Much like a New Yorker, Governors Ball is constantly on the move. Its inaugural edition in 2011 was held on Governors Island, and it has since been staged on Randall’s Island and, most recently, Citi Field. But the three-day festival has found a new home for 2023: Flushing Meadows Corona Park, one of The Big Apple’s most iconic green spaces.
- READ MORE: Governors Ball 2022 review: resilience reigns at New York City’s signature music festival
As the fest pitches up once again in Queens, it also brings with it one of its freshest line-ups to date: mixing new, local game-changers like Ice Spice with hitmakers such as PinkPantheress, as well as massive headliners like Lizzo and the incomparable Kendrick Lamar.
With multiple days of live music and plenty of scheduling conflicts in prospect, here’s NME’s guide to the must-see acts you should catch this weekend at the city that never sleeps’ favourite music festival.
Words: Erica Campbell and Anagricel Duran
Who: Electro-pop duo bringing summer-ready hits
What you can expect: If you’re looking for a duo to transform Flushing Meadows Corona Park into a funky rave, look no further than Sofi Tukker. Expect matching stage garb, elaborate set design and plenty of high energy from the self-proclaimed best friends, Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern. With contagious tracks like ‘Best Friend’, ‘Drinkee’ and the aptly titled ‘Summer In New York’, not to mention their groovy guitar riffs and crisp percussion, you’ll want to be friends with them too.
Festival anthem: ‘Summer In New York’ (AD)
Who: Native New York rapper with a unique, hypnotic flow
What you can expect: Get ready for a performance highlighting the swaggering new star’s viral hits and boundary-breaking drill music. Fresh off taking the stage on Taylor Swift‘s ‘Eras’ tour, Ice Spice’s recent festival performances – like her Rolling Loud California set that saw the entire crowd reciting her verses back to her like gospel – hint at what Gov Ball attendees can expect. Co-hit maker PinkPantheress who she worked with on the viral hit ‘Boys A Liar Pt. 2’, is also set to play the festival, so there’s real potential for a can’t-miss-this surprise performance.
Festival anthem: ‘Bikini Bottom’ (AD)
Who: British vixen with dreamy romantic tunes
What you can expect: With flawless shaggy hair, vintage flowing outfits and an effortlessly cool vibe, watching Suki Waterhouse feels like time-travelling back to the ’70s. She easily captivates the crowd with light love songs in the same vein as Lana Del Rey and Mazzy Star, and will likely turn the festival into an intimate, passionate show. With her dynamic backing band and organic dance moves adding to her emotive tracks, Waterhouse is definitely one not to miss this weekend.
Festival anthem: ‘To Love’ (AD)
Who: New king of pop-punk with a knack for tearing up the stage
What you can expect: KennyHoopla is no stranger to putting on intense, high-energy performances. His sets are jam-packed with cannonball jumps, kicks and backflips to the tune of his bright-yet-heavy tracks like ‘Silence Is Also An Answer’ and ‘Estella’. Hoopla thrives on the constant exchange of energy from the audience, pulling the crowd in to match his vibe, and taking on each show as if it’s his last.
Festival anthem: ‘You Needed A Hit’ (AD)
Who: Pop superstar who leaves it all on the stage
What you can expect: Best known for her eclectic live performances, exquisite vocals, coordinated dance routines and overall major pop it-girl moments. She’s a live powerhouse and musical innovator who will have no issue making Gov Ball her own. She picked up the Best Live Act trophy at the 2022 NME awards, and NME has previously described her gigs as a jubilant, fun-filled spectacle. Get ready to dance and take in a full-on theatrical spectacle from the one and only Rina Sawayama.
Festival anthem: ‘Frankenstein’ (AD)
Who: Forward-thinking K-pop quartet on the verge of main pop-girl status
What you can expect: When NME caught aespa in Seoul earlier this year, it was safe to say that “there’s still plenty of room for aespa’s vision of the future”. In a review of their latest album, ‘My World’, NME noted that they have “a healthy dose of ’90s girl power spirit”. If that’s not enough to draw you to their stage, perhaps their inventive use of hyperpop that makes them stand out from their counterparts will pull you in? If you want to predict the future of pop, you don’t want to miss their set.
Festival anthem: ‘Spicy’ (EC)
Who: UK hitmaker and inventive producer making a scene
What you can expect: As mentioned, PinkPantheress took over the airwaves earlier this year with her collaboration with fellow list maker, Ice Spice. The first reason you won’t want to miss her set is the chance that the collab can happen live. The second reason is that she’s been teasing her debut album, meaning you could hear a snippet of it live. Nobody’s doing it quite like PinkPantheress at the moment, and her Gov Ball performance is guaranteed to be one of the freshest and singalong-worthy of the weekend.
Festival anthem: ‘Boys A Liar, Pt. 2’ (EC)
Who: Brooklyn rapper reigning in a creative future
What you can expect: Get ready for a hometown show from NYC’s own, Joey Bada$$ – but don’t expect a typical rap set. With tracks that delve into survivor’s guilt and overcoming trauma, Joey isn’t afraid to get vulnerable with his bars. Currently merging a prowess for R&B along with his charismatic lyricism, get ready to rap along with a layered cathartic set.
Festival anthem: ‘Show Me’ (EC)
Who: Imaginative instigator throwing away pop’s rulebook
What you can expect: Los Angeles native and innovator Remi Wolf has a penchant for throwing away any preconceived notions of what pop music should be. Describing her album ‘Juno’, NME called it “maximalist pop music that’s stuffed with moreish hooks, gloopy grooves and cartoonish ad libs” – and that alone should make you want to sing along. The funk-pop innovator is always ready to bring the heat with tracks like the groovy ‘Sexy Villain’, so you should get ready too.
Festival anthem: ‘Sexy Villain’ (EC)
Who: Comedian, producer and artist with contagious hits
What you can expect: If you want to laugh and dance at the same time, look no further than Oliver Tree. Known for his stage antics and viral, sped-up TikTok hits like ‘Miss You’, the California performer is already ready to light up the stage with his bowl cut. The meme machine is a pro at merging irony, humour and delight into his sets, so if you’re in the mood for something unforgettable, you’ll want to be there when he brings his one-of-a-kind energy to Gov Ball.
Festival anthem: ‘Miss You’ (EC)