Governors Ball 2017: The 10 Best Sets From Childish Gambino to Lorde

Hint: Both huge hitmakers and more iconoclastic acts ruled the NYC fest this year.

Written by Live Nation Staff • Photography by Sachyn Mital • June 5, 2017

Governors Ball 2017 took over New York City’s Randall’s Island this weekend (June 2-4, check out photos here) and among the dozens of amazing acts across four stages and three days, we witnessed a lot of good music. Here were our 10 favorite sets:


Lorde at Governors Ball 2017With Lorde’s sophomore album just two weeks away, the New Zealander debuted new music from Melodrama on Friday night. Her pal Jack Antonoff took her side as they played through her first live performance of “Perfect Places,” to the delight of fans. She gave dramatic versions of her soon-to-be-released title track, along with fresh tracks “Sober” and “Liability.” The set was highlighted by “Green Light,” however. She opened with the song’s beginning lyrics before diving into older stuff, but circled back to it when she closed out with a reckless and beautiful rendition of the instant hit. (Check out our full review here.) —Emilee Lindner


If you came to Gov Ball to dance, Flume was the ultimate set to visit. Playing on the Honda stage on Friday night, the Australian electronic whiz kid pleased his fans with cuts off his uber-successful Skin album, from last year. The glittery “Never Be Like You” was tangled into a remix of Lorde’s “Tennis Courts” (a song she performed across the field just minutes before). Featuring the fresh vocals of Kai, the song was a runaway smash of the set, leaving fans wanting more. He wove in his “You & Me” remix, along with his variation on Major Lazer’s “Get Free,” both from 2013, when Flume was still an up-and-coming dance artist. But with a huge following now, Flume kept his fans happy when he brought out Tove Lo for their “Say It,” which helped close out the epic performance. —Emilee Lindner

Chance the Rapper

So much energy, such a powerful set, and so many fans gathered to hear him. Friday night on the Gov Ball NYC stage, they might as well have temporarily renamed the festival for Chance, since no one who saw his set went home disappointed. Do yourself a favor and check out more details from his set in our full review—Jessica Letkemann

Tove Lo

Tove Lo at Governors BallYou know the drill with Tove Lo by now. Another festival favorite, the Swedish pop star never disappoints with her set, and no matter how many times you’ve seen her, you’re always reminded of her badassery when she takes the stage. At Gov Ball, Tove performed stuff off her latest album, Lady Wood, backed by her giant, clitoral logo on the big screen. The singer is an entertainer to the core, bounding from side to side while never losing a note of her song -- plus, you can always count on her to flash the audience during her hit “Talking Body.” Hordes of festivalgoers showed up for her set on Randall’s Island, with people of all types belting out “Habits” and “Cool Girl” back to her. —Emilee Lindner

Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka at Governors Ball 2017This young Brit’s mastery of rock ’n’ soul seems far older than his 30 years, and the blend (which also included hints of Afrobeat, particularly during "Black Man in a White World”) was perfect for a sunny Friday afternoon in June. I’m sure he’s tired of being compared to everyone from Marvin Gaye to Van Morrison, but between his sheer virtuosity on the guitar and his assured, clear-eyed vocals, it was hard not to add another one: Jimi Hendrix. It was hard not to think of Jimi when Kiwanuka veered into a note-perfect cover of Hendrix’s “Waterfall,” more than halfway into a set where he’d showed off his guitar chops over and over. —Jessica Letkemann

Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino at Governors Ball 2017Donald Glover chose Gov Ball as his one and only show for 2017. With a concert so exclusive, he dove into headline-making banter and R&B slow jams. He revealed the name of his son, Legend, while also admitting that his next album will be his last. But big news aside, he served up an hour-plus-worth of musicality, flexing his rap muscle while also going full-on rock for songs like Awaken, My Love!’s “Riot.” A full band, including smooth-as-hell backup singers and a funky bass, helped round out Childish Gambino’s tunes -- ranging from the older favorite “3005” to the new beloved classic, “Redbone.” (Find our full recap here.) —Emilee Lindner

Rae Sremmurd

Rae SremmurdYou don’t have to take it from us that Rae Sremmurd’s Saturday afternoon set in the Bacardi tent was hot. All you need to know is that there were so many fans there, hundreds spilled out of the packed tent into the surrounding grass, just trying to get close enough to hear and see everything. No worries though, because before long one half of the duo was climbing the tent’s walls while he performed, so everyone got a look at the wild set. —Jessica Letkemann

The Head & The Heart

The Head & the Heart are no strangers to the festival circuit. In fact, they’ve been touring a similar set since the release of last year’s Signs of Light. But what made their Governors Ball performance so special was the return of original singer Josiah Johnson, who took a hiatus from the band in 2016 to focus on recovery for his addiction problem. The show was an electric one as the band played their usual set closer “Rivers and Roads,” a song about missing the ones you love as you go on your own journey, with Johnson, who did exactly that over the past year. (Read our full, emotional review here) The Seattle band harmonized with extra strength on the last few bits of the song. And with everyone pouring out their hearts and soaking up the extraordinary moment, you never felt so grateful for music and friendship. —Emilee Lindner

Local Natives

Local Natives in the crowd at Governors Ball 2017Sometimes it’s the fans who need to get as close as possible to the stage when a band they like is playing, but sometimes the band itself feels the need to commune with the crowd. That’s what happened during Local Natives’ set on Saturday afternoon on the Big Apple stage: singer Taylor Rice headed out into the crowd to bring the music closer to the masses. —Jessica Letkemann

Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires

Mr. Bradley injected the Bacardi stage with a whole lot of peace, love and soul (to borrow a phrase from Soul Train) and no one could resist dancing, from the skater kids and to the twenty something Brooklynites to the older hipsters. He was, after all, impossible to take your eyes off as he poured years of experience into his soulful vocals, confident thrusting, his James Brown-like scream, and his fun, flashy costume changes, all while his Extraordinaires laid down sweet jam after jam. And who couldn’t love his speechifying about unity and love across nations and races and genders, especially when he handed out a dozen roses to close his mid-afternoon set.  —Jessica Letkemann

Want to see more Governors Ball 2017 photos? We've got a huge gallery of them here.