Some Thoughts on this Year’s Governors Ball [PHOTOS]

Posted on: June 7th, 2016 at 9:29 am by

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Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!

The fun may have been cut short at this year’s sold out Governors Ball (thanks a lot, Mother Nature), but there was plenty of festival to go around on Friday and Saturday. Here’s a recap of the best and the worst for this sixth serving of New York’s premiere music festival.

Staff

The staff keep getting better and better with each iteration, or at the very least, have maintained their high standards throughout the years. When interacting with the attendees at large, they mastered a balance of positive vibes with a no nonsense attitude. From security and ferry staff, to food vendors and those working the water stations, everyone was pretty upbeat, helpful and friendly, but armed with the ability to sniff out the bullshit.

You’ve probably already heard that because Sunday was cancelled due to thunderstorms, the powers-that-be are issuing certain refunds on admission and ferry passes. This earns GovBall major points, as many festivals have a strict no-refund policy, regardless of weather. Not to mention that many of the bands scheduled to perform on Sunday found alternate places to play throughout the city that night. Pretty cool.

(More info on refunds can be found here)

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Fan recording Beck’s set

Food

There were plenty of good eats, and a barrage of both old and new favorite food trucks lined the perimeter of Randall’s Island. Prices weren’t terribly unreasonable (in a vacuum) and the regular food booths were similar in price and quality as in years prior. We’d like to take a moment to applaud the person who 86’ed Fosters from the main beer list this year. Well done!

Amenities

The amenities at GovBall are starting to catch up to the big festival players around the country, with subtle improvements such as electronic wristband scanning to speed up the entry queues. It’s evident that they’ve been ironing out what has and hasn’t worked in the past, which in turn has made for a more streamlined experience. We heard rumblings about a bit of an issue with the wristband will-call area, but that seemed like a “nature of the beast” scenario. This year’s toilets were pretty vile, and lacking toilet paper by Saturday afternoon, probably thanks to Joe Party Animal getting all DIY streamer happy during the shows.

There was loads of other experience-based stuff to do besides listen to music; mini golf, lawn games, standard issue flower crowns and body painting tents, the ever popular giant frames for photo ops, silent disco, and a variety of corporate sponsored booths offering activities and, of course, things to buy. But for many music fans, this was more noise in the background and time killers than anything else.

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A little too much beer

Shows

The lineup for this year’s festival trumped those prior; it was a fairer balance of genres than last year’s electronica fest. The scheduling was thoughtful and well distributed; rare was the case of having to choose between two bands of the same genre going up against one another on different stages at the same time. This was much appreciated.

As for the artists…

Grammy award winner Beck was phenomenal. His songs were charged and he commanded the audience with his causal stage presence.

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Crowd surfing at Against Me!

Against Me! rocked the roof off of the Bacardi Stage Tent. Laura Jane Grace’s emotion was electrifying, and transmitted frenetic waves through the raucous crowd. In a word, awesome.

New York darlings the Strokes brought down the house with their Friday night headlining show. They played a bunch of stuff off of Is This It and First Impressions of Earth, as well as some one-offs and oldies but goodies. They seemed genuinely happy (i.e. sober) to be there.

The Killers played a tight set, dishing out all the fan favorites and covering both Interpol’s “Obstacle 1” and Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Brandon Flowers is still very much quite the cheery showman, which is always entertaining.

Other enjoyable shows we caught included Of Monsters and Men, Lord Huron, Albert Hammond, Jr., and Misterwives.

The only show that didn’t do it for us was Bloc Party; Kele’s voice doesn’t have the range to hit all the notes, the way it does on their beloved engineered albums.

Special guest Prophets of Rage – the super group of angst comprised of members from RATM, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill – were slated to play Sunday and couldn’t due to the weather. We imagine that would have been awesome. #OntoCleveland

And then there was the whole Kanye thing.

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iZombies waiting for a charge

Culture

As per usual, the crowd was an enthralling kaleidoscope of confidence and style. There were plenty of selfies, minus the stick. More than once we caught a group of girls popping their hips and making kissy faces fifteen times in the span of thirty seconds, check said photos, and then have a re-shoot. Classic.

The festival is definitely a scene for some, but not really to the point of interference. It’s also hard to believe how many people pay upwards of $105 a day to lay in the grass for the duration, but if that’s your jam…

There were noticeably fewer people in a state of constant recording and photo taking throughout an entire set. Nonetheless, GovBall should add a “Put down your phone and enjoy the show!” announcement to their between-set slideshow next year.

We always see a lot of weird and clever shit at these things, be it costumes or signs to help groups find one another. The best marker being waved was easily Hodor’s giant head, to which everyone walking nearby earnestly screamed, “Hold the door! Hold the door!” One New Yorker (by way of Montana) brought a giant Kinkos mounted printout of his little sister, who was supposed to fly out for the festival, but her teachers wouldn’t let her take her finals early; all was well until she was crippled trying to punch a beach ball during Beck. There were cool murals in memory of Bowie and Prince. There were bubbles, balloons, fireworks, corporate drones, and impersonators of all varieties; Michael Jacksons, Pikachus, pandas, prisoners, but by the end, all were drowned rats with mucked up chucks.

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The Strokes’ silhouettes

A few scuffles broke out that security took care of pronto, and there was, of course, the occasional vomit crime scene. These instances, however, proved to be the exception rather than the standard.  As one concertgoer aptly put, “It’s weird – everyone’s really happy here!”

It’s true. Even when the skies opened up Saturday evening, people were only faux angry about the showers. Most gig-goers high-tailed it for any and all shelters in the deluge (the locker rental area was snug, and people were scrambling to grab their ponchos). But secretly most people want that soaked, muddy festival experience, anyway; you know, the stuff of Glastonbury.

Verdict

It may not be Disneyland, but for three two days, Randall’s Island was quite possibly the happiest place on earth.

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