Much like I did with Shaky Knees, today I’m going to talk about Governors Ball, which I attended this weekend. It was an interesting festival, with a lot of unique acts, some of whom I suggested last week. This was the fourth Governors Ball, and last years was a total rainy mess, this year was nothing but blue skies and warm weather, and it was great!
Day 1: Friday
I hopped on the train around 1:30 towards New York City, once I got to Penn Station, I walked cross-town towards the ferry that would take me to Randall’s Island, the home of Governors Ball Music Festival. When I arrived at the terminal, there was a really long line, but it actually went very quickly, they loaded everyone onto HUGE ferry boats, some that were usually used for sightseeing. The one I got on happened to be the GAP boat, which featured live music onboard, and that was a really cool way to start the festival. However, this combination took three hours to get into the park, so it wasn’t ideal.
The first act I saw was Jenny Lewis, who was amazing, she played some great folky rock and roll, and was engaging and a lot of fun to watch. After that, I caught one of my absolute favorite voices (and one of our favorite albums of last year) Neko Case on the stage directly behind where Jenny Lewis played. This made things convenient, but unlike Shaky Knees, you couldn’t really just get one spot and see both stages because of the huge space between the two. After Neko Case I stayed at that stage and waited for TV On The Radio. Damian Marley was playing on the stage on the other side of the field, but because there was house music playing on the stage we were waiting at, we couldn’t actually hear much of Marley, which is a shame, because what I was able to make out sounded great.
At 8:00, TV On The Radio took the stage, and were freakin’ on! I hadn’t seen them since 2009, though I did see both Tunde and Kyp Malone perform solo shows recently, and they just brought so much energy and musical prowess to the stage. They’re fine performers, and they put on a totally captivating show. After TV On The Radio, I planned on bouncing between OutKast and Damon Albarn. I did that for a bit, but I ended up enjoying Damon Albarn a bit more and stuck with his set, which combined hits from Blur, Gorillaz, and his solo albums, and he was just fantastic. He had guests come on stage to perform songs with him, and it just felt special.
I took the ferry home that evening, and it still took three hours. I thought “Crap, travel is going to take six hours out of my day… this sucks!” But it wasn’t all bad, the ferry ride was truly relaxing, and a great way to end a day, and I didn’t really mind it, because it gave me time to reflect on what I had just seen.
Day 2: Saturday
On Saturday, instead of taking the ferry, I took the subway and that took a lot of time off of my commute, and it was great. I got in just in time to see Diarrhea Planet, and in my opinion they put on one of the top three shows of the entire festival. They played their signature punk rock with an idgaf (I don’t give a …) attitude, and that equated to an incredibly memorable show. Before playing their last song, they asked if anyone saw OutKast the night before, then launched into a version of OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” which totally kicked ass. One guitarist decided to go crowd surfing, and while I was distracted by that, I turned back to look at the stage, and another guitarist had climbed the stage and was now 50 feet in the air! It was awesome, and I ran into a friend after the set who asked if I had seen them, and we both said we were blown away.
Next up was Deafheaven, who play a very heavy and psychedelic brand of metal, it’s really intriguing and intense, and it was one of the more unique shows of the festival. I then caught up with a friend and saw Lucius, who were great, their energy was off the charts. Their drumbeats are so cool, everyone in the band has some drums at their disposal. I’d definitely go see them again if they were in the area. I then went on a run of Chance The Rapper, Broken Bells, The Naked and Famous, and Childish Gambino. All were great in their own way, all were fun shows, and the crowds were super into everything, which truly added to the experience.
The last three acts I saw were truly deserving headliners of their respective stages. Spoon were amazing, their energy was great, and the audience really got into them, we sang along and jumped up and down and the band really appreciated it, they’d been playing festivals, and not headlining, so a lot of the crowds they had played to recently were uninterested, but at Governors Ball, they had an audience that was purely there for them, and it showed, both in their reaction, and the energy on the stage.
Then there was Skrillex. Like I said last week, I had no idea what to expect, and what I got was an intriguing and strange show that was a lot of fun and entertaining. Skrillex’s light show and stage show is probably the best I’ve ever seen. He’s inside something that resembles a space ship, and he’s surrounded by huge screens which display some crazy images, that really do fit the eccentric nature of Skrillex. At one point, he worked a blue screen of death into his set, then promptly dropped the bass on it and got it out of there, and there was even a game of Flappy Bird going on at one point. There were lasers, and smoke, it was almost too stimulating, but it was a lot of fun to experience.
About halfway through the set I tried to make my way over to Jack White, but the whole main stage area was packed, so I found a spot pretty far back and took in the music. He played some solo stuff, and some stuff from each of his many, many side projects. I then took the ferry back, unwound, and got some sleep so I’d be ready for the final day.
Day 3: Sunday
I got in while Wild Belle, one of our Shaky Knees recommendations, was playing. They sounded just as good as they did in Atlanta, and I made my way over to Frank Turner’s set. That dude has a lot of energy, and is one of the best frontmen in music right now. I’ve seen him a few times now, and every time it just seems like he gets better and better. He’s a fine musician and a great songwriter, and even without that he’d be one of the best frontmen, his stage presense is so engaging, and he’s such a fantastic storyteller, it’s hard not to like him. His music is so positive, too, which is great, because there’s so much negativity out there, and inspiring music is a great way to escape that.
Next on that stage was The Head and the Heart, who put on a great show as always. After them, I saw The Kills, who were just mindblowing. The epicness of the music, the energy of Alison Mosshart could not be contained, and it spread through the audience, and even the security guards started dancing and clapping and working the audience. That led into Interpol, who I hadn’t seen since 2011, and they absolutely killed it, from the first note to the last “thank you” after the set, it was a raucous performance, with insane amounts of energy from both the band and the audience. They played a few new songs, which were great and got me psyched for the upcoming El Pintor, and a bunch of songs from their past releases. After Interpol finished, Vampire Weekend started playing and I took that as my cue to leave, saying farewell to my first Governors Ball.
Governors Ball was a great experience, and the only real negative I could find was just the amount of time spent getting to the ball. It was a lot of fun, and the crowds were some of the best I’ve ever been in, which is surprising to me, because of the heat and the fact New York crowds tend to be a bit more laid back. The food, and all the non-music related stuff was also really cool, and they even played the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night. I will probably go back next year, and get a hotel room in Manhattan, to cut down on travel time, it’d be worth it. Governors Ball is a great festival, and the City of New York is lucky to have it.
All photos by Rich Moses
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