Home Music Music Lists

Governors Ball 2018: 20 Best Things We Saw

Highlights from New York’s biggest summer bash, including Pusha T’s surprise set and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ heartrending comeback

Governors Ball 2018: 20 Best Things We Saw

Carl Timpone/BFA/REX/Shutterstock

Each year thousands of New Yorkers touch down on Randall’s Island for the annual Governors Ball – still, few festival goers come prepared for what’s usually a wet fest. The torrential downpour on Sunday almost generated Woodstock ’94 proportions of mud, but headliner Eminem powered through until the end. In spite of its all-male headliners, the festival paid some respect to a cultural shift in light of the #MeToo movement: Gov Ball organizers formally declared a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment or discrimination on their website, and the Sober Ball tent offered refuge for clean and sober music fans. Even with increasing safety measures, there was plenty of fun to be had. Here are some of this year’s highlights.

Best Merch: Travis Scott

Carl Timpone/BFA/REX/Shutterstock

Best Merch: Travis Scott

The lines for exorbitantly priced merchandise are some of the
longest at the fest. But to be fair, standout merch has become an
album rollout staple. While talking up his upcoming album, Astroworld – inspired by the now-defunct theme park in Houston, Texas – Travis Scott dropped his latest line of merch at the fest, including a T-shirt he wore with the words “Wish You Were Here” emblazoned on the back. Additional merch included hoodies covered in rainbows and printed with what looked like a roller coaster plummeting into the underworld. Travis Scott reassured the crowd that the album would arrive soon, but he had even more to say about the Astroworld tour. “Building an amusement park in the arena is not easy, but I’m gonna fucking do it,” Scott stated as lights flashed behind him. “Every night on fucking tour is gonna be the best fucking ride of your fucking life.” Although Scott’s Gov Ball exclusives stood out among the rest of the tees, Post Malone’s gas-station-attendant-chic streetwear line – AKA “Posty Co” – did come in a close second. S.B., N.B.

Trippiest Set: Cuco

Griffin Lotz for Rolling Stone

Trippiest Set: Cuco

Cuco – the moniker for the California-based stoner pop artist Omar Banos – set Gov Ball ablaze on early Saturday afternoon. With neon, kaleidoscopic graphics and R&B psychedelia, the California up-and-comer in his majority-adolescent crowd. The Chicano teen dream was backed by a fabulous six-piece band who showcased their range of chillwave-infused sounds, indulging ineverything from unhurried Spanglish rap in “Summertime Hightime,” and kicking off a psychedelic time warp in “Sunnyside” – completely subverting genre and appealing to the more omnivorous Spotify generation of fans. S.B.

Best Teen Heartthrob: Khalid

Griffin Lotz for Rolling Stone

Best Teen Heartthrob: Khalid

Ironically having just turned 20, Khalid, mastermind behind Grammy-nominated
record American Teen, catered his Sunday
evening performance on the main stage to his massive audience of actual teens. He
kicked off his set by quoting a lyric from his song, “8TEEN”– “Let’s
do all the stupid shit young kids do” – and shouted out recent high school
graduates in saying, “I want to congratulate the class of 2018!” While his band and backup dancers were almost robotically airtight, Khalid exuded
a natural sense of tenderness towards his fans, especially as he wrapped up
with his 2017 hit, “Young Dumb & Broke.” The
thousands of American teens in the crowd were rapt under the spell of their
young king. S.B.

Best Early Bird Act: The Regrettes

Griffin Lotz for Rolling Stone

Best Early Bird Act: The Regrettes

“I know it’s early but… Do you guys know what a mosh pit is? I feel like that should happen,” suggested The Regrettes’ lead singer Lydia Night on Saturday afternoon, during the festival’s earliest time slot. Those who showed up for the L.A. band absorbed enough of their high-octane energy to survive the rest of the sweltering day. Night, whose hot pink hair matched the hue of her guitar, invited young women in the audience to the front of the stage for a defiant performance of their song, “A Living Human Girl.” The Regrettes closed their set with an incisive cover of Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” – a middle finger to their cock-rock predecessors. N.B.

Best Mosh Pit: Lil Uzi Vert

Taylor Hill/Getty

Best Mosh Pit: Lil Uzi Vert

“How many people in the crowd believe that Uzi is a real rock star?” Asked Lil Uzi Vert a few songs into his set – just a day after his altercation with rapper Rich The Kid – inside a Philadelphia Starbucks, no less. The audience roared with unanimous approval before Uzi burst into his song, “Real Rockstar.” Apart from his aesthetic throwbacks to early Aughts Hot Topic, the emo rap-rocker brought a gritty punk rock edge that was missing from the rest of the weekend, prompting the crowd to mosh, body surf, and “make some noise you if you don’t give a shit and you a real rager!” Pleased with the crowd’s reaction to his rendition of “Bad and Boujee,” Uzi concluded, “This ain’t no bitch-ass crowd.” D.T.

Best Worst Gov Ball 2018

Griffin Lotz for Rolling Stone

Best Headliner: Eminem

About halfway through his headlining set, Eminem decided to intensify his recent public flirtation with Nicki Minaj: “I just wanna give a shout-out to wifey,” he said, lying down in the center of the stage. “Nicki, let’s do this,” he said, adding, “She don’t even know we go together.” This baiting move was a reminder of the feisty hellraiser that Eminem was when he first broke through two decades ago. His Sunday night set highlighted the struggle between that risk-taking genius of the Nineties and the polished pop hitmaker he’s become in the last decade. The best moments channeled the former – for an audience teeming with kids born well after he released 1999’s Slim Shady LP, the rapper led huge singalongs of classics like “Kill You” and “Stan” for an enthusiastic Sunday night crowd. A special highlight was “The Way I Am,” during which Eminem bounced around as a live band with strings elevated the song to new peaks. After that Eminem gave the floor to surprise guest 50 Cent, who flashed his huge grin through a fun throwback set that included his 2003 anthem, “In Da Club.” Vocalist Skylar Grey appeared, ethereal as ever, for “Walk on Water” and “Love the Way You Lie,” before Eminem segued into some newer tracks. But by then it had started to pour – and those songs felt a little damp too. P.D.

Show Comments