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Governors Ball 2015 Festival Review: From Worst to Best

on June 09, 2015, 11:15am
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It’s got to be hard coming off a title like Festival of the Year. There has to be at least some pressure for a follow up, like an Oscar winner picking their next project. And while, no, Consequence of Sound isn’t exactly analogous to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and Governors Ball Music Festival doesn’t really line up with Alejandro González Iñárritu, there’s still that feeling of rooting for a repeat performance.

Unfortunately, things could have gone a bit better for Governors Ball’s big return to Randall’s Island. The weekend tipped off to an ominous start as the fluctuating rain predictions were burst by a constant drizzle for the first few hours of the event. Those who were around for #Mudageddon2013 were having mild anxiety attacks as the threat of another drenched and sloppy weekend loomed.

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Thankfully, it never got that bad, and the festival had learned enough to prepare for the just-in-case scenarios. The Gotham Tent, which had literally floated away two years ago, was lined with hard rubber pads, as were various “trouble spots” throughout the festival. A hard mat walkway along the hill to the festival grounds’ left — which lovingly became known as The Yellow Brick Road — provided an easy escape route around the dampened center grounds. (Though, why a similar path wasn’t provided for the right side of the festival is a mystery.) Still, even the uncovered sections never got unbearably mud-tastic, and I only saw one pair of lost shoes the entire time. Fresh sod also helped keep the drama to a minimum, and hopefully the guys at Founders won’t get in any trouble this time around for damage to the grounds. They really did an admirable job on the preparation front.

Where they may have slipped were ticket sales. Though the increase to around 55,000 wasn’t any bigger of an uptick than it was from when they jumped from 45,000 in 2013 to 50,000 in 2014, it might have been the tipping point. Friday felt especially jampacked, and lines throughout the festival were harsh. If you kept aware and were able to dip off at the right times, you could get in and out of any food service or restroom area quickly. While I was definitely able to get by without standing for much longer than 10 or 15 minutes, I saw thousands of people waiting through entire sets just to grab a Bareburger or take a leak. There were also some wildly crammed sets, most notably Florence + The Machine and Lana Del Rey, which both caused human traffic jams of frightening levels.

Concert goers on the grounds of The Governors Ball Music Festival at Randall's Island Park on Saturday June 6, 2015 in New York.
Photo by NYPics

Adding to the pains of the sheer number of people on site were the demographics. By no fault of the festival, aside from its location, Governors Ball attracts a young crowd. And when you have that many teenagers in New York City at an all-day music festival, things are bound to get sloppy. It was too easy for underaged individuals to get their hands on alcohol, and despite rigorous pat-downs and bag checks, countless youths were abusing substances they didn’t fully understand, and far too early in the day, at that.

Before even 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, I witnessed two girls pull open a porta-potty door to find their male friend covered in puke and hunched over unresponsive. When I asked if they wanted me to get a medic, they told me to wait, assuring me he was fine. They even accused him of “making a scene.” As I tried to convince them that medics wouldn’t get them in trouble for whatever he was on, another bystander ran to get help. It all led to what I overheard were incidence numbers that outstripped the capacity of the medical tents.

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 2

Photo by NYPics

Again, the fact that there were so many ill-prepared youngins is in no way the fault of the festival. It actually looked like their medical staff was largely on top of the problems, with teams roaming around and free water tossed out constantly to crowds waiting at the stages. However, even the best prepared hospitals can be overrun by an epidemic — though, perhaps this “epidemic” is a larger problem of festivals in general. In the end, Governors Ball could probably benefit from a safety standpoint by cutting back the numbers a bit.

(Update: A festival representative reached out to CoS regarding this review, and provided some more information. According to them, capacity actually remained steady between this year and last, meaning there were about 45,000 tickets sold plus press, guests, industry tickets, etc. They also stated that whatever second-hand information I heard regarding medical incidences was entirely misleading, as they experience the fewest incident reports since becoming a three-day event. Finally, they assured me that they employ “roaming teams of security” to prevent underaged drinking and instruct all concession staff to card anyone who looks too young, regardless of if they have a drinking wristband.)

As for the music itself, no one was safe from sound issues. Everyone from punk rockers White Lung, to country artists Sturgill Simpson, to headlining EDM powerhouse deadmau5 dealt with them in one form or another. Ryan Adams complained of bleed from the main stage all the way on the other side of the festival. There were even rumors of back-of-house issues confusing bands and their teams.

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Photo by Ben Kaye

But for all the negatives — the sound slips, the crowds, the rain — Governors Ball didn’t fail by any stretch of the imagination. The lineup was still spectacular, with quite literally something for everyone, from Simpson’s country, to Björk’s baroque pop, to all types of mainstream and sub-stream rap and dance. Each genre had a space on the schedule, and for a festival designed to only ever host two competing sets, that provides some stellar offerings at almost every point during the day.

