As fans walked across the bridge between Queens and Citi Field at the start of this year’s Governors Ball, they were immediately greeted by thundering bass from punk band 99 Neighbors. From the moment the group took to the Bacardí stage at the Governors Ball 2021 music festival, the energy amplified for every passerby. In baggy jeans and hipster bandana masks, their young and relaxed appearances complemented the carefree demeanor of the ensemble. The deep 808 reverberated through the crowd as lead singer Swank spoke of heartbreak and band DJ Jared Fier got the crowd excited. The attractive swagger of singer Aidan Ostby caught the attention of all onlookers. Halfway between hip-hop and pop, the newbie group provided just the right kind of energy to get the festival off to a good start.
Indie pop sweetheart Tate McRae followed the duo, rocking the Gov Ball crowds on the GOVBALL NYC main stage. A talented and award-winning dancer, McRae was a nonstop firecracker, dancing and moving in perfect sync with the high rhythms of his songs. Two backup dancers, wearing black tracksuits and huge jewelry necklaces to coordinate with McRae’s own athleisure outfit, joined her for most of the show. The trio have been captivating throughout, and the highlights of the show were no doubt when they came together in flurries of perfectly executed choreography. For a promising artist, McRae dominates the scene like no other, performing with confidence and candor. “It’s really cool because the first festival I came to was Gov Ball,” she said, describing the 2018 festival, before her voice died out completely. “Damn sorry, I turned off my mic.” Like her, however, her songs almost seemed made for the massive festival. Not only was the crowd roaring with every song announcement, but the infectious pop beats of his songs were perfect for dancing. Her hit “You Broke Me First”, for example, was energetic from start to finish, her performance begging the audience to dance with her.
After the pop shimmer of McRae and his dancers, soulful singer Leon Bridges took to the GOVBALL NYC stage to bring audiences heartfelt ballads and funky bangers. Flanked by two backing singers dressed in black and silver outfits, Bridges’ own voice was the star of the set. Sweet and angelic, he soared above the star band and captivated audiences. A welcome break from the rest of the day, Bridges has created a space to step back and immerse in groovy rhythms thanks to his drummer and percussionist. “Make some noise if it feels good to relive live music again,” the singer-songwriter shouted into the crowd, greeted in no time by a wave of cheers and applause. Her 2015 track “Brown Skin Girl” received the jazz treatment with instrumental ventilation, allowing the entire Bridges group to show off their musical chops to the song’s infectious beat that matched Bridges’ own energy. Dancing and swaying with the microphone stand, he was a captivating performer who captured attention on the main stage of the festival. A highlight of the ensemble was his hit “River”, also from 2015. Listening to him play it, his slow tempo allowing his voice to soar, was nothing short of a religious experience.