Chappell Roan, Sabrina Carpenter, Post Malone

June 10, 2024
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Many people have tried to make music festivals happen inside the five boroughs of New York over the years, with varying degrees of success. These days, Governors Ball is the one that rules them all. Since moving to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in 2023, it’s come closer than anyone to bringing an expansive, West Coast-style festival experience to the city. The new location has a lot to do with that: Gov Ball now takes place in a verdant, spacious urban park, just a subway ride away from Manhattan or Brooklyn, where you can see some of the biggest names in music once a summer. This year, an estimated 120,000 people flocked to Queens over three days to see headliners like SZA, Post Malone, the Killers, Peso Pluma, 21 Savage, and Rauw Alejandro — plus some of today’s hottest breakout stars, like Sabrina Carpenter, Sexyy Red, and Chappell Roan, higher on the bill. Here are the 18 best things we saw from June 7-9.

“I don’t like asking who’s been here since day one,” Teezo Touchdown told the crowd at his late-afternoon set on Friday. “Because today can be our day one.” His set began about 20 minutes late due to technical difficulties, but Teezo — who performed a sold-out solo show at Irving Plaza the night before — quickly got the crowd on his side with his live vocals and stage presence. Dressed like a rock & roll vampire with long, curly hair, dark shades, and a sheer long-sleeved top and designer jeans by Hugo Boss, he brought near-headliner levels of charisma to his first-ever appearance at Gov Ball. His set ranged from free-associative rock on his 2020 single “Social Cues” to dreamy pop crooning on 2021’s “Technically” and “I’m Just a Fan.” By the time he ran through some of his star-making guest appearances on tracks by Tyler, the Creator and Travis Scott, and hit the high note on his own “UUHH,” he had the crowd bouncing and waving their hands in the air. “I’m American singer-songwriter Teezo Touchdown,” he said triumphantly. Remember that name when he’s an even bigger star. —S.V.L.

Alex G Plays Loud for the Indie Heads 

Alex G

Griffin Lotz for Rolling Stone

Festivals like Gov Ball naturally skew toward big, crowd-pleasing pop sounds, so it’s always interesting to see how an indie-rocker like Alex Giannascoli fits into that carnival environment. He and his band haven’t altered their live show very much since he first found a national audience for his home-recorded music about 10 summers ago. The only real difference is that in that time, he’s become even more of a cult hero. “He’s actually here!” one fan gasped when he first appeared onstage with a guitar tech on Friday evening; the rest of the crowd howled with excitement, and Alex G gave a bemused smile. He and his three bandmates bashed through the grungy, crashing chords of “Gretel” and the waltz-like rhythms of “Southern Sky,” both from 2019; when they reached back further for early classics like 2014’s “After Ur Gone” and 2012’s “Mary,” the crowd sang along almost devotionally. Alex and his band closed the set with “Forgive,” from 2022’s God Save the Animals, building a ferocious guitar jam to send fans back into the bright lights of the night. —S.V.L.

Post Malone Affirms His Place in Pop, Rap, Country, and Rock 

Barefoot with a beer in his hand and fireworks blasting off above the stage from the very first song, Post Malone delivered a relentless opening five-song run on Friday, spanning “Better Now,” “Wow,” “Psycho,” “Zack and Codeine,” and “Goodbyes,” which he performed on guitar with the fervor of a rock legend. Post likes to have fun on stage — throwing his (mostly) empty red Solo cups into the crowd, bringing fans from the audience up to perform “Stay” with him, rapping over a track of 21 Savage’s “Rockstar” verse. It’s pointless trying to resist getting sucked into that energy, but there are certain moments when the musician becomes enraptured by a song and it feels as though you’re watching an entirely different person. Backed by a string section and a seven-piece band, Post delivered a stunning vocal performance on “I Fall Apart,” wailing into the microphone. 

