The weather was essentially perfect as thousands made their way to Randall’s Island Park just off the coast of Manhattan Island June 2-4 for the seventh annual Governors Ball Music Festival.
Headlining acts Chance the Rapper, Phoenix and Childish Gambino put on tremendous performances as other acts also left festival-goers in awe.
While last year’s Governors Ball was marred by thunderstorms that resulted in the third day’s festivities getting completely scrubbed, this year the sun was shining down on the gathered masses.
The demographic skewed a lot younger than I remembered from past years. At 23 years of age, I felt a bit old, more often than not. Hundreds if not thousands of teens wandered around, getting jeered by locals on the streets and then harassed by security personnel on the island. Those kids are resourceful, let me tell you — sneaking in all sorts of marijuana and alcohol. The pinnacle had to be the youngsters taking shots from a sunscreen container; with that kind of resourcefulness they have to be Columbia-bound.
The festival kicked off with a bang June 2. The Bacardi Tent played host to the stirring comeback of soul singer Charles Bradley with his backing band The Extraordinaires. After being away eight months for stomach cancer treatment, Bradley made a dramatic return in front of a sea of adoring fans. It was a delight to see as Bradley and company put on a terrific performance.
Later in the day, British singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka played a sweet set that included “Cold Little Heart,” the groovy theme song from HBO’s hit show “Big Little Lies.” But for my money, it was Beach House that won the day.
Fighting through what looked to be some technical difficulties, singer and keyboardist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally knocked the socks off the folks gathered at the Big Apple Stage. “Elegy to the Void” and “Sparks” were the perfect pair of songs to play right as the sun began to set, a great way to end the day before Chance the Rapper closed the night officially on the main stage.
Saturday was where festival-goers got the most bang for their buck. Car Seat Headrest kicked ass in the early afternoon with tracks from their latest album “Teens of Denial” including “Vincent” and “Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An).”
After this, people got the rap out of their system with sets by YG and A$AP Ferg, indie darlings Local Natives played to a jam-packed crowd at the Big Apple Stage. Though songs from their most recent release were fine, for me it was the older songs “You & I,” “Who Knows Who Cares” and “Sun Hands” that brought the house down. The legendary Wu-Tang Clan delighted fans, both young and old, on the main stage before the double closing bill of Childish Gambino and Phoenix ended the day with a bang.
The Gov Ball NYC stage was the place to be early Sunday as indie rockers The Orwells and Parquet Courts delivered two great sets back to back. Then thousands assembled to see the hipster king Mac DeMarco play songs from his new album “This Old Dog” at the Honda Stage.
I was wary that the acoustic nature of most of the album wouldn’t translate well live but “One More Love Song” and “On the Level” sounded fantastic live. Next up The Avalanches, fresh off their second album in a decade, played an interesting set at the Bacardi Tent. The group took some interesting decisions in translating their albums to the live performance, including live vocalists performing the samples used on the record.
All in all, it was another solid Governors Ball. No major storms derailed the festivities as instead the great amenities and bands were able to shine as bright as the sun that accompanied the three-day festival. Head out to Randall’s Island Park next year if you get the chance!