Live: Spectacle and Nostalgia Ruled Governors Ball 2014

Three sweaty days on Randall’s Island with OutKast, The Strokes, Grimes and more

On Saturday night at Governors Ball, a friend I was supposed to meet just before Skrillex was scheduled to perform texted me “sorry eating lobster lost track of time.” For me, the three-day music festival on New York’s Randall’s Island included a lot of that: scarfing down delicious NYC street fare, forgetting what time it was, and scrambling to link up with friends. Even though the island is a short ferry ride away from Harlem, the event still had the hazy, time-warp side effect of any good festival—like, even though you can regularly spot trucks crossing the Triborough Bridge, it’s still easy to pretend you are lightyears away from the real world. Following what seems to be a winning formula for any 21st century summer festival, this year’s Gov Ball lineup featured heavy-hitters from a variety of genres and a couple of big, nostalgia-stoking reunion performances. Those things were great, of course, but Governors Ball was at its best when it was doing its own thing, like serving Luke’s lobster rolls to Skrillex fans and embracing its overcrowded New York weirdness.

The Skrillex set was as big of spectacle as I’d hoped, like a Jumbotron-sized #selfie of youth culture and excess. The 26-year-old sat at the center of it all, posted up in a spaceship-like control station. The few seconds in which he sampled the “Circle of Life” from The Lion King was probably my favorite electronic moment of the weekend, or at least tied with when Grimes debuted “Go,” the maximalist dance track that she allegedly wrote for Rihanna. Other highlights: Andre 3000 wearing that eye-grabbing “Art or Fart?” windbreaker during OutKast's hit-stuffed Friday night reunion set, The Strokes playing “12:51″ and “New York City Cops” to the joy of rebellious millennials everywhere, Chance the Rapper covering the Arthur theme song, AlunaGeorge joining Disclosure for “White Noise” during a brutally hot Saturday stretch and watching teens sprint from the Honda Stage to the adjacent Big Apple Stage during back-to-back Earl Sweatshirt/Tyler the Creator performances on Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday night, Vampire Weekend—a very different kind of Manhattan-bred band than The Strokes—ended this year’s festival with a perfect three song encore on the massive GovBallNYC Stage: “Hannah Hunt,” which might be the decade’s prettiest pop-rock song, the shout-a-long live favorite “One (Blake’s Got A New Face)” and “Walcott,” an older song about zombies and Massachusetts that, as far as I know, has closed out every single one of their sets since the late ’00s. They smartly chose Sinatra’s “New York, New York” as their exit music and, just as it started, some fireworks—red and gold and glaringly bright—exploded overhead. Browse photographer Alex Welsh’s slideshow of scenes from the festival above, and if you didn’t get a chance to grab a souvenir on the island, Tweet us your favorite picture or memory with the hashtag #gapxgovball to grab a limited-edition Governors Ball T-shirt courtesy of Gap.

POSTED June 9, 2014 3:15PM IN MUSIC NEWS Comments (1) TAGS: , , ,