The 1975, Tyler, the Creator finish on top at Governors Ball 2019
First two days of festival turn Randall’s Island Park into hotbed for indie talent and music superstars
New York City — The biggest artist to show his face at Governors Ball is fairly new to the game. In fact, nobody, not even the thousands who gathered around the Main Stage, heard of him until a week before. But he already had the No. 1 album in the country.
IGOR, decked out in a Mary J. Blige wig and a neon green suit, put on a first show of a lifetime. He drew in thousands, played through tracks like “I Think” and “New Magic Wand,” and then the wig came off.
The crowd went silent for a minute.
Then Tyler, the Creator rose on a platform, wearing his usual button up and camp hat.
Tyler and IGOR are the same person, actually. But Tyler’s playful charismatic alter ego had never showed his face on a public stage before, and this was probably the biggest show he’ll see until he signs onto a stadium tour.
Although Tyler’s set proved to be a highlight of the weekend, the mere sight of how many R&B, indie, pop and rock acts shined at Gov Ball will make any music fan drool. Friday featured powerful sets from comeback kids BROCKHAMPTON and R&B singer Jorja Smith, who should have been on vocal rest but rose above despite a cold. Saturday’s best-set honors went to The 1975 and frontman Matty Healy, whose energy was incomparable to any act all weekend. A thunderstorm may have won over Sunday with an evacuation, which The Spectrum wasn’t there to cover, but the first two days, and the artwork displayed across Randall’s Island Park, were enough to bring fans back next year.
BROCKHAMPTON fans already came back for a second year in a row, this time seeing their favorite collective grace the Main Stage.
The group’s set featured hits from the “Saturation” trilogy and “Iridescence” album, and while this was the most recent performance in months for the boyband with still no new music in sight, the guys still brought something new to New York: the silver jumpsuits.
Any festival dweller would think they stumbled across the Backstreet Boys’ “Millenium Tour,” but Kevin Abstract and gang weren’t playing games with any hearts on Friday.
Even when audience members had to throw up and regroup, Abstract still demanded they form mosh pits to tracks like “Boogie” and “Bump,” a strenuous task for the younger, mainly early-teen crowd.
But at the same time, just a few thousand feet away, Jorja Smith was putting on a very, very different set.
Her smooth and sensual soul music lit up the Honda Stage Friday despite her obvious vocal strain and sickness. Smith still delivered.
The singer, dripped out in shiny orange pants and massive hoop earrings, powerfully worked through hits from her debut album “Lost and Found” and sounded angelic even with a cold and her rhaspy chops.
During closing track “On My Mind,” the singer, who kept unnecessarily apologizing for her condition, invited the crowd to help her finish her set with her vocal chords in tact. Smith and the audience went back and forth with lyrics.
The smile on her face at the end of the set was hard to miss.
Fans still sang along as they walked away from the stage after her set, proving that her angelic voice, strain or not, has an impact.
Friday also featured performances from Lil Wayne, Blood Orange, The Internet –– featuring Steve Lacy fresh off his “Apollo XXI” release –– and Jessie Reyez, but Tyler owned the show.
Even with “IGOR” being the hottest album in the country, he still sprinkled his setlist with tracks from previous albums like “911” and “Yonkers.” He even changed out of the neon suit to crack a few jokes when he needed to.
At one point, he even walked to the right side of the stage and poked fun at audience members who were in the “worst spot.”
“Enjoy these next five seconds because I’m going back over there,” Tyler said.
On Saturday, however, one performer stayed on that side of the stage for a while. He even jumped off and accidentally took some stage lighting down with him.
The 1975’s Healy, with a cigarette in one hand and cocktail in another, was the day’s most energetic performer, with Elvis-like gyrations and full-fledged choreography featuring his backup singers.
Watching Healy was watching an icon. His smoothness was undeniable, and as The 1975 continued deeper into its setlist, Healy continued to let loose and do whatever dances came to his mind.
Tracks off the band’s latest critically-acclaimed album “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” got the crowd amped up despite Vince Staples playing just across the park at the same time.
Healy brought out his electric guitar during “It’s Not Living If It’s Not With You” and swayed along with his group, and he pulled out the acoustic during more intimate tracks like “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes).”
The group closed with smash hits “Chocolate” and “The Sound” as criticisms of the group flashed on the stage, reading things like “I only heard ‘Chocolate’ once but I hated it.”
But the group embraced criticism, as Healy, with all of his on-stage outbursts and bizzare dance moves, didn’t seem to care at all.
Right before Healy won over the crowd, country star Kacey Musgraves celebrated the first day of Pride Month by waving a rainbow flag and bringing a few beach balls with her.
Audience members, decked out in cowboy hats, waved their own rainbow flags as the Album of the Year Grammy winner played tracks like “Space Cowboy” and “Rainbow,” an ode to better days.
The self-proclaimed yeehaw OG may have been the only country act of the festival, but her performance was just as colorful and vibrant as the flag she was waving.
Earlier that day, R&B singer Ravyn Lenae brought her Minnie Riperton-esque vocals to the Bacardi Stage and played through some highlight tracks off her “Crush” EP.
While her audience was a bit smaller, her voice and unique register could be heard throughout Randall’s Island Park, which was decked out with artwork, including mass amounts of balloons, see-through colored glass and a giant mural of late rapper Mac Miller.
The first two days of the festival were legendary, and even though Sunday -- which we didn’t attend -- ended in thunderstorms and evacuations, Governors Ball 2020 should already be on your calendar.
Brenton Blanchet is the editor-in-chief and can be reached at Brenton.Blanchet@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @BrentonBlanchet.