In the months since the announcement this January that Posty would be the festival’s day one headliner, he has affirmed his place in the pop sphere with appearances on new records from both Taylor Swift and Beyoncé. Neither collaboration made it onto his set, though; he had too many hits of his own to get through. Much of the crowd was content with leaving once Post’s set appeared to be finished after he exited the stage following “Congratulations.” It would have been a perfectly fine note to end on, even if any number of his other hits were missing from the setlist. But just as quickly as the audience began funneling out, they were rushing back to their places as he returned for an encore of “Sunflower,” “Chemical,” and a solo rendition of “I Had Some Help,” his newly-released country collaboration with Morgan Wallen. That chorus is even more sticky-sweet live — and I’ll be the first signature on the petition for the release of a version without the baggage of that other man’s presence. L.P.

Farruko Pumps Up the Crowd

Farruko

Griffin Lotz for Rolling Stone

It’s no secret that the Puerto Rican rapper Farruko has been through a few emotional transformations — he’s spoken to Rolling Stone at length about his spiritual journey and turn toward religion in recent years. Some fans may have worried that his live show would change drastically as a result, but Farruko’s performance at Gov Ball showed how he’s balancing high-energy, hit-packed sets with an uplifting message. The Puerto Rican artist bounced through some of his all-time chart-toppers, like “Calma” and “Fantasias,” backed by a few vocalists who gave each song a choir-like touch. Toward the end, he cranked up the intensity and turned the stage into a full-on explosive daytime club, shutting things down with his EDM bangers, including “Pepas” among others. The crowd was still dancing when he let them go with a burst of fire blasts and pyrotechnics. J.L.

Ryan Beatty Is a Man of Few Words, But Many Melodies and Even More Evocative Lyrics 

When Ryan Beatty took the main stage early in the afternoon on Friday, he filled the large space with a simple six-piece band. Beatty settled onto a stool in the center of the cluster of musicians and delivered the set with the intimacy of a closed-eyed recording session or an introspective self-interrogation behind closed doors. “Something’s missing/And that’s all right, I promise/I’m gonna give it until August,” he sang on “Bruises off the Peach,” a particularly somber song from his latest album, Calico. The record, like his subsequent selections “Cinnamon Bread” and “Bright Red,” feel like distillations of summertime — not the carefree warmth of beach days and vacations, but quiet sunsets and the aimless passage of time that at once moves too slowly and too quickly. 

There’s always an element of festival-going that feels as though the audience is performing for the artist nearly as much as the artist is performing for them. But both Beatty and the crowd he drew opted out of this unspoken creative contract. As the musician crooned the melodies of “White Teeth” and “Little Faith,” two records that bring forth a flush of chills, the audience stood captivated, singing back in a delicate near-whisper. The only thing that could have made the moment more perfect would have been if Beatty had been booked to performed on the second day of the festival, so everyone could have collectively watched on in awe as he concluded “White Teeth” with the lyric: “Some left, but the right ones stay/A good end to a Saturday.” —L.P.

Rauw Alejandro’s Master Class in Showmanship

Rauw Alejandro

Maria-Julana Rojas for Rolling Stone

Rauw Alejandro came to Gov Ball to put on a show. The Puerto Rican star launched into his set, backed by a crew of dancers performing intricate Broadway-style choreography — and from there, he never slowed down. At one point, he made his way directly into the crowd and performed a couple songs surrounded by his fans. There, he told them how much it meant to him to perform in New York, calling out Latin icons from the city like Big Pun, Jennifer Lopez, Willie Colon, and Romeo Santos. As he walked back to the stage, he kept the New York theme strong by transforming the whole set into a subway car, where he performed his hit “Todo de Ti” and “2/Catorce.” Before ending the show with a power-driven version of “Punto 40,” he shared one more surprise with fans: He’s got a new album coming, and it’s almost finished. —J.L.

