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Gov Ball 2024, Day 1: Dominic Fike is a Guitar Hero

Updated: 5 days ago

Photos by N. Bradley, Anna Downs

When we strolled back up to the GOVBALLNYC stage, the crowd was already stretched back past the tech barricades, with a good chunk of people already sitting down in the grass to claim their spot in the mass that would ensue. Dominic Fike was already pulling in the biggest crowd of the day, the youngest, oldest, shortest and tallest fans of the weekend were elbowing, shoving and fighting each other to get as close to the front of the line as possible.

His band shuffled in and out, a colorful cast of characters in ironic (or perhaps unironic) t-shirts, picking up and putting down their instruments methodically, giving them one last fine tuning before the set. Fike, without a word, calmly strides on stage, hoists his guitar over his shoulder, and without looking up, begins playing “How Much Is Weed?”

These are literally the three colors used in Kim Possible's colorway (photo by Anna Downs)

After a two minute shred fest preceding “Ant Pile,” the crowd was going crazy, making them easily the most vocal crowd of the day. “What’s going on New York, how’re you feeling baby?” Fike barked out into the sea of sunglasses staring up at him. “I love New York, I’m saying extra days, I’m serious, I booked three extra days.” He then went on a winding spiel about New York being his capital of the world, and how it was the first place he ever visited after he got out of jail, which led I’m to his first great epiphany, “the most beautiful girls in the world are in New York!”

Fike took several moments throughout his set to level with his fans. He was unabashedly honest about his efforts to cut back on smoking cigarettes and using drugs (“most of ‘em”) to prepare for Friday’s show. He explained eagerly to his fans that he wanted to not only give them a great show, but also perform the songs on his most recent album, 14 minutes.

The Fike crowd couldn't hope to contain their excitement. Even during the quote-on-quote "sad songs," feet were moving, bad dancing was imminent if not expected; even the meekest of viewers were caught swaying back and forth, as if possessed by the sheer passion and unadulterated life in Fike’s music. He's one of the few true rock stars in his scrappy young generation of genre-blurring artists, capable of seamlessly flying between his hundreds of styles and influences, and he’s dead set on bringing everyone up with him. Not to mention, he knows how to build a killer band. Fike's entire supporting band was made up of not only technically proficient musicians, but also those that were each superstars in their own right; holding their own alongside the commanding superstar, taking turns stupefying the crowd with their extraterrestrial performances.

Star struck fans vibrated all around, chattering wildly and screaming uncontrollably through the big-band version of Paul McCartney's "Kiss of Venus." Fike nearly toppled headfirst off the stage during the song, narrowly catching himself and balancing off the edge of the stage, gazing across every corner of the crowd as "Kiss of Venus" abruptly came to an end. “Let’s get serious, I’ve had a really tough week…," Fike ran his hands down his face, mimicking exhaustion. "Nah, I’m kidding, I’m gonna sing this song 'Babydoll,' y’all fucking like that one.” The ground beneath our foot quaked underneath the weight of the crowds screeching. “In fact, y'all like it so much, I’m gonna let y'all sing the first hook," he announced. Finishes the song, Fike immediately butchering the riff from Red Hot Chili Peppers' “Can’t Stop," like a fledgling guitarist just excited to have learned to notes. After a minute of ice cold soloing and goofing off, Fike exchanged guitars for his next song.

There is no one else that demands the attention of an audience the way that Dominic Fike does. He’s sincere, funny and undeniably entertaining just as a start. I may be saying that because he makes me want to bring back my bleached buzzcut, but more so because he’s undeniably witty and incredibly quick on his feet, but never so spontaneous that he risks alienating a single member of his adoring fans. He knows exactly where to land and when to put together as engaging a performance as possible, more so than any young artist. He leaves every opportunity for the crowd to join in, inviting them to be a part of the band themselves. And who else can do it dressed like Kim Possible?

Photo by N. Bradley

“Hey, that’s my little brother, throw shit at him,” Fike pointed into the crowd following the final downbeat of "Mona Lisa," his charting hit from the Across the Spider-Verse soundtrack. He then took another moment to level with the crowd, speaking on the conception and construction of his latest record's most popular song, "misses." He brought the crowd along through every step of the song's creation, recounting his spirited and spirit-driven (get it?) move to the studio to out together the song, “I made it myself, I was a little wasted, but I made it myself." He then proudly conceded that it almost didn't make the record's final cut, before hurdling full speed into an electric rendition of "misses."

“This is an old one that I like, an oldie but a goodie," Fike blurts out before the intro notes for "She Wants My Money." Fike has stated on multiple occasions that he’s been playing guitar for long long time, likening it to his first love, but you don’t get a feel for just how incredible he really is until you see it in person. Fike should be the conversation of best guitarists of the generation, because he's not a performative guitarist; he can feel the instrument telling him where to go, what notes to play and when. To only add to the mythos of the budding guitar hero, Fike took a moment to reminisce about his learning days and the birth of his first rock song, “Westcoast Collective.” He began his story regretfully, explaining that he recognized now that he had been taking advantage of a musician friend, calling it “full piece of shit mode." He continued, remembering that he had been on house arrest and listening to a lot Weezer, sparking another epiphany. “These guys are the opposite of me; I’m not white, I’m on house arrest, just complete opposite of me," before gleefully screaming into the crowd, "but I made this shit on the first fucking try!"

Fike leapt off the stage to greet his fans face-to-face; high-fiving, signing autographs, kissing babies like he was Elvis Presley reincarnate, backed by his band playing guitar medleys of the earlier songs in the set. He bounced swiftly backed on stage, turning back to address his brilliant fans. “New York you’ve been great, I’m gonna play one more song for you," he said, lowering his head for a moment. "This song is for that one friend that doesn’t wanna fucking be here, the one that never wants to come out; this song is for them. Fike chose “Why,” one of the many standout hits from 2020's What Could Possibly Go Wrong?, as his last song, having prepared and an electric, eccentric, haunting, mosh pit-forming rendition just for this set. He took a moment to address his mom in the stage rafters midway through the song, “that’s my mom, she’s so fucking proud of you," before repositioning himself in front the vocal synthesizer he'd been using throughout his set.

“When I start singing, you start dancing,” he demanded, easing into one more slow swell of the songs chorus; exploding into what can only be considered the best hard rock breakdown of the weekend. He barked into the crowd one final time, thanking them again for coming to see him, for sticking with him over years, before turning to exit the stage. With his hands above his head and the warm support of the crowd behind him, he pointed to his mother in the rafters once more and left as quietly as he had come in.

Rob Lucchesi

Dominic Fike


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