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It’s not as grand or recognizable as Coachella, Lollapalooza, or Bonnaroo, but Governors Ball (kind of) proved that New York City could host a music festival. 60,000 attendees for each day, all three sold out, longevity has plagued all of the festivals that tried to root themselves in NYC.
Saturday’s modest line-up was solid mixture of genre titans and risers. We kicked off the day with a searing set from Philly’s shoegazers, Nothing and were able to catch Torres for a few minutes at the opposite stage right after.
Given the rough year it’s been with the immense loss of music icons, Gov Ball commissioned graffiti art to pay tribute to Bowie, Phife Dawg, Lemmy and Prince. The tributes extended to some of the acts, mostly for Prince, with Mac Miller’s cover of “Purple Rain” and HAIM’s rendition of “I Would Die 4 U”.
De La Soul and Against Me! had dueling sets, and was able to catch bits of both. De La Soul’s live shows have been sparse for a while now, but it still felt good catching them even if it was only a few songs, like “Potholes In My Lungs”. Catching the tail-end of Against Me!’s set, the crowd at the Barcardi Stage was rilled up. Getting there just in time for the band’s torrid cover of The Clash’s “Train In Vain” and the party igniter, “Thrash Unreal”.
Featuring the marquee acts of the day, the GovBallNYC Stage, drew the most crowds throughout the day, with a good chuck of the attendees camping out for either the latter acts or The Killers. Peppered with intermittent subliminal Viceland adverts flashing everywhere on the stage, we caught solid sets from Catfish and the Bottlemen and the willowy Lord Huron, both seemingly fit with the mild weather.
Alas, day 2 was penned or predicted to be the driest of the three days, to a degree. Mother Nature’s reign (or rain) of fury wiped out our plans to catch other acts. When The Killers filed on stage, the crowd erupted in unison, which were probably more shrieks of relief than excitement. Opening their set with “Mr. Brightside” made standing in two hours of heavy rain an afterthought. Opposite to M83’s set on the other side of the park, Brandon Flowers and company burned through a little bit of everything from Hot Fuss to Battle Born with covers of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” and Interpol’s “Obstacle I”. The band that I designated as my favorite all throughout junior high, performances of “Smile Like You Mean It” and “Glamourous Indie Rock and Roll” got me to lose my shit, even if I was exhausted and all soggy from the rain.
Now in its sixth year, Governors Ball has accomplished a lot more than the festivals that came before it. All Points West and The Great Googa Mooga were solid attempts at trying to establish an annual outdoor music festival in NYC but both were chased out by poor organization and a string of unfortunate touches with mother nature. Eventually she caught up, and had enough momentum to cancel the final day.
I find having music festivals within the city limits weird, or pointless. Attendees go Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Firefly for an “experience”, which includes taking a road trip into the middle of nowhere. At times at Gov Ball, I’d think I’m in some big field in Jersey, but seeing the FDR and Costco in the distance reminds me I didn’t have to do much to get there. Music festivals are way for people to get a chance to see a bit of every band/artist rising that year in one spot. A good chunk the Gov Ball 2K16 line-up released an album in 2K15 or haven’t in a while.
Despite history and lessons learned from the fallen festivals, the battle for NYC is just heating up with MORE music festivals coming. Organizers of Coachella are taking another stab at the tri-state area with APW 2.0, Panorama Festival, which has a pretty interesting line-up that greatly contrast’s Gov Ball’s relatively safe line-up. Well whoever wins, I hope they have a good solution for rainy days.
- People like to play cornhole, alot. - The food vendors to select from were pretty meh. - Two stages had inconsistent sound, so sounded quiet when close by but could clearly be heard when further away. - Crazy lines for Kanye’s Pablo merch, which had a base price of $60 and both days ran out… - There were a good amount of people decked out in suits in 90 degree weather, whyyyyyy? - I wanted to ruin so many games of giant jenga by throwing my entire body into their towers, but I didn’t. - Viceland……Viceland everywhere. - Festivals make me feel old and ashamed of my dad bod. - Thought an AMA was a inefficient way of fielding questions since not everyone’s on there. - Gov Ball was bought by Live Nation, so I hope Linkin Park and Incubus co-headline next year.