Music Festival Travel Journal — Governors Ball 2017

The last two years, I’ve hit a bunch of festivals in the months of April, May and June as my NFL job has ended prior to festival season kicking off. This year, the plan is to hit 11 festivals in 11 weeks starting with Coachella weekend one all the way until Arroyo Seco back in southern California at the end of June. I’ve decided to do something a little different with my blog and do a bit of a journal detailing my travels to go along with the regular festival coverage I usually do. Follow my journey below! Here is my journey at Governors Ball, my second straight year at the NY festival

Festivals I’m hitting: Coachella weekend 1, Coachella weekend 2, Fortress Fest, Middlelands, Shaky Knees, Hangout, Boston Calling, Governors Ball, Bonnaroo, Firefly, and Arroyo Seco. Also, please follow the blog on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!.



I got into New York from Boston on Tuesday on a GoToBus. The bus broke down on the Williamsburg Bridge and we were stuck inside for an hour. I didn’t really have anywhere to be in a rush but everyone else was treating it like Lord of the Flies. The cops came and did the fastest they could to let us out and onto a new bus, but some people were total assholes to them and it was quite bullshit.

The first few days I was in NY I stayed with my friend Ziv, who used to write for the same blog as me and is a teacher. Elsewhere during the week I met up with some friends who live in NY. I met up with Stephen, who also used to write for the same blog, and we went to see the Coltrane documentary at the IFC Theatre, which was dope. I met up with a few other friends for drinks.

On Thursday I was able to catch the Tove Lo show at Irving Plaza, which was a Governors Ball kick-off show. You can read my recap of that for QRO Mag here. I was staying with my friend Andrew (who we call Stag, part of his last name), who has known my roommate Marshall for a long time and came out for Coachella weekend two this year. He just moved to Brooklyn and is into a lot of the same music as me and was down to head to the fest early each day. It astounds me how so many people buy expensive festival passes and don’t go in until early in the evening.

Stag is a massive Tove Lo fan and it was dope to see her in a really small venue like that. The ratio was ridiculous — probably 25 girls for every one dude, the ratio probably goes to 100-to-1 if you’re using single, straight dudes as the metric. Yet despite that, Stag knew more of the words to the songs than any of those girls, and a couple of them were rocking out with him and singing along, it was awesome.


I bought my Governors Ball pass on eBay for $250, and then the seller cancelled the order saying he already sold it. The money still hasn’t returned to my account, though it is showing as pending. I ended up finding a guy on Reddit selling it for the same price and met him right as we were getting on the subway to go to the fest. I registered the wristband in his company and boom, we were off.

We took the train from Brooklyn to the fest and it took about an hour to get there. The line to get in was massive, but the festival eventually let people use the empty VIP check-in line to get through so as to speed it up. We got into the fest in time to check out Roosevelt, a German synthpop act. I had no idea the live show was a full band setup, and it was very St. Lucia meets Duran Duran, it was awesome. I was also stoked so many people turned out to see them at the start of the day.

Next we went to check out Francis and The Lights. The previous weekend at Boston Calling, Francis brought out Chance the Rapper to dance at the end of his set, so I made sure to be up close for his set at Governors Ball. Francis has so much swag and was dancing and sweating like he was on all of the ecstasy in NYC. Like expected, Chance ran out onto the stage to dance during “May I Have This Dance” at the end of the set and the crowd lost their shit (see below).

We went to check out a few songs of Kehlani and also racked up all the free stuff the festival offers: Kettle chips, Sour Patch straws, Coke, and VitaminWater. Afterwards, we went to see Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires. Every time I’ve seen him, I get goosebumps seeing him at his age looking so happy. Bradley was diagnosed with cancer and took time off for treatment. You would have never known he was dealing with such a scare with a smile on his face. Next we caught Tove Lo again, less than 24 hours from the show at Irving Plaza. It was pretty packed and most people were there for the hits.

