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Governors Ball festival 2024: Coachella gets a strong, and cheaper, run for its money | Music

TOAt least judging by the press, music festivals are going through difficult times. In this economy, they have to court the public to pay higher and higher prices for an increasingly stratified experience; In a post-Beychella era, they’re in a war of tastes between millennials in midlife crisis, Generation Z in their delusional prime, and the (scarily) ascendant Generation Alpha, the oldest of whom are old enough to wander alone through the concert gardens. Coachella, North America’s largest and most capitalized event music festival, failed to sell out its weekend for the first time in a decade, prompting premature praise and widespread declarations of its era of failure.

The Governor’s Ball, New York’s much smaller and less dusty alternative, fared better. The three-day festival in Queens managed to sell out all its day passes for a lineup that, if you listen to older indies gloating online, was just as underwhelming as the West Coast flagship event, and for the same $16. Price for tall boys. Not so at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which was buzzing with enthusiasm for a host of bold, ultra-confident female pop acts: Sabrina Carpenter, Reneé Rapp, newcomer Elyanna, triumphant headliner SZA and, most insistently, the new girl at the pop of the moment, Chappell Roan. .

Music festivals always skew toward young people, but Gov Ball, being relatively affordable (relative keyword: weekend passes start at $310, compared to Coachella’s $499), is open to all ages and accessible via public transportation, has a reputation for skewing especially young. As in, a pint-sized high school student cartoonishly dragging a joint to Friday’s headliner, Post Malone, Young. (Even the always amiable Malone, 28, seemed to feel his age: “I can’t drink as much beer as I used to,” he said while gagging a little on his second frothy beer from his signature red Solo cup.) But as I said a 26-year-old “finished” in the bathroom line, this year’s Gov Ball wasn’t so much for the teens but “for the girls and the gays” with several queer artists and beloved Carly Rae Jepsen of the Month of Pride. “How are my token straight boyfriends?” Reneé Rapp asked during her Sunday performance. “If I do not care”.

Revelers react during a performance by Reneé Rapp. Photograph: Cheney Orr/Reuters

Even token straight boyfriends supposedly turned out strongly for Roan, who has experienced a rapid rise since opening for Olivia Rodrigo and a statement-making Coachella debut. There was no artist I heard more about this weekend, with more people visibly dressed to see her, like the 26-year-old “Midwestern Princess” from Missouri, whose Sunday afternoon set was far from the biggest spectacle, attracted an overflow crowd. .

Emerging from a giant apple dressed as “the greatest queen of them all” (the Statue of Liberty) in head-to-ass green chaps, Roan lived up to expectations, even if her microphone wasn’t always tuned loud enough to to be able to listen to it. about her gang dressed as her taxi and the thousands shouting “HOT TO GO!” Wardrobe malfunctions aside, Roan delivered a barn game, criticized the White House for inviting her to perform for Pride (“We want freedom, justice and liberty for all. When you do that, that’s when I’ll come”) and cited the Lady Liberty’s “huddled masses” inscription in favor of trans rights, women’s rights, and “freedom for oppressed peoples in the occupied territories” without directly naming Palestine.

Others were less shy. Saint Levant, a 23-year-old singer and rapper who grew up in Gaza, dedicated parts of his Sunday performance to the victims of the Israeli attacks and spoke openly about his “complicated” feelings about playing an American festival days after an Israeli attack in a Palestinian refugee camp killed more than 200 people. “I’m here now… trying to share a moment, trying to celebrate my culture and be here with you, but in the back of my mind the only thing I can think about is these children, these women and these men,” he said, to Cheers of “Free Palestine!” among a crowd dotted with keffiyehs. “Deliverance will come.”

Eliana. Photography: Kyle Stevens/REX/Shutterstock

Up-and-coming Palestinian-Chilean singer Elyanna, Coachella’s first all-Arabic performer, performed her song Olive Branch with a graphic reading of “All Eyes on Rafah,” though the 22-year-old had no beat. throughout the whole of it; From 2 in the afternoon until it ended, 45 minutes later, my jaw was on the floor, from the force of her siren-like voice, her Shakira-style dancing, and her Latin-inflected Arabic rhythms.

Both Elyanna and Saint Levant are former Coachella performers taking their case for stardom east; So was this year’s standout, Sabrina Carpenter, in a butter yellow dress with a heart-shaped cutout and sugary confidence to match. Her performance on Saturday, in which she debuted new single Please Please Please (sans boyfriend and music video star Barry Keoghan), only served to underline that “that’s my espresso” is the line of the summer. Former Sex Lives of College Girls star Rapp, who performed on the main stage right after Roan, defended a Broadway channel to pop: “don’t talk to me about a crossover!” he said, recalling a male companion who dismissed his composition as too “theatrical,” with a nonchalance so infectious and unwavering that it was impossible not to be charmed.

Renee Rapp. Photography: Brandon Nagy/REX/Shutterstock

Rapp, less than a year removed from his first album, was one of several artists who evidenced the generational divide that is not unique to Gov Ball, with a crowd made up of twenty-somethings. Indelible to me is the shock of hearing how many in that crowd know the lyrics to Roan’s Red Wine Supernova; So is watching a little girl hit her father’s shoulders so hard while she listens to The Killers that she fell. The Las Vegas-based rock band, celebrating 20 years of Hot Fuss and therefore now a legacy act (sorry to older millennials), offered an unexpected weekend highlight on Saturday the night, with a set full of classics that didn’t let up even once. 90 minutes and that made seamer Brightside look really strange.

Her headlining energy was matched only by SZA, also in the spirit of anniversary when her seminal album Ctrl was released seven years to the day of her Sunday night performance. Note-perfect, casual, barely pausing between numbers in the middle of her nautical set (and looking sexy in her thematically unrelated rabbit furs), the 34-year-old appeared experienced and incredibly relaxed, performing songs from an entire decade of mistakes. , healing and growth. Minutes before the night’s strict curfew, she jumped from a tower to the front of the stage for a festival-closing acoustic performance of Ctrl’s track 20 Something. “Hoping that my twenties don’t end / Hoping to keep the rest of my friends / Praying that the twenties don’t kill me,” she sang, in a prayer for festival-goers, new and old.

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