MANHATTAN, NY—The second annual Governors Ball had a lineup that was full of some pretty big names that made me wonder how the process to decide on who headlined over who played out. Even the openers of the day were all pretty established acts that have been buzzing around, especially in the New York music scene. For two days, a sea of hipsters flocked to Randall’s Island to enjoy days filled with music, trendy food truck dishes and random backyard party games.
With only two stages, the festival boasted its non-overlapping set times, which made sure you could enjoy the flawless Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” with enough time to get over for the first note of Explosions In The Sky’s mind-bending set. Between acts, you could enjoy games like beer pong and croquet or put on headphones in the ‘Silent Disco’ and dance around to a rotating mix of DJs. If you were one for dancing, then the festival’s first day was for you.
I walked onto the grounds with the disco-sounding pop music coming from Penguin Prison. He was such a welcoming act to come into and the dance party continued on over to Big Gigantic’s set, whose live shows I had been hearing about. A full drum kit accompanied electronic beats and another twist came from Dominic Lalli, who played the saxophone throughout the set. The artist that stood out as a random for the bill was Major Lazer, a project of Diplo and fronted by Walshy Fire. He mixed up hip-hop and dancehall tracks beautifully, but also proved in any crowd that there are girls still willing to embarrass themselves by dancing half naked to get on stage. Best dance moment of the day went to Duck Sauce, who had everyone dancing, wearing fake duck bills, and ending with their mix up of “Barbra Streisand.”
Santigold came out with a slew of her hits and some eclectic wardrobe changes. Being led onto stage with her backup singers tossing gold glitter at her feet, I couldn’t think of a better way for her to be treated. Santigold with Chromeo’s infectious hipster funk dance music were leading up to the ultimate hipster’s love, Passion Pit. They gave a headlining set with a mesmerizing display of images projected behind them and it kept your attention when the music sounded a bit distorted at times.
The night ended with a strange performance from Kid Cudi, who was a little flat even with a backing band to bring out a new side of his music. He was excited to be in front of fans and he felt the same way about his new Hawaiian shirt. This was a huge contrast from the second night’s closer, Beck, who brought back the ‘90s in a perfect fashion—and not just because he wore a sweater in the summer heat.
This was my first time seeing Beck and he gave a set I had only imagined with hits all around. With “Girl” straight through to “Loser,” you forgot that the weather turned and rain started to fall. Fiona Apple rivaled Beck as best ‘90s musician of the weekend and it possibly should have been Apple taking the headlining spot with her superb vocals and a performance that seemed as though the music had possessed her.
The second day was more fitting for the alternative rock scene and those looking for a place to throw down a blanket and relax outside. I had been excited to see Cage The Elephant, but singer Matthew Ray Shultz had gone against his doctor’s orders to rest his throat—and his throat problems won halfway through the set. But it didn’t stop Shultz from running around the stage and doing a little crowd surfing.
Along with Cage The Elephant, Modest Mouse had also played the night before at Metallica’s Orion Festival in Atlantic City. They were much more impressed by the audience at Governors Ball than the previous night’s and played an upbeat, sometimes rowdy set that got the audience moving. Looking back, I have to say they were one of the best sounding bands of the weekend.