Governors Ball 2024: Killin' It

Governors Ball 2024: Killin' It

By Erica CampbellJun 10, 2024

Before we dig into the ins and outs of Governors Ball 2024, let’s get the brass tacks out of the way. I love The Killers. And I need you to understand that I don’t mean that in the know every word of "Mr. Brightside" (I mean the second verse is the same as the first; it’s not that hard guys!) or casually see them when they play Madison Square Garden 'cause they are objectively one of the world’s biggest bands way. I mean it in the lyric tattoo, first article ever commissioned was about their sophomore album, blew up my life to become a music journalist after seeing them live sort of way. So, obviously, I was thrilled when I saw their name at the top of this year’s line-up — but also there’s more to it than that.

2018 was my first Gov Ball. I was still living in Atlanta, Georgia at the time on a completely different timeline (see: kitchen with double oven, full-time job at a tech company, a whole backyard... a whole husband... etc., etc.). However, it was during that trip to Randall’s Island — where the fest was held at the time — that I made the decision to someway, somehow make New York City my home. This may cause you to wonder if I’d had some magical experience, some crystal ball moment that made it super clear that making the leap to a new place and new career would be worth it! But nope, quite the contrary.

It was all in all a chaotic trip. I was an unpaid freelancer at the time, knew nobody attending the festival and basically slumped around from stage to stage when I wasn’t trying (and failing) to lock in interviews. The photographer I was working with seemed less than pleased to have a Southern nobody tagalong shadowing them for the weekend, and on the last day the heavens opened up and drenched us all in rain.

Still, underneath it all I knew music journalism and the bustling city, both places I had no clue how to navigate, were calling me home. I had no evidence, nothing to show for it, no proof it would work out. But six years ago, despite all the reasons not to, I made the decision that made this review you’re reading right now possible. Chills!

Okay, now let’s come back to present-day New York, just a 20-minute drive from my apartment, to a place called Flushing Meadows Corona Park where I spent the weekend working as PAPER mag’s music editor (an honor!) with a celebrated photographer in tow (lucky us!) grabbing interviews with headliners (like Peso Pluma and Rauw Alejandro) in their trailers and noshing on catering while a green-hued pop star the table over talks about how much she hates the song playing over our heads in the tent (it was “Jack and Diane.”) But to circle back on our first topic, the weekend kicks off on Friday, as I, the multi-tasker I am, somehow balance six interviews with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see The Killers play a last-minute surprise show at a 600 cap venue.

I’d started the day on stage with Alex Chapman, asking him about his favorite afterparty DJ set, then spoke to Mimi Webb who was all smiles before her set. We also had a moment with Qveen Herby in the artist lounge (I’m still coveting her platform red boots) before a short chat with Rauw. I caught glimpses of sets in between interviews as is my tradition (a little Goth Babe here a little Flo there) before we were back to the artist area to grab our last interview. When we got there, we immediately noticed P1Harmony, and because of their ridiculously stylish outfits, we had to ask for a photo, which then, of course, led to them picking up the PAPER mic so they could tell us about their aptly titled track, “Killin’ It.” It was around that time that my stomach started to shift. Doors for The Killers' Bowery Ballroom show were in one hour, and our final interview with Flo hadn’t happened yet. But then, at the exact right time, Flo, dressed like a Destiny’s Child “Survivor,” daydream, emerged from their last interview and blessed us with their takes on songs of the summer and who they’d love to vacay with from the lineup (see: SZA).

After that, it was off to the races, or to the Long Island Railroad more specifically. The ride from Queens to Manhattan was a blur, as I checked the time and updated my Google Maps as if by some magic I’d be able to time travel. It had been forever since I’d been worried about missing a show, nervous that I wouldn’t get a good spot, and the whole thing was humbling and giddying at the same time. Once I made it into the venue and slid my way into the balcony with a perfect view of the stage, I could breathe again. What followed was a blissed-out memory of why I do all this in the first place. Never forget that my first ever published (unpaid but published) music article was written so I could get a festival pass to see The Killers. Sweaty, delirious from what I’d seen and with a little less of a voice than I came to the gig with, I called it a night and prepared for another robust festival day.

My day two officially started with a backstage chat with the charismatic and devilishly stylish Doechii, then a quick chat with your new favorite band Quarters of Change, before team PAPER stood side-stage for Sexyy Redd’s set (see: “SkeeYee”). Then it was back to the artist’s area to chat with Jessie Murph, who was dressed in a look I would like to describe as Christina-Aguilera-dirty-chic. Next it was off to the bar for another round of bubbly (maybe one round too many?) before watching Sabrina Carpenter’s Short n’ Sweet (see what I did there?) performance. I got lost backstage on the way to see The Killers’ headline set (did I mention The Killers?). After singing (actually screaming) along to each word of their set, I mustered all the energy I hadn’t lost while dancing to “Spaceman” to walk out of the fest and off to a less-crowded area for Lyft pick-up before eating horrible delivery diner food at home and finally falling asleep knowing I was barely prepared to wake up for day three.

But, Gov Ball is all about miracles, friends. And on day three, she rose again. This time to see the festival’s true headliner, Ms. Chappell Roan. Well, first, to chat with G Flip at the press lounge (they said their set was “really cute!”) and to grab an Aperol spritz at their VIP pop-up before plotting to get close for Chappell's set. Plotting works, friends, because what started as a move to get to VIP at the last minute became standing in the pit, which morphed into watching Roan from the side of the stage. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the girl I’d seen in the artist lounge earlier, who I thought was dressed like an alien, was actually the main pop girl (and PAPER cover star) dressed like the Statue of Liberty. Somewhere in between dancing to “HOT TO GO” and attempting to hit the high notes in “Good Luck Babe,” it was crystal clear that we were all witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

If seeing a literal star on the rise doesn’t make you all sentimental about music and festivals and why you got into this, I don’t know what will.

The other title for this article I toyed around with was “Governors Ball 2024: I Told Ya.” First, because I saw some guy wearing the words (on the famous Challengers tee) backstage and realized it was also doubling as Chappell merch, lifting from the lyrics “I told you so” in her No. 1 song, “Good Luck, Babe!” But also because it had become somewhat of a reminder this weekend. As if me from six years ago was finally having her "I told ya" moment. She knew I'd get here somehow, someway. That I’d spend my weekend watching once-in-a-lifetime performances from my favorite band and stars that are well on their way to being supernovas (see: “Red Wine Supernova”). I take none of it for granted. This music I’m lucky enough to listen to. The tiring, sweaty festival grounds. This city with all its perfect imperfection. I can’t wait to see where we all end up six years from now.

Photography: Vincenzo Dimino