Gov Ball is back! After canceling the festival in 2020 due to COVID-19, Governors Ball returned in 2021 with Billie Eilish, A$AP Rocky, J Balvin and Post Malone headlining the three-day event from Sept. 24-26 from Citi Field in Queens, New York.
Leon Bridges, Kehlani, Orville Peck and Rüfüs Du Sol were a few of the artists who performed on the festival’s opening day on Friday (Sept. 24). While many genres were repped onstage, all the artists expressed their excitement about being back in front of their fans.
“Make some noise if it feels good to experience live music again,” Bridges said during his late afternoon set on the main stage.
For the young artists who experienced career highs under lockdown, such as Tate McRae and 24kGoldn, performing at a festival full of fans was a new experience with their high-energy sets reflecting the thrill of being back onstage.
Here’s a roundup of the five best moments from day one of Gov Ball 2021.
Tate McRae’s full circle moment
After writing her breakout single in her bedroom during the height of the pandemic, newcomer McRae reached the charts and performed on both late-night TV and the 2020 VMAs pre-show while much of the U.S. was still in lockdown. On Friday, she finally experienced the energy of a live audience at a festival with her set that started at 2:15 p.m. on Gov Ball’s main stage.
While onstage, the classically trained dancer/singer-songwriter performed her breakout “You Broke Me First,” and shared her own memories of first attending Gov Ball three years ago. She recalled watching Kacey Musgraves and The 1975 as a fan and expressed how surreal it was to be performing on the main stage as an artist.
Leon Bridges giving his audience the feels
“Make some noise if you’re in love tonight,” Bridges told fans, who crowded the main stage for his set. Especially dedicated to those who were “boo-d up,” he sang the wedding playlist must-have “Beyond” from his 2018 album, Good Thing.
The vintage-sounding singer then introduced his next song. “This is for all my brown skin girls in the house, ya dig!” Bridges continued with a lively rendition of “Brown Skin Girl” off his 2015 release, Coming Home.
Orville Peck covering Lady Gaga
Orville Peck took the GrubHub stage outfitted in his signature country attire and fringed mask. For his second to last song, Peck surprised the crowds with his own take on Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” The Canadian country singer introduced the song by sharing a heartfelt message about finding who you are and embracing it. He then proceeded to sing “Born This Way” with a country twist. Pointing out the pop-country crossover, Peck changed up the lyrics to include, “If I wanna make it country, baby it’s okay.”
24kGoldn sings the unreleased track “Prada”
Following eight weeks at No. 1, “Mood” earned 24kGoldn mainstream success in the last year while much of touring remained at a standstill. At Gov Ball, 24kGoldn was among the newcomers who mirrored the excitement of his audience at getting to finally play live. The California native made sure to engage his audience with games and participation, and repeatedly shared how happy he was to perform.
During his early evening slot on the GrubHub stage, the 20-year-old rapper teased his audience with exclusive music and then proceeded to debut his collab with Lil Tecca titled “Prada,” making the crowd go wild.
Billie Eilish using her platform for good
Eilish concluded the first day of Gov Ball with her headlining set, which kicked off at 8:45 p.m. ET on the main stage. With a set that featured projected live video footage of her audience, Eilish’s fans saw themselves reflected as they watched the singer perform her old and new songs, including “Ocean Eyes” and “Happier Than Ever.”
Throughout Eilish’s performance, the Grammy-winning singer used her platform to talk about the ongoing climate crisis. “We need to take care of our planet. Dead ass,” she said before proceeding to sing “All The Good Girls Go To Hell.” With her brother Finneas joining her onstage, she went on to say, “If you don’t think global warming is real, then you’re a f—ing idiot.”