words by lauren stern | photos by giuliano messina
Governors Ball is only in it’s second year but it’s proving there can be a successful music festival in New York City. This is great news for music fans on the East Coast because this side of the country is desperately in need of a long-standing festival with a good reputation. This year, the festival underwent some major changes, most notably a new location on Randall’s Island and the inclusion of New York City’s finest food trucks. However, one thing that remained the same was the eclectic line-up, which the festival did a better job of organizing this year. By separating the two days by genre, fans were able to decide between a hip-hop and dance line-up on Saturday or an indie rock line-up on Sunday.
Since I’m not much of a hip-hop or electronica guru, I headed out to Randall’s Island on Sunday for Day 2 of the festival. When I arrived at the island, I was mesmerized by the beautiful scenery and the art installations set up all over the grass. The environment was so colorful and really highlighted the beautiful summer weather.
Since there were no overlapping sets, I really got the chance to see and hear a lot more than you see below, however, these are the bands I stuck around for most if not all of their entire set.
My Governors Ball experience started off the right way with New York electronica duo Phantogram. Since I had never heard of this band before and had never seen the performance of synthesizers in a festival setting, I was a little bit skeptical about whether I was going to come out of their set satisfied. After the first three songs, I was completely blown away by how fantastic everything sounded. Their absolutely captivating performance completely blew me away and left me wanting more. Other members of the crowd definitely felt the same way too, since it was one of the most raved about performances of the day. They definitely gained a lot of new fans by playing this festival, one of them being me.
Phantogram was the only band that I saw that I never heard before and I was glad as hell I made it to the festival in time to hear them. Please, If you’re looking for something new to listen to, do yourself a favor and check them out. You won’t be disappointed.
Cage the Elephant:
Cage the Elephant singer Matthew Shultz’ told the crowd that he lost his voice earlier that morning and almost caused the band to cancel their appearance at the festival. He managed to pull it together and he and the band kicked off the evening with a really great performance. It really impressed me how smooth sounding their set was. They definitely put together a good mixture of older and newer songs.
Shultz’ overabundance of energy really got the crowd going and was definitely one of the many highlights of their performance. I’m pretty sure I didn’t see him stand still ONCE the entire time they were playing. Towards the end of their set, I was hoping someone would give him some Adderall or a shot of animal tranquilizer because it was getting really exhausting following him around the stage after a while.
Before the last song, the band announced that the festival would be their last show of the year because they are going back into the studio to create a new album. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing new music from them sometime next year.
Explosions in the Sky:
Many people criticized the festival for putting this band after Fiona Apple on the schedule but after watching this performance, I totally stick by their decision. In my opinion, Explosions in the Sky put on the best performance of the entire day and deserved their slot right before the two headlining acts.
You can tell when a band is really enthusiastic about their music and with this band, passion is definitely not a secret. Since the band has no vocalist, their set sounded like one forty minute song, which wasn’t a turn off for anyone in the crowd. The band managed to keep the energy up even during the slower songs, which I would think is hard to do for an instrumental band.
Explosions in the Sky definitely left me wanting more, especially after watching the performances that followed them. From what I’ve hear, they play this area a lot so I’m definitely going to have to see them again once they have a New Jersey or a New York date.
Out of all the bands I saw and heard at the festival, Modest Mouse’s performance was the most disappointing for me. They were the one band I was really looking forward to and their performance didn’t meet anything close to my expectations. After the first few songs, I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt but once “Dashboard” was over I couldn’t stand there and listen to them anymore. You know those bands that don’t sound as good live as they do on CD? This is one of them. After this performance, I’m definitely going to have to think about giving them a second chance.
The last performance of the night was Beck’s first performance in New York City in four years. He started off the set with one of my favorite tracks “Black Tambourine” and continued to play an awesome set packed fan favorites. It was definitely cool to hear a lot of the classics like “Girl” intermixed with some of his deeper tracks like “Hotwax.”
Unfortunately, I didn’t stay as long as I would have liked to due to the concern of getting home before the last train lives New York, however, I really enjoyed what I saw and heard. I would have loved to hear the rest of his set, but I can only blame myself and N.J. transit’s late night train and bus policies. Hopefully Beck will come back to the Big Apple again for another show.