RECAP: Governors Ball Music Festival @ Randall’s Island NYC, Day Two 6/24/12

Turf War and Alberta Cross started day two of The Governors Ball off strong. And while my slacker-ass took a little longer to get to the island, Eric T arrived bright and early and was able to take in the sights and sounds of the mid-morning. When I arrived to the grounds, The Jezabels were about to take stage and I couldn’t help but stop at the food trucks and help myself to a little snack! The pizza was tough to walk past, but Kayla from Food Freaks food truck was at the edge of the truck passing out crispy Brussels sprouts–likely one of the greatest treats I have ever had, hands down! And a full truck designated to grilled cheese? Really, they had me at hello. Kudos! NYC famous Wafels & Dinges caught my eye too. YUM!

Day two was full of much more rock, guitar and a completely different scene all together. Felt to me as though the fans on this day were a little closer in age to me as opposed to day one’s teeny-bopping crowd; the sophisticated and mature pot-smoking crowd (if you will.) A second balloon arch was being constructed, only on this day it was rainbow-colored in support of Gay Pride Day in NYC. Of the 13 acts to take stage, I had only really heard maybe 4 of them before: Cage the Elephant, Fiona Apple, Modest Mouse and Beck. I was looking forward to giving into some fan favorites: The Jezabels, Cults, Devendra Banhart and Explosions in the Sky to name a few.

Hayley Mary, The Jezabels lead singer, has the voice of an rock-star angel. Odd to say? Maybe, but true nonetheless. With no rest for the weary, this Australian quad was fresh off of a plane from sunny Florida. I was able to sit down with Heather (keys) and Sam (guitar) after their set (more on that in the days to come.) Heather said “We were in Miami less than 11 hours ago. I am kind of in that space between tired and delirium and it is kind of nice.” For those unfamiliar with them, if you like the sounds of Metric and/or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, you will surely add this band to your iTunes repertoire once you give them a whirl.

During the Freelance Whales set, I kept myself in the shade and listened from afar. This NYC born band has a unique folk sound, which was a wonderful soundtrack to this breezy afternoon in NY. They are not lacking at all in the instrument department ranging from banjos to glockenspiels to mandolins. “We thought this was an actual ball,” said lead singer. “We feel very over-dressed.” The band was outfitted in their Sunday’s best–for an indie folk band. After their set, they promised to be out and about amid the fans to enjoy the rest of the music that the day would bring.

Phantogram and the Cults played back to back in mid-afternoon. First time hearing them both for me. Phantogram took stage donned in all black from their hair down to their toes. A very chic look with a relatively mellow sound with Sarah Barthel on vocals/keys and Josh Carter on vocals/guitar. They compositions reminded me a lot of M83 with long built up peaks and fluttering, beautiful vocals. The Cults played a lively and quick set. Madeline Follin, lead signer, was front and center and cute as a button! The duo backed was backed with a band and their poppy beats were a nice pick me up to a more mellow afternoon.

Devendra Banhart won me over in about two seconds. How I had never heard of him, I will never understand. He took stage solo and welcomed the crowd, “Happy pride, everyone!” He started his almost hour long set with a beautiful acoustic solo. All I could hear beyond his voice and guitar was the sounds of cameras snapping away; you could quite literally have heard a pin drop during this opening song. One of those moments where live music just takes over your body and you feel slightly moved. Next song, two young men (who later helped shape his band) took stage as they sang another quiet number. By the third song, a full band formed on stage and they delivered a very refreshing set of music. Good mid-day Sunday, sit on a field in NYC, sipping on whiskey and chillin’ out kind of sound, if you will.

The back and forth between the stages made for amazing people watching and the food selection continued to impress me as I walked by a gourmet crepe vendor, Everything About Crepes. Cause everyone should have the option of having a crepe at a music fest if they want to! I was trying to decide if it would be ice cream, tacos or hot dogs for lunch. Asia Dog and Cool Haus lost to Mexicue. And sadly, I regretted my decision as the food was only just “eh.” That will teach me! When in doubt, ice cream always wins!

Built to Spill is one of those names I was positive I had heard and that has had radio air-time before. Standing in the pit waiting, some gents took stage and, having no clue what the band looked like, I assumed said gents were just tuning up the band’s gear. My bad. The gents were the band and they slowly started into their set. Later found out the indie rock band has been around since the 90’s, which helped to explain the fans that were at the edge of their seat with excitement as they waiting all afternoon for this performance. As the sun took a breather behind some clouds for a bit, Doug Martsch (lead vocals/guitar) provided us with a little afternoon serenade. His voice was soft and pretty, somewhat reminiscent of Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie/Postal Service). It was a beautiful 50 minutes of music.

I was starting to grow very excited to see my girl, Fiona Apple again. She just dropped her latest and greatest a few weeks back, and like all of her early works, it is incredible. The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do released on June 19th. But first, a little straight up rock and roll. Cage the Elephant hadn’t really captured my attention with what they put on the radio, but from all I have spoken with about them, they “bring it” in a live setting. Matthew Shultz leads the band with his great voice and random stage-dives. He welcomed us and let us know that this was going to be their final performance of the year, but for good reason: they will be shutting it down and working on their next album. Apparently, the band’s management advised against this set all together as Matthew’s voice was a bit out of sorts. Being the rock-star he is, “…and here we are!!” he proclaims to a screaming audience with a s***-eating grin on his face! They delivered a very lively set which was a nice jolt from the more mellow indie-rock we had been listening too all afternoon. Of course, complete with a stage-dive or two from lead singer.

It was awesome being in Fiona Apple’s photo pit for the second time. She is one of my most favorite artists of my time. She continues to create beautiful moments and thus far this tour, she has not skipped a beat. Many photographers had made comments on how unhealthy she appears, but to me she just looks happy, which is healthy. She wooed us upfront with her classics, opening the set with “Fast As You Can”, “On The Bound” and “Paper Bag”. Flailing around stage she bounced back and forth between wailing on her baby grand and profoundly standing center stage singing from the bottom of her heart. She is a tiny little thing full of soul.

The sun was starting to fall lower over the city and not before too long would we be down to only 2 acts left. During Explosions In The Sky, while very animated and interesting to watch, I felt much better finding a patch of open grass and just dazing out to their lyric-less melodies. Modest Mouse’s performance brought back a flood of memories from almost exactly 7 years to the day that I last saw the band: 6/22/2005. And I have to say, they sound just as tight as they did back then. And now that I am a bit older and tire out far sooner, I can confirm that the “good times are killing me”. Wink, wink!

It was time to call it a day with my camera. This was the part of the weekend I was looking forward to the most. So I found a late day snack (a corn dog, yup!) and a spot close, but not too close, to the front of the stage for the headlining performance: BECK! Some of the photographers I had met that day were not so happy to find out that there was a release that they were to sign in order to shoot this part of the fest. And many of them were even more miffed because they didn’t really see the appeal of Beck to begin with, only knowing the staple song “Loser”. For the better part of the last decade, the singer/guitarist has won me and many over with a number of hits. This evening he provided us with a great many of them…”Black Tambourine”, “Gamma Ray”, “Girl”, “Devil’s Haircut” and “Loser”. Oh, and my most favorite, “Lost Cause”.

Please enjoy the photo gallery–from behind the camera of both myself and Eric T! I know there is a lot to see, but hard to trim down so much music!

Thank you NYC for putting me up for the weekend and providing me with amazing music. Thank you to all of the collaborators, media folks, publicists, food and beverage vendors, volunteers and most importantly, the artists. Great times! See you in 2013!

Read on for the full photo gallery from the festival…