Next we caught some of Danny Brown, which was one of the most hyped sets of the day. I met up with my friend David and his group. I have known David since middle school, and he does a bit of traveling for festivals every year. He was at Governors Ball to see Tool. I had no weed and asked if I could buy a joint off him, and instead he just gave me three to keep, which was fucking awesome.

Then we went to get a good spot for Lorde. It was insanely packed to the point that it was hard to move. Chance the Rapper was headlining that stage right after, so it was insanely crowded. Lorde was even better than she was at Coachella, playing her new single “Perfect Places” for the first time, also bringing out Bleachers frontman Jack Antonoff. A girl asked me to put her on her shoulders during “Buzzcut Season” and her and her friend were from Ohio for the fest.

For Chance the Rapper, it was so tight that I couldn’t lift my arms up. The show itself was awesome but the vibe in the crowd wasn’t as great as at some of the other Chance sets I saw. A girl in front of me passed out and her boyfriend had to drag her out of the crowd. I’ve seen this at festivals a lot, but her eyes looked like they rolled to the back of her head and it was pretty scary. The people around us feigned concern and then Chance started the song “I’m The One” and they all turned around towards the stage and cheered, it was pretty savage.

“Same Drugs” was mesmerizing as usual, and then Chance brought out Ty Dolla Sign for “Blessings (Reprise)”. We made our way towards the exit the wrong way and had to go back the opposite direction. By then, we were behind most of the festival trying to leave and it took us until 12:20 AM to start walking the bridge, and Chance ended at 11 PM.

It was a total clusterfuck and we got some McDonald’s once we go over the bridge. The McDonald’s was a mess — they ran out of all sodas except Coke and had a guy making sure people had receipts before using the bathroom. There were a bunch of dumb kids from out of town sitting next to us that didn’t know how to get home and they were going back to Brooklyn also, so we let them tag along. I let them use my extra battery to charge one of their phones. Stag fucked up and we went one stop too far and had to walk to a stop. By then the dudes that were trailing us figured out they were going the wrong way and I’m not sure they ever made it back — they were that stupid. We got back to Stag’s place and I introduced him to an episode of Rick and Morty before we called it a night.


We got to the fest early enough Saturday to check out Dua Lipa, whose debut self-titled album dropped the day before. I had seen her in L.A. play a headlining set that was just 50 minutes long. Here, she played 45 minutes and did the live debuts of a number of songs from the record. My initial impression: she’s going to be a mega pop star. She’s got the voice, the look, and the swagger. Her song with Martin Garrix “Scared to Be Lonely” popped off the most in her set, with lots of teens singing along.

Next we caught Car Seat Headrest, who I’ve seen a lot on the festival circuit. I would say this was their best set since Coachella, the mosh pit was the biggest I’ve seen from them and some kids even tried a wall of death during one of the slower songs, and a couple kids got really fucked up in it. “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” was obviously the highlight.

There was a big gap in the schedule as far as there not being any acts we were dying to see. We got some free Subway sandwiches and watched Saint Motel and during the abomination YG-Rae Sremmurd time we found there was miniature golf you could play. As we were getting our clubs I saw Dua Lipa taking photos on the steps and I yelled her name and she completely ignored me or didn’t hear me. We bet a beer on our golf game and I got my ass handed to me by Stag. Two holes into the game he decided to tell me how someone had brought one of those little putting greens into the office and he had some practice. I got hustled!

Afterwards we went to sit on the grass and watch The Head and The Heart. Stag went and got some high-level sushi burrito and I just chilled and noticed the dude in front of me had a Rick and Morty Back to the Future-themed shirt, so I showed him my hat. We chatted a bit, it was his first festival and his group were all pretty local. The singer from THATH that had been in rehab popped out to sing a song, it was nice to see him back on stage.

Next we caught some of RUFUS DU SOL in the Bacardi Stage tent. I was surprised it wasn’t crazy packed — at Outside Lands last year they played a smaller stage and it was impossible to get anywhere near them. Perhaps the kiddies haven’t caught onto their stuff yet. We watched about half the set then went to grab a spot for Wu-Tang Clan. I had no pot and this was my first time seeing Wu-Tang, so I overpaid and bought a blunt for $15 off some guy. Worth it. Wu-Tang had this killer stage setup and ran through the hits.

