On Sunday, June 5, I awoke to the tragic news that the third day of Governor’s Ball, a three-day music festival on Randall’s Island, New York, would be cancelled due to “imminent” foul weather.
The tremendous crowd of festivalgoers and associated pandemonium is normally confined to this small island off the east shore of upper Manhattan. However, this year's crowds descended upon the downtown area late Sunday night in pursuit of something that promised to make up for their loss: a last minute pop-up performance being put on by Kanye West, the highly anticipated headliner for what would have been the festival's final day.
The rumor began as a mere whispering between snapback and tank top clad individuals standing on street corners near major music venues: Kanye West would be somewhere in Manhattan at 2am. Flashes of the telltale red Governor’s Ball wristbands and eager declarations of newfound gossip led countless fans on a wild goose chase through the darkened and drowsy streets. Unwilling to give up on their festival dreams, they carried on late into the night, ever more approaching the 2am deadline.
Rumors and speculation spread like wildfire through social media, yet inevitably it was confirmed: Kanye West would be performing his last minute show at Webster Hall in East Village. Rally cries echoed throughout the dormant city and eager feet slapped upon the now-bustling streets of downtown Manhattan as groups of fans struggled to find a place in the rapidly developing line.
As I live just around the corner from Webster Hall, a few friends and I made our way to the line while it was still in its early, relatively civil stage. Unsurprisingly, latecomers realizing the colossal scale of the line and attempted to cut their way in - a fairly common, albeit unwelcome practice. But this was Kanye West. You don’t cut in line at Kanye West. Boos and shouts hissed and the line cutters were publicly shamed out of their undeserving positions.
As the crowd began swelling outwards to the cars parked on the sidewalk, the pressure slowly began to build as fans squeezed closer and closer together in an attempt to funnel into the entrance. Every minute shift in the line soon erupted into a short, breakneck sprint as the crowd sought to exploit all available standing room. I soon found myself pinned in place, arms poised as if I were a T-Rex, sweaty, and holding my shorter companions as close to me as possible.
Police sirens sounded helplessly from down the block, immobilized by the sheer force and density of the crowd that had gathered. At one point a US Mail truck attempted to split the line and enter its loading bay, but was besieged by angry fans who opted to climb over the top of the moving truck. All around, to avoid being trampled, people made their way to the tops of food trucks, civilian cars, and police cars. Some no longer interested in participating in the line simply surveyed the chaos with awe.
According to their website, Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom can accommodate a maximum of 1,500 people. Of the estimated 150,000 people that attended Governor’s Ball in 2015, police reported approximately 4,000 hopefuls rioted in an effort to be among the lucky 1500. Fed up, sweaty, and claustrophobic, however, I relinquished my already slim hopes of seeing Kanye West perform at 12:30am.
1.5 hours still remained until the show that never happened.