[RECAP] aespa takes Governors Ball Music Festival to the “Next Level” in Groundbreaking Performance

Cr. Roger Ho

New York City was alight on June 10 as girl group aespa took to the main stage of the Governors Ball Music Festival (colloquially known as Gov Ball), becoming the first K-Pop artist ever to perform at the festival in its twelve-year history. Despite Giselle’s notable absence due to previously-announced health issues, members Karina, Winter, and Ningning brought the fire to Flushing Meadows Corona Park with a dazzling, gorgeously-produced set that impressed fans (known as MYs) and non-fans alike. 

Governors Ball is one of the Big Apple’s most well-known music festivals, drawing nearly 150,000 people annually. Ahead of the festival, aespa attended the June 8 Yankees game, another quintessentially New York experience, and threw the ceremonial first pitch

Cr. Roger Ho

The group’s New York activities in the days prior to Gov Ball effectively got fans excited for their festival performance. Following Rina Sawayama’s own stunning set, MYs rushed to the GOVBALLNYC main stage to secure a good viewing spot for aespa. Onstage, the crew set up a white platform with steps, and a full band comprised of a drummer, guitarist, keyboardist, and bassist positioned themselves. Despite the sky still being bright at 6:30PM, MYs were armed with aespa and other K-Pop lightsticks to show their support. 

Finally, the LCD screen in the background crackled to life with Morse code that translated to, “AESPA HYPER LINE.” Naevis, an AI character from aespa’s sci-fi storyline in the SM Culture Universe (AKA SM Entertainment’s metaverse lore) appeared on screen to introduce aespa and their AI avatars against an epic overture led by the band.

Cr. Roger Ho

Karina, Winter, and Ningning then took to the stage to deafening cheers, launching right into “Girls.” In the background, aespa’s AI versions (including Giselle) followed along with the powerful choreography. The extravagant performance was supported by a dance troupe and exciting pyrotechnics. The song felt like a rallying cry and they kept the hyped energy going with, “aenergy,” calling on the audience to put their hands up.

Up next was “Salty & Sweet,” a sassy track from aespa’s latest mini-album, MY WORLD. The performance highlighted the group’s synchronization and personality but also featured an impressive high note courtesy of Winter. “We’re so excited to be here at Gov Ball,” Karina commented during the group’s introduction. “Let’s have fun together!”

aespa kept the carefree vibe with the English version of “Life’s Too Short,” an ode to individuality. The song offered the group a break from the explosive choreography of the introductory songs prior and put their incredible vocal ability on full display. Behind them, the screen displayed four-cut photos of aespa as a full unit, which was a sentimental moment for MYs.

The girls then ran backstage for a brief intermission, but the audience wasn’t left waiting. The accompanying band jumped into an enthralling rock instrumental version of “Savage.” To accentuate the music, aespa’s dancers joined the band onstage for a fierce dance number that had the crowd erupting with cheers.

Cr. Sarah P.

Finally, Karina, Winter, and Ningning appeared at the top of the stage’s white platform to perform another vocal-centric song, “Welcome to MY World (feat. Naevis).” The crowd was watched reverently as they performed the captivating and slightly unsettling dream-pop track, which was a pre-release single from MY WORLD

The group then switched the mood back to their hyper pop and techno roots with a performance of “Hold On Tight,” an original song they contributed to the official soundtrack of the Apple+ film Tetris (based on creators of the video game of the same name). Despite not being part of their official discography, the song unexpectedly became popular among the general public due to its creative sampling of the Tetris theme song. The earworm shot to the top of Apple Music’s “New Music Daily” playlist just fourteen minutes after it was released and achieved 5 million streams in its first week with minimal promotion. The Gov Ball crowd danced and sang along to the song’s catchy English lyrics at the top of their lungs, giving the feel of a disco club as the sun began to set.

Cr. Sarah P.

Following “Hold On Tight” was a fan-favorite that had the audience absolutely losing it at the instantly recognizable sound of the introductory bass riff alone. As aespa performed their hit song, “Next Level,” the sound of the crowd singing along echoed across the viewing field at the main stage. They then transitioned into “Black Mamba,” the “prequel” track of “Next Level.” The electrifying performance featured impressive floor work choreography and feisty poses framed with the flames and sparkler effects.

To the audience’s disappointment, their set was almost over. Responding to the crowd’s sad chorus of “no’s,” Winter responded, “We have a U.S. tour that kicks off in L.A. this summer, so please come see it!”

“We hope to see you there!” Ningning added.

Cr. Sarah P.

To round out their 45-minute set, aespa jumped into “Spicy,” the fiery and spunky lead single from MY WORLD. They delivered a stunning finale of their debut Governors Ball performance with their dancers’ fierce moves, the band’s guitar solos, and of course, well-timed sparkler pyrotechnic effects leaving the audience begging for more. As the girls said their final goodbyes and waved to the crowd, many attendees could be heard shouting out their love for each member and screaming for encores.

Though it was short, the group’s Gov Ball set was the perfect teaser at what’s to come as aespa plans to embark on its first world tour, SYNK: HYPER LINE, across 14 cities in the United States, Latin America, and Europe beginning in August. Following a Gov Ball performance that set the stage on fire, fans can purchase tickets to see aespa in a city near them here.


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