Governors Ball kicked off on Randall’s Island last weekend, bringing back the best outdoor music festival in New York, and my personal favorite time of year. Although the sky was filled with clouds letting down a light drizzle, droves of music fans continued on their quest across the RFK Triborough bridge in search of the booming music that could be heard all the way in Harlem. The bridge offered a sneaking glimpse of the Main Stage while walking towards the festival grounds, empty beer cans and bottles littered about on the way, the first sign of the free wielding party atmosphere that Governors Ball always delivers on.
The first act I encountered was GorgonCity, who brought an intense energy to the Gotham tent. The crowd bounced up and down with their hands in the air as they played their biggest single to date (and a new personal favorite) “Ready for Your Love.”
Charlie XCX delivered a powerful performance on the Honda stage, proving herself as one of the most intriguing pop artists today. While most artists would be happy to let their background dancers carry the show, Charlie matched her vocal prowess with some amazing dances moves, even rapping Iggy Azalea’s verse in “Fancy.” Charlie closed the set out with an excellent version of “Boom Clap” which had the crowd singing along to every word, but ended on an even more powerful moment, asking the crowd to join her in a feminist call for recognition of “pussy power.”
Chromeo came back to GovBall for a second time, this time blasting songs out from the main stage. They played their newest songs before breaking into a Vampire Weekend cover, teasing the crowd before delivering the full thing. They then broke into “Bonafied Lovin”, moving the crowd with their sweet beats under the hot summer sun. The undeniable party anthem “2 Step” followed, leading the crowd to a 2 step dance party at the end of their set.
The crowd for Odesza swarmed out of the Gotham tent late in the afternoon, spilling into the field behind it as their booming beats flowed out. A cloud of smoky haze arose as the set continued and they played their hits “Say My Name” and “All We Need.”
The nostalgia crowd for Death from above 1979 was thin at this years Governors Ball, not matching last years turn out for The Strokes. But despite this, Sebastian Grainger and Jesse Keeler continued to pummel their instruments, unleashing a sonic barrage across the crowd.
The backdrop of the stage shimmered in the wind as Florence + the Machine took the stage, the sun setting to the right of the stage, making for a perfect setting for an epic festival set. The band started the set with “What the Water Gave Me,” an apt choice as the Hudson River quietly flowed to the right of the main stage. Florence took time between each song to tell the crowd how excited she was to be there, mentioning how she was actually performing with a broken foot, but you could never tell the way she ran and danced around the stage. A Buzz Lightyear ballon took off over the crowd as they broke into their third song “Shake It Out,” the stage lights holding the audience captive in a way they haven’t all day. By the fifth song, every chorus was an endless call and response from the crowd, like hits “Sweet Nothing” and “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.” Florence stopped for a moment when she saw an audience member holding up a handmade sign asking for a “hug?,” quickly replying “crowd surf up here and you can get your hug!” A girl in a purple dress instantly floated over the crowd, taking the stage to collect her hug from each member of the band, awestruck as she did it. It was this happy atmosphere that the band held through the entire set that made this one of the best shows of the evening, when they ended their set with a rousing version of “The Dog Days Are Over.”
St. Vincent drowned the crowd in the thick reverb of her guitar at the Big Apple, showcasing her skill as one of the heaviest players in rock music currently. Synchronized dancers blast off 80’s inspired dance moves behind her, adding to her rock aesthetic. Throwing her guitar into the crowd on the last song, the excellent “Krokodil,” St. Vincent showed off her punk rock side.
My Morning Jacket played to an ecstatic crowd, delivering their pure guitar driven rock against the dark night sky. Looking like a cross between Allan Ward and Jimi Hendrix, lead singer Jim James picked away at his guitar precisely, performing a medley of the bands greatest hits including “Big Decisions,” “Compound Fracture,” and ending the set with a excellent version of “One Big Holiday.
Drake hit the stage to the opening beats of “Legend” off of his new album, working from the moment of his headlining set to cement his legacy at Governors Ball. The stage was decorated in a jungle theme, pulled directly from his recent tour with Future, who had performed earlier in the day. With an unbound confidence, Drizzy ran through a setlist of his greatest hits, including “Crew Love,” “The Motto,” and “HYFR.” He even took time to turn the lyrics of his songs to reflect New York City, calling out “all those Brooklyn girls who like to take it slow.” Hopefully he makes good on his teaser of an OVO Festival in New York City sometime soon.
Overall the festival was more crowded and fast paced than last year, barely giving the audience a second to catch their breath before the cant-miss performances from some of the biggest names in music. with additional art installations and plenty of spaces to find a wide array of food and an easy place to use the bathroom, GovBall continues to prove itself as one of the best festivals in the country, providing a comprehensive festival experience while just across the river from the nonstop grind of Manhattan.