Dominic Fike’s Delightful Chaos

Dominic Fike’s live shows have been buzzy for a minute now; his Coachella set last year was among the festival’s best. At Gov Ball, he was in far more chaotic form, joking that he’d gotten off most drugs to prepare for his Friday performance and hyping up New York as one of the greatest crowds in the world. But even as he ran around, pretending to fall off the stage at one point, he sounded great and quickly became one of the highlights of the afternoon. He kept switching guitars and racing his way back to the mic, charging through older tracks (“Babydoll,” “Why,” “Politics & Violence”), mixing in songs from his last album, Sunburn (“Ant Pile,” “How Much Is Weed”), and working through a couple cuts from his most recent EP, 14 Minutes. The whole time, his musicality and twitchy charm made him one of the more magnetic performers on the bill. —J.L.

Doechii Gets the Crowd Jumping

Doechii

Maria-Juliana Rojas for Rolling Stone

To see Doechii is to know she was born to be a star. The Florida-raised rap phenom made a hot, sunny field feel like the coolest club in the world on Saturday afternoon with a blend of rapid-fire bars and high-energy house beats. Singles like 2022’s “Persuasive” and 2024’s “Alter Ego” got the crowd jumping, with many fans trying their best to match the crisp choreo of Doechii and her ripped male back-up dancers. “Where the fuck are the gays?” she asked, to enthusiastic cheers. “You know this world would be nothing without you!” In a set that doubled as a joyous Pride party, she made that stage her own. Fans chanted the opening verse from her 2020 breakthrough “Yucky Blucky Fruitcake” a cappella — “Hi! My name’s Doechii with two i’s! I feel anxious when I’m high!” — then went wild when the beat kicked in and she performed it herself. “Do you know how often I’ll be out on the street and someone will come up to me and say, ‘You left the chicken out?’” she said after finishing her virtuosic verses from that song. “It’s crazy, but I love it.” —S.V.L.

Sabrina Carpenter Wraps Gov Ball Around Her Finger

It’s incredible how much charm can fit into one five-foot-tall pop star. Sabrina Carpenter’s midday performance on Saturday was a masterclass in sweet-talking an audience into falling at your feet. The singer pranced onto the stage just before 5 p.m. in her signature platform boots and a soft yellow dress with a heart cutout in the center of her chest, an aesthetic element replicated in the outfits of hundreds of fans in the audience. But this was only after she teased them just a little, with stage graphics reading: “I’m about to come out, but I need to hear you first. What was that? Okay I’m coming out. Whoops, too early. I forgot my mic. One sec.” Carpenter also brought along a crew of 10 dancers, who orbited around her as if she were the sun. 

This year’s festival season has been a goldmine for Carpenter. She released her caffeinated hit “Espresso” just in time for Coachella, and just last week she released“Please Please Please.” The thousands-deep crowd was the first to witness the new single live, with the singer introducing it with the note: “I know I said I can’t relate to desperation, but turns out I’m just a girl.” But really, she can’t. There’s an innate confidence in Carpenter’s presence on stage, an effortless ease that emerges as she exchanges winks and quips with the audience, then locks right back into performance mode an instant later. At the end of the set, she jumped from the should-be-hit “Fast Times” into “Because I Liked a Boy” and closed out with the one-two punch of “Espresso” and “Nonsense,” complete with a Gov Ball-ified outro: “Do I text him back, it’s such a tough call/That won’t fit inside me, bro, I’m dumb small/People who hate Pride can suck my Gov Balls.” —L.P.

Sexyy Red Was the President of Queens

The Sexy 4 President campaign stopped in Queens on Saturday for Governors Ball. Her place on the bill marked a new plateau for the North St. Louis artist, as a spot on a multi-genre festival is a bid for larger stardom. To her and her DJ’s credit, they read the room. At Philly’s Roots Picnic the previous weekend, they prepped the crowd by playing deep-cut ass-shaking classics like “Doodoo Brown.” But the mixed crowd at Gov Ball called for an approach with broader appeal, so her DJ set the tone with songs like Travis Scott and Playboi Carti’s “Fein” as well as Lil Uzi Vert’s “Just Wanna Rock,” intermittently teasing that Sexyy was in the back ready to take the stage. 

