowd intent on bouncing along to some of his most popular tracks. But after a couple of songs, he asks everyone to push back and give each other space. This has been a theme throughout the festival — Jack Harlow stopped for nearly five minutes to give people time to move. It seems like no one wants to become the next Travis Scott.

COIN — Sunday, 3:50 p.m. 
No offense to COIN, but after seeing some 30 different indie bands this weekend, they’re finally starting to blend together for me.

100 gecs — Sunday, 4:15 p.m. 
Hyperpop duo 100 gecs comes out next door and I realize that a man in what appeared to be a banana costume that I saw on one of my many walks back and forth between stages was actually one half of the band. Complete with bare feet, the two look like they are wizards just plucked from a storybook forest; a preppy boy in a white button-down inexplicably goes crazy in front of me.

Clairo — Sunday, 5 p.m. 
Despite intense technical issues that Clairo dubs “officially her worst show ever,” the huge crowd — almost as big as Halsey’s — is intent on moshing and crowd surfing to “Sofia.” This right here is the true power of bisexuals.

Becky G — Sunday, 5:20 p.m. 
Becky G brings along pyrotechnics to get the crowd up on their feet. And after three days of shows, I’ve learned that backup dancers are a surefire way to hype me (and the audience) up before I hit the dreaded 7 p.m. wall.

Japanese Breakfast — Sunday, 5:45 p.m. 
Just next door, Japanese Breakfast has her fans bopping to “Kokomo, IN” and “Paprika.” Her signature gong is wrapped in a wreath of colorful blossoms — as if it had gone to the OGX booth.

Glass Animals — Sunday, 6:30 p.m. 
Lead singer Dave Bayley (or, for fans of “Tokyo Drifting,” Wavey Davey) leaps across their dreamy set, balancing on a diving board, gripping a pineapple, and holding off on beat drops until he deems the crowd is sufficiently ready to dance. A full sing-along ensues during their hit “Heat Waves.”

Jazmine Sullivan — Sunday, 7 p.m. 
Fans showed up and out for Grammy winner Jazmine Sullivan. But near the back, I spot the TikTokers once again shooting content. After three days, I’m tempted to go full Halsey on them.

Kaytranada — Sunday, 8 p.m. 
I’ll be honest — three days of Gov Ball finally catches up with me during Kaytranada. Instead of dancing, I sit down to listen while eating a plate of french fries and dissociating. I’m very excited to have something green this weekend.

J. Cole — Sunday, 8:45 p.m. 
I run over to the main stage one last time for Sunday’s headliner, J. Cole. Fresh off playing basketball for the Scarborough Shooting Stars, he tells the crowd he’s just here to “see if [he] could still rap.” After performing one of his very first songs, Cole, looking out on the 7 train, repeats again and again that he used to live just two stops away in Queens.

Playboi Carti — Sunday, 9 p.m. 
Playboy Carti’s set did remind me of the Satanic club in The Righteous Gemstones his fans are obsessed, stomping the ground with enough force to shake Manhattan. My long weekend has finally come to an end, and I take the train(s) back to New Jersey. And to the people at the Coke stand, sorry for fighting with you. It’s not your fault you didn’t have Diet Coke.

A Review of Every Single Act at Gov Ball 2022