Huddled under the Bacardi House Stage’s tent as rain thundered down outside, I met a pair of dudes who drove all the way to New York City from Michigan – a 12-hour, one-way journey. And here I thought my two-hour ride on the Bolt Bus and hour on the A train was a lengthy trip. It’s not hard to understand what drove them to drive part-way across the country to spend three whole days walking around on an island in the middle of the East River: Governors Ball. The festival’s lineup featured some of the biggest names in music including the Strokes, Beck and Kanye West. So it was heartbreaking when the final day of the festival was cancelled due to threat of thunderstorms, leaving thousands (including my Michigan pals) disappointed.
Having one day of a music festival cancelled is always devastating, particularly when the day stricken from the schedule clearly had the best lineup. Whitney, Chvrches, Two Door Cinema Club, Cold War Kids, Vince Staples, Death Cab for Cutie, Courtney Barnett and Kanye West were all on the docket for Sunday, June 5. Alas, thunderstorms and thousands of people on island with limited points of egress is not a good combination.
Thanks to the threat of Ultralightning Beams, I have one-third less work to do, so maybe it’s not all bad. Friday was my favorite of the two days. The weather was great and the music even better. I saw Father John Misty in the afternoon and he put on a real Rock n’ Roll Performance he did. Feeding off the energy from the massive crowd before him, FJM ran through the hits from both of his albums. On those albums he comes off as more of a demur singer-songwriter but once he hits the stage FJM turns into a rock n’ roll star. Whether the whole act is an ironic take on rock performances or not, FJM is a real wild man. He jumped off the drum set, briefly climbed the stage scaffolding, threw himself into the crowd and broke three mic stands by my count. It was a real sight to see.
Jamie xx was the can’t-miss set of the day for me and he did not disappoint. The lights were unreal. There was a disco ball. He played “Loud Places.” People were dancing. People were crying. The latter might have just been me. He seamlessly moved from track to track, switching between nameless house beats to crowd favorite tracks from his album “In Colour.” It was an incredible performance.
Capping off the Friday festivities was the Strokes. The group has played sparingly over the course of the past few years, but with the release of their EP “Future Present Past” right before Gov Ball, fans were clamoring to hear them play. They did not disappoint. With a setlist spanning their entire discography as well as their latest material, the Strokes showed why they are seen as one of the best bands of the 2000s. They played little played songs from “Is This It” like “Soma” and “Alone Together” and even dropped “You Only Live Once” for the encore.
Saturday was arguably the weakest lineup of the weekend, but a quick check of my iPhone weather app showed me that there would be some pleasant weather to check out some new acts. Wrong. Halfway through Miguel’s sensual set, the heavens opened up and rain began to come down in a torrential fashion. Soon everyone began to head for cover, mainly to the aforementioned Bacardi House Stage tent. Being packed in like sardines for the techno-y group “Purity Ring” was less than ideal but their song “Begin Again” really brought down the house. Finally, as the rains cleared the Killers took to the main stage. They paraded through the hits, reminding everyone that they still have their place as one of the biggest bands on the scene, as long as they avoid playing everything from their last album “Battle Born” that is. They surprised everyone with a solid cover of the great Interpol track “Obstacle 1,” and even played a new song during the encore. Frontman Brandon Flowers was in his element, riling up the Gov Ball crowd and leading everyone in massive sing-a-longs to tracks like “Human” and “All These Things I’ve Done.”
Saturday would have been a solid warm-up for the tremendous Sunday lineup, but unfortunately that day never came. There’s always next year! If you have a chance to make it out to Randall’s Island and Governors Ball, I highly recommend you take it – rain or shine.