Clad in white, with her polarizing giant “Make America Sexy Again” cap on the stage, she was escorted onstage by a faux-Secret Service member. Immediately, she tore into her considerable catalog of twerk-a-thon staples. The oft-outspoken MC didn’t speak much in between tracks, though at one point she and her DJ did a morale-boosting scan for the biggest hoes in the audience. Along with the raucous reaction to her big hits “SkeeYee” and “Get It Sexyy,” the crowd gave the biggest pop to her Drake collaborations “Rich Babby Daddy” and “U My Everything.” She finished the set with “Pound Town,” changing one of the song’s famous lines to “I’m out here in New York, lookin’ for the hoochie daddies” — apparently, so were hundreds of other festivalgoers. —A.G. 

21 Savage Brings the American Dream to GovBall 

21 Savage

Griffin Lotz for Rolling Stone

The Gov Ball experience is always an intriguing mixed bag, and this year was no different. The artists on the bill collectively brought us vibes from all over the world. 21 Savage’s set to close out the second stage on Saturday took us down to the gritty streets of East Atlanta. Things got started with a poignant audio clip of 21’s mother noting that every choice she made was for his betterment, and soon after, he came out as living proof, taking us back to the beginning of his journey with his 2016 single “No Heart.” Clad in a Supreme/Ducati collaboration biker outfit, 21 took the stage in style for an hourlong exhibition of hits that expertly balance the line between funny, grimy, and mass-appealing. While fans weren’t as tapped in to some of his deep cuts, they gave major pops to hits like “Bank Account,” “Running,” “Rockstar,” and of course his songs with Drake, with the fans eagerly reciting their back-and-forth moments on “On BS” and “Knife Talk.” —A.G. 

The Killers Wear Their Crown Well

Two decades after their debut, it’s clear that the Killers won. They may have faced some doubters early on for their earnest, shoot-for-the-moon rock anthems, but they made even more fans, and they’ve built the kind of catalog that makes them perfect headliners for a big festival like Gov Ball. Playing to a diverse, notably millennial-heavy crowd on Saturday, one day after the 20th anniversary of Hot Fuss, they put on a hell of a show. Brandon Flowers — the sole original member onstage aside from drummer Ronnie Vanucci Jr. — is as dynamic a showman as any rock singer of his generation. He was climbing on the risers from the very first song (“Somebody Told Me”), selling the moment to the max, and he didn’t let up from there. “If you came here tonight looking for some rock & roll, you came to the right place,” he told the crowd. “We happen to be the purveyors of some of the finest rock & roll on planet Earth. Can I get an amen?” Songs like “Read My Mind,” “When You Were Young,” “All These Things That I’ve Done,” and “Mr. Brightside” were made to be shouted along with, whether that was in a dive bar during the George W. Bush administration or in a giant field with tens of thousands of your closest friends in 2024. There was a sweet tribute to a fellow member of rock’s class of ’03-’04 when Flowers sang a few bars of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ all-time classic “Maps,” and a nice interlude when they invited a fan named Anthony from Mamaroneck, New York, onstage to play drums on “For Reasons Unknown.” (It turns out this is something they do at most of their shows. Still, it was cool. Anthony from Mamaroneck is a sick drummer.) The person I saw this show with compared the Killers to Bruce Springsteen, if every song was “Dancing in the Dark” — the poppiest, broadest version of what he does. And you know what? “Dancing in the Dark” rules, and so do the Killers. —S.V.L.

