Sucker Magazine’s Exclusive “Highs and Lows” of Day 1 at Governor’s Ball NYC 2016
By Jess Petrylak
Photo by Justin Leonti
Walking onto Randall’s Island on the morning of Friday June 3rd, brought forth an overwhelming sense of comfort and excitement; this would be my home for three days. Here I will experience and share countless of memories of seeing my favorite artists and bands, with some of my favorite people on the planet. And although cut short due to extreme weather conditions, GovBallNYC 2016 holds some of my most cherished memories of my 21 years of existence.
Photo by Nigel Deakin
We had planned for weeks what we were to bring, how to get there and back, how to survive in heat or rain, which shows we absolutely could not miss. Walking up to the gates that read “Governor’s Ball” in bold, happy letters, we promptly got into line around noon to get our bags checked and wristbands scanned. Scattered amongst the crowd were some of the coolest girls I’ve ever seen, adorned in Strokes shirts and jackets bought directly from the Strokes “Pop-Up Shop” that was open until the last day of GovBall, June 5th. Holy shit, I thought to myself, today the Strokes are playing.
Suddenly, the gates open and I see people begin to frantically rush towards the GovBallNYC Stage, where nonetheless, the Strokes were to play that night at 9:15pm. I smiled for the girls that pummeled past security, I smiled for their excitement and their eagerness, I smiled because they would be barrier for the Strokes.
The London Souls at Gov Ball NYC, Photo by Matt Ebbers
After scanning our super cool and efficient GovBall 2016 wristbands, we marched onto the festival grounds and were greeted by volunteer workers handing out emoji decorated pins, all while wishing us a safe and happy time. We headed directly to the GovBallNYC stage to groove to The London Souls and kick off our GovBall experience. The London Souls, a two man band established in 2008, reinterpret and modernize classic rock music while still holding close to the roots and beloved stylization. With drum beats that re-pattern the beat of your heart and guitar riffs that would make Hendrix proud, there is no denying that The London Souls are the future of classic rock in the 21st century, totally bad-ass and the nicest, most gracious guys. Not a head in the crowd wasn’t bopping along to their structurally sound, seductive anthems.
Bully at Gov Ball NYC, Photo by Matt Ebbers
Some time had passed, and we had scurried around the festival grounds checking out each stage, merch table and food stand. We decided to take a break after watching Black Pistol Fire and sit under a tree while having some food and beers. We unenthusiastically hear Elle King from across the field, we were not planning on seeing her set, because well, we just aren’t into her. Being subjected to hear her Elle King would have been fine if she sang her own songs, but instead she had only belted out merely a few originals and the rest of her 45 minute set to sing covers.
We quickly ate, checked the line-up schedule and headed over to the Big Apple stage to watch BULLY’s set, which we were all very excited to see. Bully, a grunge punk band formed in Nashville in 2013, has a distinguishable raw and realness, that translates smoothly not only with Alicia Bognanno’s rough vocals, but with their overall attitude. Within their set, after finishing a song, Bognanno exclaimed while smirking, “so the next few songs are covers.” How shady, I love it.
Father John Misty at Gov Ball NYC, Photo by Jess Petrylak
We stayed at the Big Apple Stage because a few people in our group were interested in seeing Action Bronson, who was the least of my concern. Only a few hours until Father John Misty graces the Big Apple Stage. Once Action Bronson finished his blunt and his set, my friend took me and slingshotted me to barrier, where I was to stay for two hours until J Tillman’s set. I did not even speak to anyone at barrier, a lot of people were talking amongst themselves, trying to make friends while waiting packed together in the sun. I just stood there, facing forward, occasionally looking back at my boyfriend who was a few people behind me, but mostly staring at the stage, waiting.
Two hours had felt like month, when suddenly the lights went out and band members (that suspiciously all looked like J. Tillman) piled on stage. My heart started racing as J. Tillman sauntered on stage, appropriately bowing and nodding and pointing. This idiot man, this stupid fucking idiot! He looks so good! With a single hit of the drum, I knew they were starting with a classic, and one of my favorite Father John Misty Songs: “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings.” The entire crowd started dancing, and I almost started crying because how out-of-body this song has always been for me. With tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat I screamed, with the entire crowd the opening lines “Jesus Christ, Girl.” Let me tell you, the song is more magical live, more out of body and more floaty (more floaty? whatever) I was floating, and I wasn’t alone. I could not take my eyes off J. Tillman, his movements and gyrations were hypnotic, it’s as if he had summoned Elvis and was casting a love spell on the entire crowd.
