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A Lesson in Showmanship and Humility From Gov Ball's Secret 4th Headliner, Anthony DeRose

Gov Ball 2024 was chock full of memorable moments; Chappell Roan calling out the White House, Saint Levant being cut short, d4vd performing with his younger sister, Quarters of Change performing "Don't Fear (The Reaper)" with Albert Bouchard-- there was a little something for everyone. But of the 63 bands and artists billed for the festival, you won't find the most memorable of the bunch on any of the t-shirts.

On Day 1, Post Malone hoisted two lucky fans over the barricade and on stage with him, a singer and guitar player, Mahogany and Anthony DeRose. The two were both holding some sort of signage asking to play a song with him, but the Anthony's sign asked specifically, 'can I play "Stay" with you?' Malone chatted with the two for a minute before realizing he recognized Anthony from somewhere, then revealing to the already excitable crowd that the two had already played "Stay" together twice in the past, first at UBS Arena in Long Island, NY in 2022, and at the Xfinity Theater in Hartford, CT in 2023 -- a three-peat offender! "It was all about perfect timing to get his attention, and it worked and it all just fell from there," DeRose explained. The three fought valiantly together through the sweet acoustic ballad, hugged, took photos and shouted out their friends in the crowd, before rejoining the swarming mass of chanting groupies, "Posty, Posty, Posty!"

What a sweet and heartwarming moment, how lucky can this guy be? Performing confidently alongside one of the biggest names in music for a third time! It surely couldn't get better than that... or so it would seem.

Day 2 muddled along, culminating in a high octane, nostalgia fueled 'aughts-rock set from The Killers, sailing wildly through every era of The Killers' massive catalog, like a dad rock time machine (which may be a controversial classification, but I stand by it). They even had space in their lengthy headliner set to fit their cover of Erasure's "A Little Respect." During the break between Erasure and their next song, lead singer Brandon Flowers noticed a solitary fan packed against the main stage barricade. Following the pattern from the previous day, another fan was holding up a sign asking to play the drums with them, claiming that it was their grandmother's birthday. “You’ve piqued our interest,” Flowers chuckled to the fan. “It’s also my wife’s birthday today, she’s 13 days older than me."

The stars seemed to be aligning for this lucky fan, perhaps a little too well. But as the camera cut from Flowers to everyone's hero in the front row, who else do we find but Day 1's surprise superstar, Anthony DeRose, still wearing his orange crystal sunglasses from the day before! "It really was my grandmother's birthday," DeRose explained. "My grandmother, she doesn't speak English, and it's a little tough for me to try and communicate with her because I don't speak Italian." But that had never stopped them from connecting. The two found a shared interest and deep bond through their family's love for music. Over the course of the weekend, DeRose had also been working on a new YouTube video to share with his grandmother all that he'd accomplished over the course of the weekend.

Flowers picked up his bass as DeRose made his way up the winding stage ramp, joking that he "should’ve asked if he was from New York first.” Killers' drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. sat DeRose behind his million-piece kit, a drum kit so intimidating and gong-heavy that a saner individual would have surely crumbled behind the might of such a monster. But DeRose looked right at home, more comfortable than he'd been all day, even going so far as to adjust Vannucci's stool. Without fear (and possibly without blinking), DeRose lead The Killers through a perfect rendition of "For Reasons Unknown," garnering thunderous applause from the audience and glances and smiles from the band caked with pleasant surprise.

But make no mistake, it's no small feat to put oneself behind that kit in front of all those people. Over the course of the weekend, Gov Ball boasted a staggering estimate of 150,000 attendees, averaging roughly 50,000 music lovers wandering the park throughout each day. DeRose, however, is no stranger to the stage. A longtime video game fan, he first found his desire to perform the same way I think many of us did, through the now legendary playlisting and thrilling gameplay of the Guitar Hero and Rockband franchises. Similar to Malone's own relationship with the instrument, DeRose was inspired by the games to begin learning guitar, but found himself drawn to the drums soon after. Up until now, he already had years of experience keeping time while performing with his brother, multi-band bassist Stephen DeRose, in Nashville, Tennessee. "It was my first time playing in front of 20,000 people on a drum set," DeRose admitted. "It was such an incredible experience to say the least."

“People paid good money to be here, you gotta give them the universal language of love, how good is that right foot?” Flowers asked DeRose as they entered the final break of "For Reasons Unknown." DeRose, without flinching and with an enormous, childlike smile tattooed across his lips, beat every last piece of that monstrous kit, visibly jarring even Vannucci as he flew across the skins. As DeRose brought "For Reasons Unknown" to a close, the crowd exploded, cheering, hooting and begging for more from the wunderkind. Vannucci and Flowers posed for another installation in one of arguably the best concert photo series on the web today, and DeRose exited the stage with a new set of sticks and a goal accomplished. “We haven’t done that in a while” Flowers admitted gleefully.

"Dude, this has been by far the best weekend of my entire life, one that I'm never going to forget," DeRose chattered excitedly. "For me to do this back to back in one weekend is fucking crazy, seriously." But as with all things that make people happy, his weekend of excitement illuminated small corners of disdain. Following the circulation of DeRose's performances online, a handful of misinformed and maligned sub-Reddits deemed his on-stage appearances to be fabricated by the event organizers, labeling DeRose as an 'industry plant,' which played into his decision not to go for another appearance on Day 3. "I had a feeling that if I did try to get up on stage with SZA, people would start to get annoyed and hate on me," he sighed. "Honestly, I'm just not letting them get to my head because they're just opinions and you're always going to get criticism no matter what, and you can never make everyone happy."

DeRose instead spent his Sunday with his grandmother celebrating her birthday, content with his accomplishments and the shows he'd put on. He has since uploaded his personal cuts of the weekend to his YouTube and Instagram, full of smiles, good times, good music, and laughter. DeRose's surprise performances at Gov Ball not only dazzled the crowd with his showmanship but also imparted a profound lesson in humility, and the right way music should be played. His undeniable stage presence amongst the world's biggest stars mixed with genuine modesty left a lasting impact, reminding us that true greatness comes from talent, and most importantly, character. "That's what brings people together, that's the beauty of music."

Rob Lucchesi

Anthony DeRose

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