Amidst LONG-AWAITED COMEBACKS AND COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF CULTURAL APPROPRIATION, THIS FEST IS ALL ABOUT APPEARANCES
Early Friday afternoon, the MTV Iggy crew boarded the East River ferry out of Midtown Manhattan to catch the annual Governors Ball 0n Randall’s Island, New York City. Hosting comeback kings such as OutKast and more contemporary pioneers like Skrillex, this lineup was by far the most impressive and well-rounded yet for the fest. Over the weekend, you could even hear a few of the estimated 13,385 concertgoers arguing that with such a robust lineup, the standard weekend pass was well worth the $250 (or $115 per day).
But let’s face it — most people attending the Governors Ball were hardly so resourceful as to take advantage of an entire day’s worth of live music. (Our staffers included — mornings, amiright?) Though the festival opened at noon, it seemed as though its rush hour took place between 3 pm and 5 pm, during which young music fans flocked the ferries and stormed the bridge. (And hundreds hit the free ice cream line before seeing anything else.)
It was almost — no, totally unfair that Janelle Monae was scheduled so early in the day. At 3 pm the leading lady of alternative soul drew in almost the entire population of concertgoers, making it tough to get close enough to see her. But, like a goddess crooning from the peak of Mount Olympus, her call alone was glorious enough to witness.
Meanwhile, the young charmers of Bastille worked hard to woo their young audience with a sultry cover of TLC’s “No Scrubs.” While some people in the audience sang along resolutely, others missed the beat. (Did it absolutely kill me when a teen asked another where the song was from? Yes, a little.)
While La Roux led what was essentially a solo karaoke disco party to a sizable crowd under the Gotham tent, Neko Case commanded a powerful, yet understated performance to a humble audience of heartwarmingly earnest (and older) fans. Backed by her phenomenal rock ‘n’ roll band, her voice was strong and smooth as maple syrup. She was definitely the best kept secret of the Ball, but it’s hard to say whether that’s good or bad.
Remember Phoenix? The French band reunited on Friday night to evoke lots of memories and led lots of young women to crydancing. (Crying while dancing.) Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley turned up the heat at the Honda Stage, entrancing many in the audience into a slow wine (and for some young New England college students, a clumsy grind).
AND THEN CAME GRIMES AND HER MIMES. No really, Montreal’s most famous wallflower emerged, bathed in pink light and surrounded by mimes and ribbon dancers. She shared with us three new songs, one of them being “Go,” which she says was rejected by Rihanna.
R&B legends OutKast busted open their set with 2000 underground hit, “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad).” While dancing on a hill full of unusually mild-mannered teens, I worried that the duo would meet the same tragic fate they did at Coachella. But their flow was flawless, the crowd eventually developed a pulse (and some moves), and the only thing that brought me down was the fact that Big Boi and Andre 3000 may never make music together again. They still got it, though, for sure.
Before we move onto the rest of the weekend, a brief fashion report: the count of flower crowns hit 115 by Friday’s end. We spotted 17 white people with dreads, and countless young folks sporting decontextualized bindis, decontextualized tribal face paint, and tattoos of Native Americans. Thankfully nobody tried to don a traditional Sioux headress, but I did see one guy wearing a giant Coneheads hat. What was inside?
Long story short, Saturday’s crowd was most rapt under the spell of The Strokes and Skrillex. After a lukewarm reception of his side project The Voidz, Julian Casablancas worked extra hard to please with The Strokes’ Saturday night performance. Skrillex’ spaceship-themed stage setup and his ability to appease both metal and hip-hop fans garnered him an unsurprisingly rave response from the audience. Is it just me or is it 2001 again? Can we call his EDM post-nu metal? I’m totally kidding, kind of.
On Sunday, Banks graced the Gotham tent with her angelic presence, although her vocals were done little justice by the sound team. AlunaGeorge followed with a mission to please the crowd, who happily accepted their never-released, dance-rock banger.
It was a long time coming, but The Kills returned to the stage and captivated the audience with what felt like a single epic stoner jam. Though many audience members arrived at their set with fresh ears, they were naturally magnetized by Alison Mosshart’s near-effortless performance. And jussaying, some serious babies might’ve been conceived during James Blake’s set. If not, then, some serious naps.
Interpol took the Big Apple stage as the sun set on the dusty, trash-laden fields. By Sunday night, the crowd seemed physically spent, grumbling about expensive truck food and allergies. Yet everyone around me danced furiously to Interpol hits of yesteryear, as well as some less punchy post-punk cuts from their upcoming album, El Pintor. While most coasted over to enjoy the breezy vibes of Vampire Weekend, I was so, so ready for that hour-long ferry ride back to the mainland, far away from belly chains and the discomfort of knowing that at 24, I even felt a little too old and jaded for this.