June 6, 2016

Governor's Ball | 2016

In recent years, Governor's Ball has become a great low-key festival for New Yorkers and the surrounding North Eastern region. Far enough from the major league status of Coachella or Bonnaroo, Gov Ball has gained a reputation for attracting top-talent headliners and a great mix of undercards together for a fun fueled weekend to help kick-off the summer. This year, fellow festival Panorama entered the mix as NYC's premier festival. It'll be interesting to see how this shapes up in the years that follow.

As more and more festivals pop-up around the country, finding a unique line-up can become increasingly difficult and for many, the options of numerous festivals are not an option. In the past few years, Gov Ball has become New York City's answer to the festival chaos. While many other festivals tried over the years, Gov Ball seemed to be the only up to the task of running a fully functional and entertaining weekend. Enter Panorama. From the people behind Coachella, a new festival emerged to challenge Gov Ball's impressive winning streak. Off the bat, each seemed distinct enough to not cause too much commotion, but we'll see who stands victorious once the summer settles.

To kick off the weekend, Gov Ball packed Friday full of tight sets while the weather remained, calm, cool, and collected (but not for long). Eclectic sets sprinkled the weekend and Friday got things off to a killer start. Big Grams, the Big Boi and Phantogram collaboration, got people on their feet in the middle afternoon and set a great pace for many to follow and when Big Boi unleashed the rap to OutKast's "Ms. Jackson", people partied as if Andre was right by his side. Father John Misty brought his cult-like band out in all black and played into his part without interruption. His character devotion is still riding strong and his command over the crowd was complimented by his wild antics of falling over the stage and really feeling each and every note. His crowd pleasing sensibility much stronger here than behind the drum kit of Fleet Foxes. Beck was the first major highlight of the day and while his last release, the Grammy Album of the Year Morning Phase, is on the more mellow side, Beck got the crowd going with all of his classics. As "Devil's Haircut" kicked things off, it was clear that Beck was ready to rock. His effortless cool attitude was a perfect warm-up for the Strokes upcoming headlining set and twenty years into his career, Beck still has as much energy as any of the up-and-coming undercard acts. Playing a varied set-list of his rock, hip-hop, and slowed down acoustic jams, there really was something there for everyone. After covering Prince's "Raspberry Beret" in tribute, he told a touching story of giving the Purple One a hug after accepting the Grammy from him and the huge grin on Prince's face as it happened. He dug out another cover of "1999" as well as Bowie's "China Girl" and even a bit of Kraftwerk before ending with a stellar "Where It's At" and confirming he still can bring it.

Jamie xx was basked in some serious fog as he tore up the Bacardi Tent later that evening. Amongst glowing hues of orange, green, purple, and pink he blasted through a incendiary DJ set throwing in classic samples as well as his homespun rhythms from his glorious debut slow album. His addition of the Human League's "Don't You Want Me" received a surprisingly huge ovation and the dancing never let up. As he dropped the needle on "Good Times", a huge chorus erupted from the dance floor as euphoria poured over the crowd and one of the best moments of the festival emerged. Friday night saw a tough closing finish as Robyn battled hometown heroes, the Strokes. For many the choice became clear as Robyn pushed through a remix-only set that played more like an extended DJ set rather than the concert many were wanting and expecting. Over on the main stage, the Strokes were classic rock stars as they graced the crowed about twenty minutes past their expected set time. Aside from that and a few dubs from First Impressions of Earth, the saviors of rock and roll delivered a pristine set composed mostly from Is This It. Unlike their sub-headline spot two years back, the band was in full force as neon and fireworks added plenty to their already dazzling sets. Guitar solos flew high and Julian's growl sounded the best it has in years, even new tracks couldn't take away the glory of seeing these guys rock the fuck out. A welcomed cover of the Clash's "Clampdown" didn't hurt either, but classics "Someday" and "Last Nite" sent the crown and the day over the edge.

Saturday, to many, seemed a bit weaker than the other days, but still proved to be a triumph. Sun and warm temperatures provided a great start to the day. Misterwives got things going early on as their mix of dancey-pop-punk struck a groove with the crowd. All weekend, however, the Big Apple stage had some sound issues that really kept things from reaching their potential (this proved true for De La Soul as well) as the bass overpowered everything and vocals were buried in the mix. Haim were high on the list for many as their fans eagerly await their sophomore album and they proved their worth in gold as they unleashed pop mayhem on the crowd. From the start, things were kicked into high gear and they never let the energy get away from them. As they too covered Prince, their choice was "I Would Die 4 U", rain began to fall and never really let up. Turns out, rain only heightens the Haim experience as the crowd went nuts for each and every song and even sang along as the sisters taught the crowd the chorus to a new track. Their excitement was paramount and they appeared to be having more fun onstage than anyone else all weekend. A true highlight that showed extreme promise on what they have in store for their fans. Rain continued to dismantle any hope fans would have for better festival grounds and Miike Snow certainly suffered a bit and Purity Ring saw an epic surge in their crowd as fans rushed under their tent.

Somehow, just as the Killers were set to take on their headlining slot, the rain stopped and allowed for an epic (and unexpected) end to the evening and weekend. After waiting through downpours, the men from fabulous Las Vegas wasted no time and burst right into "Mr. Brightside" which probably saw the most insane crowd reaction all weekend. Without a new album in the past four years, the Killers seemed a bit like a last minute choice to headline, but their set was all the hits and saw a huge response from the crowd. They paid fitting tribute to New York by acknowledging bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Strokes (of course), and then covered Interpol's "Obstacle 1" and citing as a huge influence on their debut record. Their lyrics might make little-to-no sense, but seeing the crowd react to each song and sing along with enormous passion was a pretty great site.

Of course the festival had banked on Kanye's Sunday night set to close out the evening in grand fashion, but the weather had other plans. Torrential downpour and 40 MPH winds caused cancellation to the disappointment of many. In a year where their reign as New York's premier, and only, festival was potentially in jeopardy for the first time, it clearly was not a decision that was made lightly. Still, for the time being Panorama has the upper hand and Gov Ball may have to figure out a new way to survive in the concrete jungle.

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