It was one of those perfectly weathered summer weekends and I was en route to The Governors Ball Music Festival on NYC’s Randall’s Island. Of the many suggested ways to get onto the island, I opted to hop the ferry. In front of me sat two young lads that were eager to get to the festivities! Both reside in Brooklyn and fessed up that they were unsure of the exact lineup, but looking forward to seeing what the festival surprises them with. It is kind of an awesome feeling going in that way. You are not too sure of what you are going to get, but it is almost a guarantee that you will walk away with something new to listen to.
Once I got onto the grounds, I took a few moments to get the lay of the land. There were two stages on either side of the island. The weekend promised that there would be no overlapping sets, which made it far less stressful when determining who to watch and when. There were many-a-food and beverage vendors and trucks lined up around the grounds and in the middle. Croquette, bocce ball and ladder golf were set up. A huge inflatable ball was set in the very center of all it all. K.Flay kicked off the festivities while a live art installation sprouted from the VIP area to the right of the stage she was performing on. A man and woman constructed a large balloon arch. SIDE BAR: I feel like I read somewhere that they were trying to break a World Record for the largest balloon arch, but I could completely be making that up.
While Art vs. Science took stage (donned in shiny silver jumpsuits) I spent some time talking with the boys from Big Gigantic. The Saturday line-up was electronic-pop and DJ heavy with support from not only Big Gigantic themselves, but Santigold, Major Lazer, Chromeo and Passion Pit. Oh, and the most amazing James Murphy and Pat Mahoney of LCD Soundsystem, who were billed as Special Disco Version. For me, it was the first time I have seen/heard Walk the Moon and Penguin Prison. Needless to say, it was a pretty rad day!
TO RECAP THE HIGHLIGHTS:
Santigold took stage mid-afternoon. She, her dancers and her band wore matching costumes inspired from lord knows where and put on a perfect, yet very odd, choreographed show. Bright greens, teals, yellows and golds from head to toe. From the pit, there was an over-abundance of photographers trying to capture it all. And from the audience perspective, the speakers in front weren’t projecting her beautiful and sweet voice. Was a shame, but she carried through it all with a huge smile on her face and with much positivity! Among her own hits, she even slipped in a Major Lazer cover, “Hold the Line” that she has played a few times in the past.
The day was about half-way in and the island was not lacking young matching hipster teens running wild. And the scene was growing by the hour. From one act to the next, the herd of people would flock from one stage to the other and back again. Without a doubt, neon colors and high-waisted cut-off jean shorts were back. And while I love both of those things, I am not completely sold on the revival of the acid-washed denim purse. Though, I am not one to judge…especially at a music festival in NYC.
I hopped into the pit for Special Disco Version. James and Pat were just chillin’ on stage with friends sipping on some Moet out of some hot pink solo cups, no big deal. Many of the young ones in the crowd had no clue that they were standing in front of two of the greatest. The guys started out really slow and nonchalant. About 15 minutes in brought the entire island to their feet when they spoke out to the soundboard crew…”Can we turn this up?!” BOOM! The beats came full force. As much as I miss LCD Soundsystem as a whole, I will most certainly take this. Their 50 minute set was incredible.
The island smelled delectable. The food and beverage selection was as expected for a NYC experience; top-notch. As Major Lazer and Atmosphere went on, I felt it was time to sit in the shade and eat some grub. My favorite festival food in the entire world is “The Jerry Roll” and mainly because of the awesomely insane creator. Wearing a Mad Hatter top hat and yelling back to his workers, Louie–“The Felafel Man”, made my lunch. I can’t put entirely into words how the experience goes, but if you are ever near this food vendor, GET IT AND FREAK IT!!
While Major Lazer didn’t appeal to me personally, the crowd he drew was having a blast. Twirling their shirts over their heads and screaming as he and his dancers put on a very lively performance. Fellow LMBer, Eric T, was down in the pit and grabbed some great close-ups of it all! Atmosphere performed next–killing it as well–followed by the very eccentric Chromeo.
Chromeo is a duo: P-Thugg on keys, syth and talk box and Dave 1 on guitar and lead vocals. Both complete hams on stage as they played their hits to a very happy and spirited crowd. They have a pretty funky 70’s sound spliced with new electronica/pop. As the afternoon was winding down, this was just what we all needed to keep us going for the remainder of the evening. Another young duo that goes by the name of Duck Sauce was next. No one I spoke with seemed to know who they were or what they were about. As I approached the stage, there were stage-hands passing out plastic duck beaks and there was an enormous inflatable duck set on stage behind their turn tables; how could this suck?! Armand Van Helden and A-Trak are the boys responsible for the great beats that blasted the island for nearly the next full hour.
The sun was on the brink of setting low and LCD Soundsystem was blasting through the house sound…”WE ARE NORTH AMERICAN!” Young girls were trying to con their way back stage and drunken gents were trying to sneak through the photographers to get themselves a bit closer to the action. Passion Pit was next up and the crowd was growing very excited to see these boys perform. In just a few weeks, the band will release their second studio album, Gossamer and fans are waiting for it with bated breath. During what felt like a full length concert, they opened with “Moth’s Wings” and continued to play the known and the new. The band introduced a few new songs, “Talk a Walk”, “I’ll Be Alright” and “It’s Not My Fault I’m Happy.” They concluded with “Little Secrets” as their encore. Rumor had it that Radiohead’s lighting director lent a hand in their lights. A+ all around!
Kid Cudi was the final act of the evening and while I called it a day after Passion Pit, Eric T stuck around to report back. According to him, Kid Cudi was late to take stage and there were some technical difficulties in and out of the set. From the audience perspective, the light show was great. Little did all of the people know, but Randall’s Island has a very strict 11pm sound curfew. Nearing that hour, Cudi started in on a song and apparently didn’t like way it went and started it from the top. The song concluded and he said “OK Governors Ball…Good…..” and the sound was cut off completely. A very abrupt ending to the evening, sadly.
And of course what would an evening be without some random street music? Three words: Piano Across America. Piano Across America is the story of a pianist named Dotan Negrin and his dog, Brando, as they travel across the United States with an upright piano in a truck. It was the perfect end, to a perfect day of music!
Please enjoy the photo gallery on the next page! It was a fabulous day one… stay tuned for more from day two!!