Afterwards we went to check out the Mark Ronson vs. Kevin Parker DJ set. This was at the same time as BANKS, but I would get another chance to see her at Firefly and Ronson vs. Parker had only happened once before. The set was pretty cool but their transitions were kind of choppy. The remixes of Tame Impala songs were awesome and the energy was pretty cool.

We went and grabbed one of Stag’s friends and went to get a spot for Childish Gambino, which was on the second biggest stage and insanely packed. It was no surprise that the children didn’t really rock with the funky stuff from his Awaken, My Love! album that was most of his set. They were idiots and thought he would play most of his hype rap from early in his career. The musicianship of Donald Glover and his backing band was incredible. It was easily the dopest set of the weekend and the kids’ milquetoast reaction couldn’t ruin it for me.

When Childish closed his set with “Redbone”, he led into it by walking you through a house party where you’re trying to get the girl and all the music that would play on the way to making it happen. When the party is getting broken up, she pulls you into the bathroom and Glover says, “This song is what you play when you’re making out” and boom, “Redbone” kicks off. Glover said this would be his only Childish Gambino show of the year and that the next album would be the last.

Afterwards, we beat the crowd out of the venue and went down to Irving Plaza for the Governors Ball After Dark show headlined by Warpaint. We got there in enough time to get pretty much right at the rail, which was epic. After seeing them a half-dozen times on the festival circuit, it was awesome to catch one of their headline sets and see them play some songs that have been missing from those shorter sets. “The Stall” is off the new album and the one song they haven’t really played in fest sets. Also one of my favorite songs “Beetles” got played and they jammed it out so epic. There was one tall guy in the crowd who was having as much fun as me and for the last song “Disco//Very” he jumped into the front with me and we sang our hearts out. Was a good way to end day two, we got back to Stag’s place around 3 AM and called it.


I was feeling pretty sore after jumping up and down for a 1 AM show from Warpaint. Stag went and got bagels and coffee, which rejuvenated me. We watched a couple episodes of Rick and Morty then headed down to the fest. Sunday was supposed to be the shitty weather day, and as we made our way out there it was sprinkling. Somehow, it never got much worse and the temperature was quite nice.

We got there in time for Beats 1 radio host Zane Lowe‘s DJ set, and he played a bunch of grime rap that you don’t hear very often in the States. He played some other more mainstream stuff and the crowd energy was super hyped. There were already some people camped at the rail for Logic’s closing set several hours later, which was a bummer because I was trying to get the rail for Warpaint‘s set right after Zane Lowe.

After Zane’s set, we struck up a convo with this dude from New Zealand who had done a ton of festivals. He talked about how he had walked to and from the fest SIX MILES each day because he didn’t trust the subway. He was also on a budget and was shocked when we told him about all the free snacks. He was camped not for Logic but for Franz Ferdinand, who were playing after Warpaint. I swapped him a pack of free Sour Punch straws for his spot on the rail, giving it back to him after Warpaint played. It was super nice of him.

I really wonder what the fuck Warpaint is thinking since every festival set they’ve played dating back to Coachella, I’m right there up front. I mean, I’m glad I actually got to chat with them last September at Music Tastes Good in Long Beach and I didn’t come off like some nuts super fan, because I sure look like one when they are playing. Guitarist and vocalist Theresa Wayman shot me a smile that basically said, “Dude, what the fuck?” Once they kicked into their set with “Heads Up” leading into “Krimson” I was all in. My friend David texted me saying he saw me on the screen, which is funny. The crowd around me wasn’t super into it because they were all Logic fans, but by the end of the set I turned around and could see some people rocking out. During “Disco//Very” I turned around and sang it at some people who were jumping and singing it too, and I caught some funny looks. But fuck it, that’s what we are there for, right? It was my 13th time seeing Warpaint and it was the first time while some rain was coming down, and it was quite memorable, dare I say the best festival set of their run this year.