Chappell Roan Becomes the (Drag) Queen of New York

Chappel Roan

Maria-Juliana Rojas for Rolling Stone

There are moments in some pop singers’ careers where — if they’re lucky — their stardom is locked into the collective consciousness of tens of thousands of people in one moment. Chappell Roan had one of these on Sunday evening. There was already a buzz surrounding her set from the moment you entered the festival grounds, but nothing could have prepared anyone in that sea of sparkling cowboy hats for the moment when the singer emerged from a giant apple on stage, painted entirely green in drag as the Statue of Liberty. Being in the crowd at that moment felt like watching Michelangelo craft the statue of David in real time. It was pure pop euphoria and she hadn’t even opened her mouth yet. Chappell came in hot with “Femininomenon,” the first of 10 songs in her setlist, almost all from her 2023 debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess. “Hot To Go” and “Red Wine Supernova” felt like the ultimate party, and her vocal performance on “Good Luck, Babe” and the newly-debuted but unreleased song “Subway” felt like the marking of a visionary performer. 

Some of the set’s greatest, most memorable moments had nothing to do with the music or the looks — even when Chappell changed into a yellow taxicab dress. “I am in drag as the biggest queen of all, but in case you had forgotten what’s etched on my pretty little toes: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,’” she told the crowd, getting briefly choked up. “That means freedom and trans rights. That means freedom and women’s rights. And it especially means freedom for all oppressed people in occupied territories.” The speech arrived minutes before the musician revealed that she had been invited to perform at the White House for Pride, but ultimately declined. “We want liberty, justice, and freedom for all,” she said directly into the main stage camera, dedicating “My Kink Is Karma” to the institution. “When you do that, that’s when I’ll come.” And when that time comes, her loyal legion of glittering devotees will follow. —L.P.

Elyanna Makes the Revolution Irresistible 

Elyanna

Griffin Lotz for Rolling Stone

There’s a quote from the author and social activist Toni Cade Bambara that reads: “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible.” That’s exactly what Palestinian-Chilean musician Elyanna did on Sunday afternoon as she delivered a culturally rich and expertly choreographed performance on the Gov Ball main stage. In the audience, Palestinian flags and keffiyehs were held towards the bright blue sky. Onstage, Elyanna performed in front of a graphic reading “All Eyes on Rafah,” referring to the city in southern Gaza where displaced Palestinans are being targeted in an ongoing Israeli invasion. But beyond highlighting tragedy, the singer performed entirely in Arabic with the fervor and stamina of a pop star and professional dancer as her band played traditional instruments like the tabla and oud. There wasn’t a moment in Elyanna’s set that didn’t feel wholly intentional. The cultural celebration put on display was an act of resistance all on its own. —L.P.

Reneé Rapp Keeps the Party Going

Reneé Rapp is in the midst of pulling off an ambitious stage-to-screen-to-stage move, translating the fame she’s won as a Broadway, TV, and film actor into a pop music audience. And boy, is it working. In interviews, the Mean Girls/Sex Lives of College Girls star has talked about music being her true first love, and that was evident at Gov Ball, where she ran onto the mainstage on Sunday afternoon with tons of main-character energy. The audience — which included quite a few young fans in pink cowboy hats left over from Chappell Roan’s set earlier — sang along enthusiastically to confessional bops like “Talk Too Much” and sapphic anthems like “Pretty Girls,” all delivered with upbeat energy and a big smile. “Do you like Megan Thee Stallion?” she said after performing their collab “Not My Fault.” Meg wasn’t there, but that didn’t matter. Reneé Rapp is enough of a star to hold that stage on her own, and then some. —S.V.L.

