Leaving The Muddy Governor’s Ball With A Smile

August 9, 2013

2013 Governors Ball Music Festival - Day 1

I attended my first-ever music festival earlier this summer, traveling to New York City for the Governor’s Ball.

I’m not exactly the type who enjoys “roughing it,” so this seemed like the ideal experience since there was no camping allowed on site. Instead, we had reservations at a nice Manhattan hotel, VIP tickets and plans to take a scenic ferry ride to Randall’s Island for the show each day.

Sounds like a good time, right? Well, I’m certain it would’ve been if Tropical Storm Andrea hadn’t rolled into New York the night before the festival began.

I thought I was prepared, both from a practical and mental standpoint, with my heavy-duty raincoat and fully managed expectations.

governors-ball-logoTurns out I was wrong on both fronts. On Friday, the rain escalated from “heavy” to “pouring” and we decided to stay dry and sit out the first few hours of music. Around 3 p.m., we headed to the ferry only to find a line of people snaking for about a mile and a half. The two-hour wait in a rain I’d categorize as “driving” was unpleasant to say the least.

Things really got ugly when we arrived at the festival grounds to find that the mud was already calf deep.

But our spirits remained high and we found some high ground as we caught a shortened set from Young The Giant, then headed to the main stage in a “torrential” rain, encountering spots along the way with water nearly knee deep. As we waited for headliners Kings of Leon to take the stage, the rain could only be described as “biblical” and then the unthinkable happened: They cancelled the “rain or shine” show for safety reasons.

Facing another unruly ferry line, we opted for walking across the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge into Harlem to catch the subway down to Grand Central Station. Upon arrival at the hotel, I promptly tossed my footwear in the trash, took a long, hot shower and went to bed crabby.

Fortunately, things turned out much, much better on Saturday and I somehow walked away from the weekend with a positive feeling about the Governor’s Ball, thanks mostly to the quick actions taken by organizers.

In only it’s third year, it was a perfect storm (pun intended) of issues that could’ve irreparably damaged the festival’s reputation. However, organizers did the right thing every step of the way.

  • They used social media effectively on Friday (and throughout the weekend) to keep people apprised of the very latest information, including the issues with the ferry, and quickly dispatched help to people tweeting that their vehicles were stuck in the mud
  • By Saturday morning, they announced that Friday tickets would be honored on Saturday — and even though we already had tickets for Saturday, I was happy for those who didn’t
  • They worked all night to reschedule Kings of Leon and shuffle set times, meaning Saturday would actually feature two headliners
  • They fixed the issues with the ferry, which was smooth sailing on Saturday
  • They did what they could to the festival grounds, bringing in plywood and hay to help a little with particularly bad spots (where do you find hay on short notice in the Big Apple?), and explained why more couldn’t be done with the mud that was still plenty deep on Saturday even though the sun was shining
  • They asked people to email them if they had a bad experience with the ferry on Friday and offered to refund the money of those who did
  • And perhaps most impressively, they paid to restore Randall’s Island, which would’ve been ruined for the rest of the summer, if not longer. That meant scraping away all the mud, tilling the soil and then sodding the event site with nine acres Kentucky Bluegrass.
  • While they were at it, they added infrastructure improvements to help prevent future flooding, including the installation of a drainage system.

I’d say that’s going above and beyond. Good show, Governor’s Ball. You’ve earned my respect, even in the face of an actual disaster.