After Warpaint we ran and caught Royal Blood, and this was the first time I was getting to see them on the fest circuit this year. Two years ago I caught them a ton and they were always killer. I play their first record on vinyl pretty regularly after copping it pretty cheap. We watched their set from the grass, but ran up closer during “Figure It Out”. Afterwards, we went to get a spot in the tent for The Avalanches.

I saw The Avalanches in between Coachellas this year at the Fonda Theatre and it was a pretty awesome show. I had no idea they had a full band setup for their live show. In the tent, we were super up close. There was a group of teenage girls in front of me and I asked them if they were there because it was warm or because they knew The Avalanches. They told me it was because it was warm, and they bounced one song into the set.

I had to break up a scuffle as some drunk girls came plowing through and knocked into some teenage dudes. It was wrong, but one of the teenage boys put his hands on one of the drunk girl’s faces, lightly tapping her. She lost her shit and I had to separate them and basically tell the dude don’t put your hands on a girl, especially one you don’t know. Eventually the dudes left and the girls moved closer into the crowd. It was at this point I noticed an older lady, maybe in her sixties, dancing and singing and it really picked me up. We started dancing together and the show quickly became one of my favorites of the weekend. I talked to her a bit — her name was Susie and she came all the way from France for the festival and it was her first time seeing The Avalanches, who she loved. After dealing with entitled NYC teens all weekend, it was awesome to have this interaction with someone as a stark reminder of why I keep coming to these things.

Next, we split sets as Phantogram and Cage the Elephant played at the same time. We got a good spot for Phantogram and they ran through some of their big hits like “Black Out Days” and then Stag and his friend left early for Cage. I stayed and moved up even closer for “Mouthful of Diamonds” and “Answer” before meeting up with them for Cage. They are future festival headliners. Singer Matt Shultz dove into the crowd at the end and basically swam across them, which was pretty cool. I could also tell there were a ton of people tripping balls around me — apparently that’s a thing a lot of people do for Tool shows, which I don’t understand since their visuals are so dark and twisted. That would fuck my head up.

Next me and Stag went to check out AIR. This set was much better than the Outside Lands one they played prior to Radiohead last year because this crowd was super into it. It was a much more international crowd and inside the tent it really played well. Stag’s knees were killing him so he took a seat outside the tent while I finished the set inside. I met up with this dude Matt from Inforoo, the message board for Bonnaroo. I had posted stuff on there like festival rumors and some of the people there are super elitist about music and I stopped posting there. Matt was pretty cool though and we had fun rockin’ out to the AIR set before meeting up with Stag for Tool.

A post shared by Mark Ortega (@markeortega) on

We watched about an hour of Tool‘s set, it was MUCH better than Boston Calling. At Boston Calling, they were at basically half volume, but at Governors Ball it was fuckin’ LOUD. We were surrounded by die-hard fans every direction. All of them could kick my ass — even the women Tool fans. We beat the crowd out of the fest and got back at a reasonable time. I grabbed a tuna sandwich from a deli a block from Stag’s place and we watched the new episode of Silicon Valley before crashing out.

My future decisions on Governors Ball will be strictly lineup dependent. It’s not a festival that has a great vibe, and if I didn’t have Stag to go into the fest with early each day I wouldn’t have nearly had such a fun time. He was pretty game to catch the same sets as me and the time flew by. I’m hoping I’m not flat broke a month from now and can come back out for Panorama, which I hope will draw an older demographic. Now, it’s onto Bonnaroo — the BEST vibe of any festival I’ve ever been to. I typed all this up from a Starbucks in Nashville while I wait for my homie Dan to pick me up. I took a bus here from NYC that took 14 hours. This is how you festival on a budget.


Music Festival Travel Journal — Boston Calling 2017

Music Festival Travel Journal — Hangout 2017

Music Festival Travel Journal — Shaky Knees 2017

Music Festival Travel Journal — Middlelands 2017

Music Festival Travel Journal — Fortress Festival 2017

Music Festival Travel Journal — Coachella 2017 weekend 2

Music Festival Travel Journal — Coachella 2017 weekend 1