Father John Misty at Gov Ball NYC, Photo by Jess Petrylak
I just stood in awe most of the time, in awe of him and in my somewhat pathetic fan-girl mentality, but I did not care, not now, it was my time. A few songs in, I notice him looking in my direction while smugly raising his eyebrows. Taken aback I just smile back at him, while he proceeds to smile, point and wink. What the fuck, that was not towards me, was it? I have forgot to make it clear, we have had history, J. Tillman and I. No, not real history, but there are a collection of tweets we have exchanged back and forth between us, mostly involving him being my father, dog gifs and asking him if he would give me some money. Could he have recognized me? Shut the fuck up, Jess. He eases into playing “Nothing Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow,” and when belting out the lyric “why the long face blondie, I’m already taken, sorry,” he swiftly replaces “sorry” with “sort of” and winks at me again. At this point I am well aware I am part of the act, I’m participating in the world of Father John Misty, I am the prop, I am willing to be the prop. And I am sure he swooned many people that day, I am sure many people felt singled out and special, which is what a great performer does.
Nonetheless, mid song J. Tillman hopped down from the 6 foot stage and came directly for me. The weight of the entire crowd was placed on my back and pushed my body tightly to the barrier, but I did not mind. He’s right in front of me. I looked up at my favorite artist, entertainer, musician, person; I could barely see his face in an all consuming wave of arms and hands grabbing, touching, and I touched what I could (a small section of his bare stomach, sorry J.). Father John Misty’s set, by far, was my favorite experience of GovBall, truly unforgettable and left me shaking with happiness and amazement.
A few hours of relaxation, food and drink was necessary and much needed after Father John Misty’s set, not only for me but for my boyfriend and friends. We were all losing steam and needed to rest before the Strokes set later in the day. I truly have never seen a band bring so many passionate people together like the Strokes have, their fans are loyal, aggressive, real. My sister, who was one of the girls that bolted to barrier early in the day, had described being barrier at a Strokes concert as being part of a hysteria. She stated in a discussion we had afterwards, “It’s so intense, you can feel it everywhere, and you can’t breathe because everyone is trying to get as close as possible. You have no room to move or breathe or anything, and towards the second half of the set you’re like, why did I do this to myself? But you have to do it, It’s all part of the experience.” The energy began to feel thick and electric as we approached the time of the Strokes set, it was to be the icing on the cake of my fulfilling day, but the entire cake for so many. Fashionably late as always, the Strokes began their set 15 after their expected time, opening with the humble classic “The Modern Age.” Fuck yeah.
The first half of their set included songs from their newly released EP, as well as many older songs that only the truest of the Strokes fans would know and be able to sing along to. I was surprised to see many people march away from the stage during this time, as if they were expecting only the typical hits such as “Reptilia” or “Someday.” During the middle of the set, Julian Casablancas broke away from his usual dad joke trope to speak about a serious and tragic issue that is currently devastating the Strokes family.
Brett Kilroe, whom Julian had described as “the greatest visual artist who we have ever gotten the chance to work with,” has been creating award-winning design in music, publishing, and branding for over 20 years, and had served as Vice President of RCA Music Group, had unexpectedly passed away. Julian explained that Kilroe had followed them through their entire professional career, creating some of their most iconic visuals, and was a man that he was intimidated of as a young man, but later realized he had the most “wonderful and sweet heart.” “My wife, whom he was very close with, I thought said something awesome about him,” Julian stated, “he knew everyone better than they knew themselves.” Following the heartfelt message, the band dedicated “Electricityscape” to the late Brett Kilroe. The rest of the show was brimming with the classic’s all the basics inevitably ran away from, and the night ended on a really fucking great note. The Strokes are still the coolest band in the world.
The Strokes at Gov Ball NYC, Photo by Kristen Knight
Photo Contributions: Matt Ebbers,Kristen Knight, Justin Leonti, Nigel Deakin
Quote by: Brianna Petrisko
Thank you to GovBall, my boyfriend for making this all possible, my group for putting everyone’s safety first, everyone that helped me execute this article, and all my friends that attended.