After a year without concerts, I went to one of New York's biggest music festivals. I learned what I missed - and didn't miss - about big events.
- After over a year without
concerts, I went to Governors Ball NYC with 50,000 other attendees.
- This summer's festival season marked the return of live music for most fans, leading to high expectations.
- Between Bleachers and King Princess, I learned what I missed - and didn't miss - about big events.
Like many people, the closest thing I've had to live music this past year and a half was blasting Olivia Rodrigo in my car during much-needed escapes from my childhood bedroom.
As we collectively turned to singing in the shower, live music revenue declined by 75% in 2020, according to Goldman Sachs. Overall, the US concert industry lost an estimated $30 billion, concert trade publication Pollstar said in its year-end report.
Alongside (too many) others, I embarked on the 7 train to Citi Field on Saturday, ready to end my concert drought with Bleachers, King Princess, Phoebe Bridgers, Aminé, Cardi B, and ASAP Rocky.
At first, my friend and I hovered at the edge of the crowd. While it was comforting knowing that a COVID-19 vaccine or negative test was required for entry, my pandemic brain wasn't quite ready to dive into a tightly packed audience.
Soon enough, we were belting "I wanna get better!" during a cathartic back and forth between Bleachers' saxophone player and the crowd, as lead singer Jack Antonoff yelled out "the louder you scream, the harder he blows."
The guttural roar from fans that followed was the exact reason I came to Governors Ball - to hear and feel something visceral again after spending my day-to-day at home on a screen.
This summer's festival season marked the return of live music for most fans, with large festivals including Pitchfork Fest, Electric Zoo, and Firefly Festival scattered throughout September.
Artists and fans alike had high expectations for live music's rebirth, as Billie Eilish succinctly expressed on stage in response to a sheepish crowd at iHeartRadio Festival: "I didn't wait a year and a half to watch this ... let's have fun and dance and jump around."
Beyond my primary desire to have a good time, I also felt a second, more powerful motivation playing in the background in the days leading up to Governors Ball: the hope that maybe, a day of dancing and adrenaline and song could wipe away the stress I had accumulated over the past year and a half.
From overpriced kombucha to a quickly draining social battery, I realized a clean-slate was not attainable quite yet, even when indulging in post-pandemic fantasies like Governors Ball.
While the festival didn't meet my life-altering expectations, I bought another concert ticket for a smaller show the next day. I'm optimistic that as the live music industry recovers, so will we.
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