A series of major upgrades — including a pop-up bodega and a brand new stage — are coming to the 2019 Governors Ball music festival.
The fest, now in its ninth year, is known for bringing the industry’s biggest names to Randall’s Island Park for three days at the start of the summer. This weekend’s event has a stacked performer lineup — Lil Wayne, Kacey Musgraves, The Strokes — and new additions that celebrate the New York City experience.
"Every year, we try to make the festival as New York City as possible because Gov Ball is NYC," says Tom Russell, a Governors Ball co-founder. "We want people to walk in and feel this is really authentic. This is really New York."
For the first time since expanding to a three-day festival in 2013, Governors Ball will add a new stage — the Bud Light Dive Bar — upping its reach to five performance spaces. Unlike the existing main, Honda, American Eagle Tent and Bacardi stages which are reserved for well-known talent, the Bud Light Dive Bar will welcome emerging artists.
"When you walk inside it, it really feels like you’re in a dive bar, which is so New York City as you see on St. Mark’s Place, in Greenpoint, etc.," says Russell.
Also channeling that classic city feel — a festival bodega.
For the first time ever, the Governors Ball crew will be building its own pop-up, self-branded bodega on the festival grounds for the projected 150,000 attendees. Mirroring the look and feel of your typical store, the Gov Ball Bodega will be stocked with purchasable items most festivalgoers forget, like sunscreen and snacks.
"When you walk into the Gov Ball Bodega, it will be almost impossible to not think about the unique bodegas you see around the boroughs. We are paying homage to the experience in vibe and detail," says Russell. The exact design and layout of the shop are being kept under wraps as a surprise for fans. "We want to remind fans of why bodegas make the city so wonderful."
The shop will also feature an ATM and sell fresh bagels, because it’s the one New York eat the festival grounds on Randall’s Island Park is missing. The bagels will turn the colors of the rainbow on Saturday, during the festival’s debut Pride celebration.
"This year, the festival coincides with the start of Pride Month, and we really wanted to celebrate with New York, especially as it’s the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots," he says.
The Gov Ball LGBTQ celebration will feature a Pride Parade on the festival grounds on Saturday afternoon, led by NYC drag queens Golden Delicious, Hibiscus and Chelsea Piers. The rising drag performers will also put on their own shows after the march.
To keep Governors Ball feeling the pride, the Bud Light Dive Bar stage will exclusively feature an all-LGBTQ artist lineup on Saturday. A performer list has not yet been revealed.
"As native New Yorkers, we know how significant and important [the Stonewall anniversary] is," Russell explains. "We wanted to show our support for the movement in a number of ways around the festival. A few other surprises will pop up around the site and nod to Pride."
Much of the changes coming to this year’s event were inspired by fan feedback, most specifically, the bodega. An addition that may come as a surprise to fans, however, is a revamped food experience.
The festival is known for hosting the city’s trendiest vendors, like Big Mozz and Doughnuttery, but this year, organizers wanted to boost the lineup with the inclusion of a daily brunch program.
From noon to 3 p.m., festivalgoers will be able to munch on brunch favorites, like Austin-style breakfast tacos from King David Tacos and a Jameson & Coffee cocktail with doughnut skewer. "We’re serving delicious brunch items that’ll get folks ready to dance their butts off all day," Russell says.