Summer festival season began in New York City yesterday (June 1) as the opening night of the eighth-annual Governors Ball took over Randall’s Island. Jack White ended the evening with an onslaught of White Stripes, Raconteurs and solo hits, and before his headlining set, the likes of Shawn Mendes, Post Malone, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, DRAM, and more ensured that festival-goers enjoyed an action-packed, genre-hopping Friday at the fest.
Billboard‘s team was on the island throughout the day; here’s our hour-by-hour recap of the Gov Ball’s Day One highlights.
1:32 p.m. Sir Sly takes to the Honda Stage, with frontman Landon Jacobs wearing a vibrant red top and matching pants. They give fans a taste of their forthcoming third album with a new song, “Pressure,” before breezing through tracks like “Astronaut,” “High” and “&Run.” Clips of cartoon television shows flash behind the band as they play, and Jacobs remarks that the band has wanted to play Gov Ball for about five years. — GAB GINSBERG
2:15 p.m. Wolf Alice sets the tone from song one, ready to rock with the rousing set-opener “Moaning Lisa Smile.” The London quartet’s set later includes guitarist Joff Oddie throwing his instrument in the air, mid riff, and catching it right where he left off. — CHRIS PAYNE
3:12 p.m. Belly kicks off the weekend in a bold way — with a metaphorical middle finger to the White House’s controversial policies. “Fuck what Donald Trump talking ‘bout, where my immigrants at?” the Toronto rapper boasts on the Honda stage before his fiery performance of Mumble Rap’s “Immigration to the Trap.” Belly is of Palestinian descent, which made the declaration all the more significant. He also brings out The Lox — whom he referred to as “New York’s hip-hop royalty” — as his surprise guests to perform classics like “We Gon Make It” and “I Get High.” — BIANCA GRACIE
3:13 p.m. “We’re called Alvvays and we’re from Canada!” cheerily announces frontwoman Molly Rankin. Before a set of top-rate indie pop fully commences, the singer-guitarist gets one detail out of the way: “If you pronounce it ‘al-vays,’ I won’t hate you,” she says, emphasizing the “v”‘s. The Toronto band’s moniker is pronounced the same way you’d say “always,” but by the time the chorus of the infectious “Plimsoll Punks” hits, all interpretations are fair game as long as your head’s bobbing long. — C.P.
4:21 p.m. “Crew” was undeniably one of the biggest songs of 2017, so GoldLink naturally continues to use its power to amp up his typically chill performances. Before closing out his set at the Bacardi Stage, the D.C. native commands the audience to create a mosh pit once that infectious bass drops. And his energetic fans gladly oblige! He then proceeds to walk off the stage as his DJ played an unnamed and unreleased track. Lyrics shouting, “What your name is? What’s your gang sign?” rip through the speaker as the crowd makes its way to yet another performance. — B.G.
4:30 p.m. There’s a sizable rush towards the barricade, as alt-pop up-and-comer Maggie Rogers excites the crowd as she takes the main stage. She enters dressed in a sun, moon and eyeball-adorned pantsuit and cape (whose bright colors reflect artist Ricardo Cavolo) and jumps right into her shimmering track, “On + Off.” — C.P.
4:35 p.m. DRAM transforms the fields of Randall’s Island into a club once he drops Big Baby DRAM highlight “Outta Sight / Dark Lavender Interlude.” The singer’s soulful croons waft above the crowd as the jingling disco-fused beat has everyone dancing. The flashing images of neon-lit strippers on the screen adds a fun touch too. He also gave fans a little treat by premiering a new song that’s seemingly (and adorably) titled “Your Girl Gives The Best Hugs” and bears a smooth ‘70s-inspired vibe. — B.G.
4:50 p.m. Rogers performs an (unnamed) new song; it’s built around a rubbery bass groove, a welcome diversion from the dreamier territory she’s worked to date. Get excited for that forthcoming Capitol Records debut LP. — C.P.
5:05 p.m. Does this Maggie Rogers track sound familiar? It should, because it’s a masterful cover of Macy Gray’s 1999 mega-hit, “I Try.” — C.P.
5:43 p.m. After serenading the crowd with his hit “In My Blood,” Shawn Mendes surprises swooning fans — some of them in tears — with an impromptu cover of Kings Of Leon’s “Use Somebody.” “Beautiful,” he remarks, complimenting the echo of voices coming from the crowd. — T.C.
6:15 p.m. The blazing sun has finally set. 6lack brings some much needed calm to the American Eagle Stage, which matches the descending temperatures perfectly. “I was at a bad record label, a bad relationship,” the singer tells the audience in regards to his debut album Free 6lack. “I took some time out from recording my next album to be with y’all today, and I feel free. Freer than I ever been.” 6lack then proceeds to perform an electric guitar-riddled rendition of “Free” that is heightened by a crushing bassline. — B.G.
6:58 p.m. Halsey jams out side-stage at Post Malone’s set, singing along to his Beerbongs & Bentleys hit “Better Now.” (She’ll take the stage herself today.) — T.C.
7:15 p.m. A group of high school graduates, still in their white caps and gowns, rush through the entrance just in time to catch the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O performing “Heads Will Roll.” — T.C.
7:20 p.m. Just as he is about to dig deep into Stoney highlight “Go Flex,” Post Malone notices that something is off within the waves of screaming fans in the audience. “Hold on, someone needs help down there,” the concerned rapper exclaims, immediately gaining the attention of the festival’s medical team. Fortunately, the young female fan is rescued and taken away to receive proper care. It’s an empathetic gesture from Post and also a huge reminder that safety is essential at jam-packed festivals like these. — B.G.
7:29 p.m. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are about to play “Maps” in New York City, and that’s a big deal. “This one’s dedicated to the ones you’ve loved and lost,” frontwoman Karen O tells the hometown audience from the main stage. Before it gets going, various bandmates’ family members and “all the moms” in the audience are shouted out, setting the stage for the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s signature song. It does not disappoint. — C.P.
7:51 p.m. “Zero” rocked earlier, but there’s one more modern classic from 2009’s It’s Blitz! to grace the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ set. It’s the euphoric rocker “Heads Will Roll,” reminding fans how well the YYY’s third album has aged, and revving up anticipation for their forthcoming fifth studio album. — C.P.
8:00 p.m. As the biggest reggae act to perform this weekend, Damian Marley adds a jolt of Island-tinged authenticity to the festival. The singer is completely unbiased, welcoming those who may not have heard of him until now and thanking those who have been longtime fans since his first record. He keeps the crowd swaying just as if they were in Jamaica, ripping through fan favorites like “Set Up Shop,” “Beautiful,” “Medication,” a cover of his father’s political anthem “War,” “The Mission” and his breakout crossover smash, “Welcome to Jamrock.” So what makes everyone come together in the end? Well, their undying love for marijuana, of course. — B.G.
10:08 p.m. Jack White is holding it down on the main stage, a plethora of memorable tracks from the White Stripes, Raconteurs and his recent solo albums keeping the Gov Ball crowd captivated. White diehards come for the riffage first and foremost, but even acoustic jams are winners; in this case, the White Stripes’ ’01 schoolyard singalong “We’re Going to Be Friends” is a nostalgic triumph. — C.P.
10:49 p.m. Day One of Gov Ball is in the books, but not before the performance of one of the millennium’s greatest stadium anthems. Jack White and his band burn through “Seven Nation Army,” the immortal bass line sending the masses home happy. See you tomorrow for Day Two! — C.P.