New Yorkers awoke to gloomy skies and an even gloomier forecast on Sunday morning (June 5). More significantly for those looking to attend the third and final day of the Governors Ball Music Festival on Randall’s Island, the weather forced the cancellation of the festival’s scheduled slate of performances, including a headlining set from Kanye West. But that was just the beginning of a story that eventually wound up with thousands of fans in the streets of Manhattan searching for a West performance that never happened.
Rumors began to fly shortly after noon, when Governors Ball’s organizers officially canceled day three, that West might pop up at Summer Jam at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey instead. The event, put on annually by New York radio station Hot 97, was set to feature performances from Pusha T and Big Sean with the help of Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music collective; delayed by the weather that had cleared up by 8 p.m., Summer Jam’s main stage was still scheduled to go ahead. And after West debuted an as-yet-untitled posse cut Friday morning during an interview on L.A. 92.3’s Big Boy radio show — which featured Travi$ Scott, Quavo from Migos, Desiigner, Sean, 2 Chainz, Yo Gotti and Gucci Mane — as the first single from the upcoming Cruel Winter compilation, it seemed likely that the label boss would show up to support his team.
Free of his Gov Ball obligations, West hit the stage with the crew, as expected, shortly before 11 p.m. But backstage more plotting was going on; West’s creative director Virgil Abloh posted a photo on Instagram of West working on G.O.O.D’s Summer Jam setlist with the caption, “summer jam now. we’re doing PABLO at 2 am in Manhattan. sorting out where now.” The caption was edited shortly thereafter to remove the reference to the Manhattan show.
But by midnight hundreds of people had already gathered on E. 11th Street outside Webster Hall as rumors of the show spread across social media, a crowd that grew to some 4,000, according to reports. The scene was one of chaotic, unbridled enthusiasm, as fans jumped on cars and attempted to rush the doors to gain entrance to the 1,500-capacity venue. Police shut down E. 11th Street between 3rd and 4th avenues to try to contain the crowd, while fresh surges of excitement spread throughout each time an artist — A$AP Rocky or Pusha T, for instance — walked through the front doors.
By 1:45 a.m., Webster Hall officially canceled the show due to safety concerns. But West was, at least initially, undeterred. Shortly after 2 a.m., his wife Kim Kardashian posted a Snapchat video of West on the phone saying, “I need you to call the mayor and shut down a block, about four streets, and start to put some screens up so they can have a party outside. I know it’s sold out already.” (A rep for the Mayor told Billboard this morning that no one ultimately contacted the Mayor’s Office.) Minutes later, West’s car cruised up 3rd Avenue towards 14th Street with the top down and West standing through the sun roof as fans flocked to follow the car down the street.
West was gone soon after and the police began clearing the street in front of Webster Hall by 2:30 a.m. But the rest of the G.O.O.D. Music family wasn’t done trying to make the pop up show happen; in subsequent posts on social media, both downtown Manhattan venue SOBs and the Trump SoHo hotel were put forward as locations for the show; Desiigner, Pusha T, Travis Scott and 2 Chainz briefly appeared at SOBs, though ultimately none of the three locations worked out into a full performance.
Still, the intimate venue was able to host the last-minute get-together with G.O.O.D. Music after Snapchat star and master party thrower Yes Julz rented out SOB’s for her late-night bash “1AM Vibes,” which included a set from Scott’s DJ, Chase B. She reached out to Steven Victor, Pusha T’s longtime manager and G.O.O.D. Music A&R, and offered her party to them.
“Steven ended up calling me right away & said ‘can we perform?’ Clearly, my answer was yes,” Yes Julz tells Billboard. “Next thing you know Travis, 2 Chainz, Desiigner, & Pusha T are on stage performing. It was really a magical moment. I know these guys just wanted to give their fans a real experience they could remember and I’m glad the stars aligned and allowed us to have a hand in making that happen.” Josh Sanchez, the head of publicity and marketing at SOBs, adds, “[The pop-up show was] important for the culture because they could have easily gone home but to see the lengths they would go to give their audience something, you don’t see that often.”
Requests for comment from Webster Hall, as well as reps for Kanye West and G.O.O.D. Music, were unreturned as of press time. A spokesperson for the Trump SoHo told Billboard, “Trump SoHo New York did not receive any request for use of event space last night. The hotel was unaware of any potential performance when hundreds of fans arrived in the early morning hours.”
At 4:10 a.m., frequent West producer Mike Dean officially threw in the towel, writing on Twitter, “Thanks to everyone. We tried pop up shows at 3 places. All shut down,” and later added, “We made history tonight. Pablo mob.”
Ultimately, there was only one arrest, for disorderly conduct, and no injuries were reported, the NYPD confirmed to Billboard. It’s a welcome relief in a situation that could have had a much more serious outcome, particularly after NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton‘s controversial remarks about hip-hop culture following a shooting at Irving Plaza during an event headlined by T.I. on May 25. Bratton’s comments led to concern about how the NYPD would handle hip-hop shows moving forward; a series of scheduled rap shows at Irving Plaza were canceled in recent days, though an NYPD spokesperson said that was the venue’s decision.
Still, for West, four cancelations and one surprise appearance were not going to stop him from dominating the headlines. He can look forward to a good summer ahead of his Cruel Winter, and if Kim Kardashian is to be believed, West might pop up again in New York before it’s all over.