Faye Webster

Sacha Lecca for Rolling Stone

Faye Webster was scheduled directly opposite Peso Pluma, who pulled one of the festival’s biggest crowds to the opposite side of the grounds on Sunday evening. That could have been a problem for an indie singer-songwriter, but Webster has already transcended that category to become a cross-genre phenomenon, and she drew a sizeable audience of her own to Gov Ball’s third stage. Performing in her pajamas in front of a giant blue T-shirt and a bunch of washing machines, Webster showed off the unique anti-charisma that’s earned her that following. She doesn’t do anthems or big hooks; her sound on releases like this year’s Underdressed at the Symphony is a subtle one, brought out onstage with pedal steel, saxophone, violin, wind chimes, and Webster’s own softly lyrical guitar solos. Songs like “But Not Kiss” and “Thinking About You” stretched out like taffy, with dream-like midtempo grooves that felt just right for the final day of a festival. At one point, a bubble machine filled the air with suds. At one point, the stage camera panned to show Chappell Roan, who’d performed possibly the buzziest set of the entire weekend a few hours earlier, vibing out in the audience in her full Statue of Liberty drag under a black hoodie. “Hey,” Webster said after another song, pausing for a moment as bass boomed distantly across the park. Then she smiled: “I’m stalling so I can listen to Peso Pluma.” —S.V.L.

Peso Pluma Powers Through a Bum Ankle To Thrill the Crowd

“You finally got Peso Pluma here,” the 24-year-old Mexican dynamo told his throng of devotees who packed the GoPuff stage on Sunday. The last time Peso performed in New York, he was doing so for a small crowd of 500 or so — this was much larger. Before I walked onto the official festival grounds, I saw vendors selling Mexican flags throughout Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. And I saw many of them put to good use throughout Peso’s hour-long set — I counted dozens of small flags, six large Mexican flags. That latter amount seems fitting, because Peso and his crew put on a roller coaster of a set for his fans. 

Peso Pluma

Maria-Juliana Rojas for Rolling Stone

There were moments this weekend where popular artists’ hits didn’t get the pop they deserved; that wasn’t the case with Peso, who had the crowd hanging on his every word. His band’s horn and guitar solos drew raucous applause. He spoke to the crowd throughout his set, telling them at one point “I want you to feel with the heart” while performing folk songs alongside his stagemates, who danced alongside him and even picked him up at one juncture. Their dancing was mirrored back by the crowd — one woman even briefly pulled me into a dance circle.

The good vibes were threatened when Peso seemed to have tweaked his ankle while dancing onstage, but he didn’t let it deter him. At one point, he told the crowd, “I can’t even barely stand, but I don’t give a fuck,” before jumping into “AMG” to a loud ovation. The second half of his set shifted into more reggaeton vibes, which sent the all-ages crowd off on a high. —A.G.

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SZA’s Grand Gov Ball Finale Comes in Like a Wrecking Ball 

SZA’s debut album, CTRL, was released exactly seven years to the date of her headlining performance at Gov Ball this weekend — and what better way to celebrate than with thousands of fans screaming your lyrics back with anger, heartbreak, and total devotion? The singer managed to fit 25 songs into just under an hour and a half, aided by carefully curated medleys. She ran through “Seek & Destroy,” “Love Galore,” “Broken Clocks,” and “Forgiveless” within the first few minutes of the set, but let “Ghost in the Machine” bloom in full. As SZA moved in between songs from CTRL and its follow-up SOS, it put into context just how high she set the bar for herself on that first album and how worth the wait its successor was. 

The performance was a holistic display of how much she’s leveled up as an artist in that time. SZA went full rock star on the guitar-heavy SOS deep cut “F2F” and swung around on top of a wrecking ball during “Low” — and that was only the halfway mark on the setlist. The latter half of the set was loaded with hits and ballads, including a mashup of “Supermodel” and “Special.” The singer didn’t welcome any special guests during the set, but did lead the audience in a Sexyy Red-less twerkfest during “Rich Baby Daddy,” their collaboration with Drake. Any number of SZA’s hits could have been the encore for the set — from “Snooze” and “I Hate U” to “Kill Bill” and “The Weekend” — but she completed her celebration with a return to where it all began (and ended): “20 Something,” the final song on the standard edition of CTRL. These are the kind of “Good Days” she was singing about. —L.P.



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