After attending the knee-high mud pit that was the Governor's Ball Music Festival in 2013, and witnessing the massive damage to the beautiful park, I figured the festival would never return to New York's glorious Randall's Island ever again. This past weekend, however, droves of festivalgoers once again flocked to the picturesque island for another three days of spectacular music from an ultra-eclectic group of artists; only this time, the sun stuck around for the entire weekend.
The first day started off with some of the biggest acts of the fest. During the day, artists like St. Vincent, Chromeo and Vance Joy played on the variety of stages and tents that sprawled across the vast venue. As the sun started to set and more people came onto the festival grounds, the whole place started getting packed and you pretty much had to find a spot to stand and stick with it.
On Friday, I found a spot right in front of the main stage in just enough time to watch Florence and the Machine (pictured above) rock out an explosive set that got the entire crowd dancing and singing along.
After her performance, which turned out to be the highlight of the day, I made my way over to another stage on the opposite side of the park to catch My Morning Jacket (pictured above). Maybe it was the end of the day, or maybe everyone was tired from rocking out so hard to Florence, but despite a rock-solid performance, most fans stood still with heads bobbing, while others, in typical New York festival fashion, started heading out to beat the traffic or get in the lengthy lines for the bus that shuttles people back to Manhattan. Even the big headliner for the day, Drake, saw a much more mellow crowd than earlier in the day, despite the righteous raps and string of sick beats he laid out throughout his performance.
Saturday was, once again, a beautiful summer day featuring a packed lineup of A-list artists. Though some of the die-hard fans obviously came to see the daytime acts like Atmosphere and Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, Saturday was all about the headliners. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly Björk (pictured above), who had the entire main stage area filled with fans as far as the eye could see. Donning a black dress with butterfly wings that resembled spider legs attached to her back and a custom-made mask, she embodied all of the weirdness that makes her such a unique performer. Performing songs from her latest release as well as some of her hits like “Hunter” and “Army of Me,” Björk pranced around stage like a kitten–jumping around and striking vogue poses throughout. As always, however, the artist's untouchable voice reverberated throughout the festival grounds leaving everyone in its wake wide-eyed and awestruck.
Following Björk, Ryan Adams played at the same time as the electronic artist Deadmau5 on a stage at the polar opposite side of the grounds. His alt-country songs were soon drowned out by Deadmau5's bass-laden beats, which actually led him to address the issue on stage: “Try making this song on your fucking phone,” in an obviously irritated tone. Though Deadmau5's set was indeed very loud, it created an endless sea of fans jumping and dancing along to the music, despite a series of sound issues that intermittently cut in and out of his set.
When Sunday arrived, the three-day-long festival showed no signs of slowing down. As the sun shined over the New York City skyline onto the festival grounds, the music was back on, and the crowd was ready for another full day of one great act after another. During the afternoon, good ol' “Weird Al” Yankovic (pictured above – yes, he's still performing) blew up the main tent with an ongoing medley of all of his parodies from “Eat It” to “Smells Like Nirvana.” He even brought out his old fat suit from his Michael Jackson parody “I'm Fat.”
As the day progressed, a growing crowd of people made their way over to the main stage to check out Tame Impala (pictured above), an artist from Australia. Now, with big artists such as Lana Del Rey, Noel Gallagher and The Black Keys going on after them, you would think that this band was just a daytime filler. That was absolutely not the case. The band's incendiary mish-mash of eclectic musical styles eventually beckoned fans from all over the grounds, and when their set was finished, it appeared that most of the festival had come to see them. Many people, including myself, were blown away by the stellar set and Tame Impala proved to be the buzz band of the day, if not the entire festival.
After that musical treat, Oasis's Noel Gallagher (pictured at top) and his High Flying Birds took the main stage, continuing the upbeat vibe. Though he did treat fans to a handful of Oasis favorites like “Wonderwall” and “Don't Look Back in Anger,” it appeared that a lot of the crowd was already familiar with his solo stuff. Everyone cheered and sang along to the majority of his songs with all of the enthusiasm of an Oasis fan at an Oasis show.
The Black Keys (pictured above) and Lana Del Rey battled it out at the same time slot at the end to close out the weekend, which made the festival seem less crowded with two big draws performing at opposite sides of the grounds. Much like the previous day, however, having a loud band up against a quieter one was an issue. As Black Keys fans rocked out to songs from the band's entire catalog, including the fan favorite “Gold on the Ceiling,” Lana fans had to endure the murmur of rock riffs over her softer melodies throughout the entire set.
All in all, the Governor's Ball Music Festival was a wonderful weekend filled with sunshine, beautiful scenery and three entire days worth of magical music. Considering the lack of big music festivals around the New York City area, I'm hoping the Ball will be back again next year with an equally amazing lineup.
Text and photos by Scott Perham, except photo 3 by Santiago Felipe
*Disclaimer: The words expressed in photo blog reviews do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Music Connection Magazine.