Kanye may have lost his chance to curse the press this time, but the 60,000 people who attended the sixth annual Governors Ball Music Festival on Randall’s Island this weekend still managed to make the most of it. This year’s festival boasted headlining names like hometown favorites, The Strokes, dance floor diva Robyn, French electro pop band M83 and modern day glam rockers The Killers. Yeezy himself was scheduled to make a much anticipated return to Governors Ball following his muddy 2013 debut. Unfortunately, the infamous third day curse of Randall’s Island returned with a vengeance when the threat of lightning and severe weather posed safety concerns. However, this year’s festival was as lively as ever, boasting a stellar lineup of food, activities and various artists across four stages (GovBallNYC Stage, Bacardi House Stage, Honda Stage and Big Apple Stage).
I kicked off my weekend as a congressman at Elle King‘s mainstage set, where the raspy voiced crooner belted originals and playful takes on popular hits like My Neck reminding us that sexy is all about attitude. Fun fact: Elle King is Rob Schneider’s daughter, and I would much rather listen to her sing than watch most of his movies. So, yeah, that whole motto about people should want their kids to do better than them at life, Rob Schneider is crushing it.
Years and Years brought top 40 vibes to a rapidly filling crowd at the Honda Stage. I stuck around afterward for Big Grams, which I was pretty disappointed by. I’ve always loved seeing Phantogram and Big Boi, so I’m not sure why the combo didn’t work for me. I found the sound at the Honda Stage to be lacking once again, a problem that’s been cited consistently since its introduction to GovBall in 2013.
Next up was Duke DuMont, which in my opinion, is where the party officially started. The Bacardi House stage, which was home to most of the lineups more rave-centric acts, was transformed into a high energy dance party as DuMont played a set riddled with house favorites and originals. Between prince tributes, his top 40 bangers like 100%, Won’t Look Back and As Long As I Got You, there was no better place to put on your dancin’ shoes and LIVE AGAIN!
And, now that I was LIVING, I had to keep doing so, which is why I went back to the Honda Stage for Matt and Kim. These two lovebirds never fail to impress with their seemingly boundless energy, upbeat synth pop sounds and crowd theatrics. Like seriously, those two are the cutest. They started off strong with Alright – a crowd pleaser for sure. Then it was hit after hit, Sidewalks, Let’s Go … a couple of Weekend at Bernie‘s-inspired dance breaks and the crowd was mush. If you want a silly, feel good hour full of love, laughs and balloons, Matt and Kim have got ya covered.
Now if your main event of the day wasn’t the infamous Ramen Burger, then you were probably there for The Strokes. UNLESS you were one of the sequin donning, bright red lipstick wearing characters who I saw on the train, because, duh. Robyn. In true Julian Casablancas fashion, The Strokes were 25 minutes late to start their set, because he was probably engrossed in another artist’s performance, or perhaps painting a self-portrait of his own butthole (hey, I dunno what this dude does on a typical weekend). Whatever steam was lost in the packed and well-inebriated crowd as New York’s original hipsters slashed through nearly two decades worth of music. Truth be told, I was exhausted and ducked out a little early to step right onto the x80 bus. Thumbs up on the transportation options this year – getting to and from the island was exceptionally easy!
Now, day 2 was a struggle for a lot of reasons, the first being that I had to recover from my massive hangover that was brought on by day 1’s “HOLY FU*CK IT’S FINALLY FESTIVAL SEASON!” vibes. Despite my pounding head and the fact that I had to borrow from my boyfriend’s wardrobe in a last ditch attempt to avoid being a contestant on this season’s “Walk of Shame: Festival Edition”, I managed to make it in for The Knocks, and wow, am I glad I did! Their star studded afternoon performance was one for the books. The electro pop duo welcomed guests like Carly Rae Jepsen and Wyclef Jean to stage for a sugar-coated, hip-hop infused dance party like nothing else that day. Fans who missed The Knocks on the Bacardi House Stage that day had a second chance to catch a surprise DJ set inside the Bacardi Beach House too. Talk about a double dose of good times!
The west end of Randall’s Island was grooving on Saturday afternoon with hip-hop acts like Mac Miller and legendary collective De La Soul bringing mad energy underneath the sky of impending doom. I eventually made my way to the main stage for sister supergroup Haim who kept the crowd singing and dancing to a stellar cover of Prince’s I Would Die For You and singles like If I Could Change Your Mind underneath what was rapidly becoming torrential downpour.
I was soaked, and my boyfriend’s shoes were toast, but I still stuck it out to take a walk down memory lane. I saw Miike Snow several times in 2010 during their self-titled shortly after I moved to New York, and a couple more times after they released Happy to You. I was so super excited to hear they were FINALLY releasing iii this year, so rain or shine, I was committed! The one good thing about torrential rain is, it clears out an audience like WHOA. I was able to get right up for the band, like close enough to see the steam rolling off their cups of tea hot. It was refreshing to hear them put new spins on old tracks like Cult Logic, which singer Andrew Wyatt kicked off ass a slow and sultry piano ballad before the bassline dropped into the funky, familiar flow with which fans are probably more familiar. They played everything I wanted to hear from older tracks like Song for No One and Sylvia to newer Top 40 jams like the catchy (albeit a little silly) Ghengis Khan and what I assume will be their next big banger, My Trigger.
After a high-powered Animal-induced sing-along, it was time to wade through the mud to see French synth pop band M83, another nostalgic selection on the day’s lineup. They kicked it off with the lush soundscapes of Reunion from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. The new album, appropriately called Junk, is a hodgepodge of songs, some of which sound more like concepts than complete tracks. The shining star of the album, Go! brought with it Mai Lin’s silky vocals and that much needed burst of energy before the swells of Midnight City sent the sopping crowd into a frenzy. I saw at least one baby conceived in front of me. A pile of drunken teenagers standing in a puddle were way past third base by the time I finally wandered off to catch a few songs from that night’s headliners, The Killers.
Wading to the mainstage, I knew that the potential of a Day 3 cancellation was looking high. Thankfully, Brandon Flowers’s operatic vocals and beautiful satin, pink sport coat were enough to keep my spirits high. You can always count on The Killers to end a festival on a high note. And as my friend and I saw the fireworks explode over the GovBall NYC stage from the RFK walking bridge, we knew that was probably the last song of this year’s festival. And it was.