[photo courtesy of Nicky Digital]
Following a miserable heatwave that threatened the livelihood of the second annual Governors Ball, crowds poured off the ferry and onto Randall’s Island in masses under crystal-clear blue skies. An expansion from last year’s one-day rendition of the festival, organizers grew the festival to a two-day lineup and moved it to the more accessible Randall’s Island (although the name remains reason for confusion about the location).
With double the amount of music time this year, the festival’s lineup seemed to split in two - Saturday hosting the electro and hip-hop artists while Sunday concentrated on yesteryear’s rockstars. With a no-overlapping set format, attendees could catch all the action by walking back and forth from the Honda State to the Hype Machine stage every 45 minutes.
For an electro-lover such as myself, Saturday was a day for the books. Big Gigantic, whom I interviewed earlier this month at Bonnaroo, brought their usual fire while straddling live instruments and bassy-beats. Saxaphone in hand, Dominic Lalli dropped Parliment-esque tunes and paid tribute to the great jazz performers of the past.
With an early-evening set-spot and relatively new partner-in-crime, Diplo stormed the stage with Jillionaire to perform as Major Lazer. The DJ-duo spun a rambunctious and fast-paced selection of reggae, dubstep and dancehall - barely playing one full song before launching into another speedy transition. Shirtless girls undulated atop their guy friends’ shoulders as barely-dressed dancers shook their booties to the duo’s new song “Bubble Butt.”
Retro-funk electro duo Chromeo was next up on the Hype Machine stage. Hailing from Montreal, P-Thugg and Dave 1 broke out the funky keyboard and guitar synths everyone had been waiting for. With the backdrop of six “Addicted To Love” style backup singers pushing the duo toward a successful set, Chromeo took us on a time-traveling spin with their polished, '80s-sounding beats.
Passion Pit closed the Hype Machine stage in front of the largest crowd the festival had gathered yet. The Cambridge electro-pop band belted out fan favorites like “Sleepyhead and “Little Secrets,” along with new singles off their second album “Gossamer.” The debut of the unreleased track “It’s Not My Fault I’m Happy” brought cheers from throughout the audience, despite lead-singer Michael Angelakos’ cracking vocals. However, the band saved face with their animated backdrop visuals, displaying colored shapes and swirling visuals.
Sunday afternoon welcomed an even cooler temperature and a surprisingly larger crowd. Fiona Apple’s performance was arguably the highlight of the two-day festival - the sultry vocalist took the audience on an emotional roller-coaster ride with her dynamic voice which wavering between delicate and booming. Running back and forth from the mic to the piano, Apple gave a truly throttling performance - throwing her body around the stage furiously to the music.
A soothing followup to Apple’s exhausting set was Explosions in the Sky. The Texas post-rock band plays instrumental-only music - a sound which you might not expect would please the festival’s electro-indie crowd but surprisingly won over even the biggest of hip-hop lovers. Triumphant anthems and soulful synths met woeful, dipping chords in this dynamically theatrical set.
I cut my time at Explosions in the Sky short and rushed back to the Hype Machine stage for the greatest indie-rock band of all time (shameless plug for my favorite musicians ever, no apologies). Modest Mouse’s performance came five years after their last album release “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank,” but it didn’t feel like five minutes had passed since the beautifully-crafted sounds sang my high school days away. Starting their set with “Paper Thin Walls,” Modest Mouse cued the audience into their plan of performing the classics - and we cheered onward. Moving swiftly from the agonizing tale in “Bury Me With It” to the peacefully upbeat sounds of “Fire It Up” and then into the angsty “Dashboard.” Fans screamed out “bring out the banjo,” and as if fate had timed it perfectly the guys launched into “Satin in a Coffin.” The crowd was ecstatic, full of die-hard fans singing the words to every single song.
After two successful days of indie, rock, funk, electro and pop music, Governors Ball proudly closed its doors. After a doubling in size from last year until now, we can only expect great things from the festival in its years of growth to come.