Governors Ball Music Festival

While there’s been a lot of a discussion recently among the music world that festivals are a dying breed, it’s hard to buy into such a belief after spending a weekend immersed in New York’s Governors Ball.

Set amongst the beautiful Manhattan skyline, the festival took place from Friday 6th to Sunday 8th of June. The festivities have been held annually since 2011, just off the island at Randall Park where punters are treated to world class music, a plethora of New York’s finest eats and an atmosphere to rival any other festival rain, hail or shine. Fortunately, this year the weather gods were kind enough to provide eternally sun-filled days and mild nights.

While the festival is only a baby in comparison to some of the other big name North American music events (Coachella, Lollapalooza), it has already struck the level of organization that some events take a decade to achieve. Lines to get into the festival as well as for amenities were relatively quick throughout the three days, and water was readily available at the free refill stations dispersed throughout the grounds. When it comes to the success of a festival, organization is definitely key. However, it would count for very little without the efforts of the musical talent and they certainly delivered.

Governors Ball Diary: Day One
On day one fans camped out to catch major drawcards like Bastille, Phoenix and of course Outkast, but there were plenty of acts to be entertained by before the major headliners. Janelle Monae made her mid afternoon Governors Ball debut to a slightly smaller crowd than she deserved, but she certainly made her presence known – as did the early crowd. Monae was wheeled onto the stage looking a little bit like the monster of Frankenstein, donning a white straitjacket which she quickly peeled off to reveal a white equestrian style getup. Backed by a full band, Monae proved that she knew exactly how to win a crowd over with boundless charisma and energy. The crowd responded energetically to Tightrope and Electric Lady, while she toned it down for love ballad Prime Time.

Phoenix are certainly not shy of the festival circuit, easily pulling one of the bigger crowds for the day on the mainstage. The opening lines of Entertainment sent a rapturous applause through the crowd, but they certainly didn’t neglect their older material with Consolation Prize, from their debut, and Lizstomania taken from their sophomore release earning equally as much praise. The highlight of the set came from a moment that can probably never be recreated in which singer Thomas Mars left the stage for the band to perform the (mostly) instrumental Love Like a Sunset just in time for the sun to begin setting over the New York skyline.

Friday night saw the festival’s most anticipated act headline the main stage. Outkast were the most scheduled act on the Governors Ball app with around 19,000 punters penciling them in, which came as no surprise. Treating fans to a mixed-bag set, they opened with B.O.B and divided their time onstage into segments where they performed together, each separately and then once again as a pair. While the setlist didn’t stray very much from their Coachella debut, when you’ve designed such a perfect set that balances the highs and lows, upbeat and mellow tunes, there’s really no need to tamper with that. Crowd-favourite Hey Ya featured a short cameo from Janelle Monae, but Andre 3000 stepped up his performance with Prototype, while Big Boi was on point for Ghetto Musick. The pair brought the opening night of Governors Ball to a close with what was essentially a giant singalong of The Whole World, joined onstage by Killer Mike. Despite all the overhyped build up to a reunion tour 7 years in the making, Outkast did not disappoint eager New Yorkers.

Governors Ball Diary: Day Two
Saturday saw an eclectic mix of performers that included Disclosure (who certainly know how to fill a dance floor), The Strokes, Childish Gambino and headliner Jack White. While many fans camped out for The Strokes‘ first performance since 2011, those who chose to catch rapper Donald Glover – better known by his stage name, Childish Gambino, instead were treated to an intensely active performance. Before Gambino took to the stage, fans began to chant “Worldstar” – the title of a song taken from his latest release Because The Internet, and the rapper responded by playing it seconds following the album’s opening track The Crawl. Gambino jumped around on stage with a crazy level of energy, admitting at one point that he was “high on edibles”, but fans kept up with him every step of the way. He delved into older material with Bonfire which was accompanied by scorching flames, as well as songs from his mixtape days including One Up and Freaks and Geeks. The highlights of the set came when Gambino treated fans to a freestyle rap that proved why he’s earned a place among the best hip hop acts of today, as well as a joint performance of Worst Guys with collaborator Chance The Rapper who treated fans to a never before heard verse.

By the time the headline slot rolled around there was no time for sitting back and relaxing, Jack White was eager to show fans exactly why he’s considered one of the best musicians of our time. The multi-instrumentalist was joined on stage by a full band and relentlessly unleashed a raucous set on the crowd that included songs from his many musical projects including White Stripes material, The Raconteurs and his solo album. White turned every song into an encore performance and of course following the actual encore, which saw the crowd chant the riff to Seven Nation Army, he gave the fans what they had been waiting for. For those unfamiliar with much of his other material, it was certainly worth hanging around for. White is, after all, an entertainer at heart.

Governors Ball Diary: Day Three
Like all good things, the Governors Ball festival had to come to an end, and Sunday saw a slightly cooler afternoon ease the crowd into saying goodbye. I admit that when I first saw that Vampire Weekend were scheduled to close the festival I had my doubts about their ability to do so. Those doubts were quickly cast aside when the homegrown fourpiece took to the stage with an infectiously happy energy and worked through a collection of songs from all three of their albums. Older songs like A Punk, Oxford Comma and One were met with a crowd that couldn’t keep still from the front row all the way to the back of the overflowing mainstage. They brought the evening and the weekend to a close with Walcott from their debut album which sent the crowd into a singing, dancing frenzy. In comparison to some of the other acts to play over the weekend, Vampire Weekend may have seemed like an odd choice to headline the event but they cemented their place with a fun, energetic set of their upbeat, melodic indie pop. The tone was exactly the kind that other festivals should aim for, ending the weekend on a high note and leaving fans to revel in the glory of a near perfect weekend.

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