The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Governors Ball Co-Founder Discusses The Festival’s Past, Present and Future

The Torch sat down with Jordan Wolowitz to talk about the evolution of the largest music festival in New York.
Photo Courtesy/ Youtube GovBall NYC

With the weather starting to make it feel like summer, music fans are counting down the days to this year’s Governors Ball (Gov Ball) music festival, taking place June 9-11 at Queens’ Flushing Meadows Corona Park. This is the festival’s 13th season of hosting artists — such as Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo and ODESZA — and music fans from New York. 

Co-founder of Gov Ball Jordan Wolowitz sat down with The Torch to talk about the creation of the festival, how it evolved and what to look forward to this year.

Wolowitz conjured the idea as he grew up with multiple music festivals being built around the country.

“Bonnaroo had their first year in 2002 — my senior year in high school — and Coachella started when I was in junior high. All of these festivals came about when I was young, and I love going to shows,” Wolowitz said. “Doing the first big festival in New York just always inspired me, that’s what I wanted to do the most.”

After graduating from George Washington University, Wolowitz began working at The Wasserman Agency, a talent and sports marketing agency based in Los Angeles. He and his high school best friend Tom Russell began talking about music festivals, and laying the groundwork for a festival of their creation. The first inaugural Gov Ball consisted of a one-day, one-stage performance in New York Harbor’s Governors Island in 2011 and featured performers Mac Miller, Empire of the Sun and Passion Pit. 

“We booked our show with the relationships we had. I had worked with Pretty Lights and with Girl Talks,” Wolowitz said “Those were the first two [music groups] that I reached out to. They were young, I was young and the idea was good.”

After their first year, Gov Ball outgrew Governors Island and moved to Randall’s Island, where it would be held for the next eight years. The festival would then be held at Citi Field after the COVID-19 pandemic. Flushing Meadows Corona Park was the initial location they had in mind to ideally host the festival.

“It’s taken us 13 years to get to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, but it’s a beautiful sight. It’s where we always wanted to do the show,” Wolowitz said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world, many assumed it would hurt a large-scale music festival in one of America’s largest cities. For Wolowitz, the pandemic had the opposite effect. 

“Even after 12 years, we’ve already established ourselves as New York City’s Music Festival,” Wolowitz said. “We missed it as much as the festival goers did. 2021 was the festival that was such a cathartic weekend for everybody,” the founder said in reference of the first festival after the pandemic.  

Wolowitz’s responsibility in helping plan the festival is selecting which artists will perform. Artists and Wolowitz alike reach out to one another about performing. 

“I try my best to make the lineup completely different each year,” Wolowitz said. 

Over 60 different artists will perform over the three days on three different stages across Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Other performers include Finneas, Lil Nas X, Kim Petras and Ice Spice. 

Looking back at all of the past Gov Balls, one of Wolowitz’s favorite performers at the festival was Kanye West when he headlined the show in 2013.

“At the time, one could argue West was one of the most important artists in pop music. It took me a long time trying to convince him and his team, but having him in 2013 as we were really trying to establish ourselves gave us such a big look,” Wolowitz said.  “We went from being known in the local market all of a sudden to being known nationally.”

With the smog from the fires in Quebec, Canada causing New York City to have the worst air quality in the world, the Gov Ball team is closely keeping an eye on the air quality index (AQI). According to an e-mail sent to all ticket holders and an Instagram post, the festival is “working with weather experts and are in close contact with city officials” and ensuring that their “top priority” is the health and safety of New Yorkers. 

The smog, which began on Tuesday and has kept New York City at an unhealthy and hazardous AQI, surpassed 400 on Wednesday but decreased to 150-160 today. However, the Gov Ball team announced that the festival will begin on time tomorrow at 11:45 a.m. 

General admission ($139), General admission plus ($239), VIP ($339) and Platinum ($2499) tickets are still on sale on their website. The festival starts June 9 at noon. with the first performance by Awfbeat.

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About the Contributor
Sara Kiernan, Sports & Photo Editor
Sara is a senior journalism student serving as the Sports Editor & Photo Editor. She is minoring in government and politics and is a sister of Phi Sigma Sigma's epsilon omicron chapter. She has been able to take photos at some amazing places including the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden. If she is not taking photos on the court or writing, she has an iced coffee in hand with friends, walking around the city or watching any sports game that is on! LETS GO YANKEES!  Sara can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected] 

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