Governors Ball, in its second year, was a hit in terms of production value, amenities and overall flow of the festival. Fans were never left wanting and that’s a beautiful thing when running a two-day fest. Musically, Governors Ball was the tale of two different days.
Day 1, Saturday, trended to the new, of music, culture and trends that are being popularized as we speak. Pretty much every act of Day 1 could be considered new. Even with more established or older acts like James Murphy or Atmosphere, the day was still skewed quite young. While there were some definite highs, the day day ended on a low with Kid Cudi.
As the headliner, Cudi had all eyes on him and while he presented a self-aware and self-assured identity, his persona was nothing if not half-baked. Without conveying enough swagger, skill, bravado or pedigree, Cudi tried to reach too far on pretty much everything with little to show for it. As a singer Cudi was flat, and as a rapper he had little flow. Mostly, Cudi was for the kids and the converts who seemed to like the set.
The other name on the bill that was deemed headliner-worthy was Passion Pit. Having seen them previously, they were musically robust but there was something missing at the time, and it still feels that way for me. Michael Angelakos was constantly reaching out to the crowd with his trademark falsetto. The allure for me during the set was the new material. Passion Pit tried out “Take a Walk” early, fitting in perfectly with older anthems like “Moth’s Wings” and “The Reeling.”
While the lyrical content of “Take a Walk” was different than typical Passion Pit, the blend of heavy/heady material and jubilant pop that Passion Pit became known for was intact. Other songs like “It’s Not My Fault I’m Happy,” started out more down-tempo before kicking things into high gear. The new songs sounded more confident with Angelakos not relying on his falsetto as much. Fans could have left the fest after the set and, thanks to what came before, not felt slighted.
Read the full review of Governors Ball Day 1 with photos of every set after the jump.
As a rap act ended the day, a rap act started it. K. Flay had plenty to say, constantly unleashing verbal volleys as she criss-crossed the stage. The only time she was standing still was when she was occasionally behind a laptop or aiding in beating out a rhythm on a drum alongside her drummer.
Art vs. Science traveled all the way from Australia to play Governors Ball. The band felt like a dance-y Man or Astroman?. With matching outfits, plenty of quirk and a fun set, Art vs. Science replaced the surf style of MOAM? for big beats and bass.
The many attendees in face-paint felt right at home with Walk the Moon. This was the first band who already had plenty of fans, which greatly enhanced the vibe and the performance. An even more accessible take on MGMT, Walk the Moon make pop music with a touch of creative intellectual weirdness. Fans treated them like a bigger act and chances are they’ll be playing bigger rooms soon.
New York native Penguin Prison’s set went down smooth, making an easy transition into the day. With Penguin Prison’s set, its value is only skin deep with nothing leaving a lasting impression; a harmless detour. Big Gigantic wins for most unique pairing, blending sax with dubstep beats. Fans were definitely into the Boulder, CO duo who had big beats to go along with a big set of lungs.
Santigold was an early highlight although a weak sound system marred her first song. She quickly recovered and the set was a fun blend of old and new, constantly pulling from every genre possible. With the aid of some stoic dancers, Santigold has a flair for the theatrical and the set was complete with matching outfits. Santigold pulling up some of the best dancers from the crowd only helped to make a good set even better.
Speaking of highlights, Major Lazer was easily the best part of the day. Fans wanted a party and were primed to go crazy before the first note. Once Diplo hit the decks, with the dancers shaking every part of their body and Lazer’s hype man leading the charge, it was a vibrant and raunchy party. The stage was climbed, performers went into the crowd, speakers were used as dance partners. Heck, Major Lazer even took a page from The Flaming Lips’ playbook and made their way into crowd in an inflatable hamster ball.
Special Disco Version and Duck Sauce, the DJ duos of the day, played to big crowds and held them with ease. James Murphy dug into his bag of disco tricks while A-Trak and Armand Van Helden reached for wearable rubber duck bills. I knew what I was getting with SDV and it was enjoyable while I preferred the solo efforts of the men behind Duck Sauce more so than their combined effort.
Atmosphere upped the anger quota slightly. Each rhyme was delivered with conviction. Atmosphere had something to say and nothing was going to stop him from saying it. For many older festival goers, this was the one act they could say they grew up with.
Chromeo was another known commodity. The duo brought those retro vibes, big smile and expressionless dancers. Fans sang along to all of their favorites like “Fancy Footwork,” “Needy Girl” and “Bonafied Lovin’.”
Special Disco Version
Walk the Moon
Art vs. Science