Also, to be fair, getting from one side of the grounds to the other, even with the mud and crowds, was at most a 15-minute trek for the determined (admittedly much longer during certain main stage sets, or for those with shorter legs than my own). And while food may have been hard to get at all times, the variety was solid, and often represented some of the best eats one could hope for at a festival. Plus, if you were willing to explore, you could likely find a bathroom with shorter lines elsewhere.

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 2

Photo by NYPics

The groundwork is clearly there, and so is the booking. Governors Ball is a great festival overall, but it’s also one that’s grown very quickly into a landmark destination event. It’s only five years old, yet already an established musical experience. Any business or event is going to experience growing pains, and perhaps that’s what this year was. Wipe the mud off those shoes, shrug off the faults, and there’s still plenty to be proud of from 2015’s edition.

Here’s what our team will remember most.

–Ben Kaye
News Editor

45. Echosmith

Lead singer Sydney Grace Ann Sierota of Echosmith performs at The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 3

Photo by NYPics

GovballNYC Stage – Sunday, 1:30 p.m.

Echosmith started 12 minutes late, then strutted on slowly like they owned the place during their first song. It was uneven; half the time, it was an endless dance party to the point that even the signer for the deaf crowd was clapping her hands and dancing along. But half the time, even the band felt distracted, as the bassist kept playing random classic pop songs in between numbers as the vocalist tried to talk. Toward the end of their new single “Bright”, they nailed a three-part harmony acapella that, even if you don’t like the genre, you had to take a step back and notice. Apart from that, the bird never left the tree. –Dan Bogosian

44. MØ

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 1

Photo by NYPics

Gotham Tent – Friday, 3:45 p.m.

’s appeal always seems blurred. To festival crowds, she stands onstage like a Nike ad, sports bra and tennis shoes done up only to reveal she’s got far less dancing up her sleeve than her aerobic wear suggests. As with any other artist, her songs should speak louder than her appearance, but many fail to translate to fully-formed works instead of karaoke numbers. Solemn take “New Year’s Eve” saw her best vocal delivery, albeit the acoustics getting swallowed up by the chatter of fans unwilling to sit through a gloomy ballad mid-day. MØ has a ways to go. When your most popular song from the entire set is a Spice Girls cover, it’s worth revisiting your own hooks to see what needs fixing up. –Nina Corcoran

43. Atmosphere

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 2

Photo by NYPics

Big Apple Stage – Saturday, 5:45 p.m.

Ant and a second DJ warmed up the crowd with dub-like grooves before Slug rushed on stage and yelled, “Good morning New York!” (It was 5:45 p.m., mind you.) His mic was too quiet at first but got fixed halfway through the opening number, but it stopped the sparks from flying. Slug called it “the best day of his life” before jumping into the eponymous song; maybe it was for him, but it wasn’t for the crowd. Atmosphere is tight, but a bit too mechanical. –Dan Bogosian

42. People Under the Stairs

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Gotham Tent – Friday, 12:45 p.m.

People Under the Stairs drew an impressive crowd for their early afternoon set, though one could guess it was as much to escape the rain as to catch the duo’s old school LA hip-hop. Still, there were enough people in the audience calling back lyrics that it was clear these under-appreciated vets were on a handful of “must-see” lists. They don’t come hard with the fresh energy of an act like Run the Jewels, but it’s refreshing to see a rapper like Double K, who’s also able/willing to step behind the decks himself. Trying to get a rainy New York City crowd to chant “LA, Cali-Forn-I-A” may have been a risky move — or perhaps a thoughtless one resulting from a well-practiced set — but it still managed a response, even if it was a bit damp and half-hearted. –Ben Kaye

41. Rustie

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 2

Photo by NYPics

Gotham Stage – Saturday, 2:15 p.m.

Rustie started in control with everyone raising their hands open to his orders. But since it was too early to have a deep light show, he compensated with confetti cannons and controlled dancing to match the monstrous low end of his DJing. The crowd got restless when they lost sight of the songs they knew, but felt a break when he said he was just testing out the “new shit.” Apart from the familiar “Attak”, where every drop started a party, he couldn’t seem to find the love. –Dan Bogosian

40. Mayer Hawthorne

Mayer Hawthorne  performs at The Governors Ball Music Festival

Photo by NYPics

Gotham Tent – Sunday 3:45 p.m.

Mayer Hawthorne’s set was a perculiar thing. Guitar solos came in rounds, bass funked everything up, and not a single beat was out of place. Sure, everyone onstage was a talented musician, but they never had a defined wow-ing moment. Even with the Grammy nominations written on his CV, Mayer Hawthorne never quite tipped his music forward enough to break from the conventional default mold of neo soul, although his nod to Kendrick Lamar for co-writing “Crime” got a wild roar from the crowd, although anything with Lamar’s name attached at this point will do that nowadays. –Nina Corcoran

39. Marina and the Diamonds

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 2

Photo by NYPics

GovBallNYC Stage – Saturday, 3:00 p.m.

Marina Diamandis, the mastermind behind pop force Marina and the Diamonds, usually instills coy nods while singing her electropop to tweens and adults. This time, the British singer-songwriter delivered vocally but otherwise seemed slightly disengaged. Diamandis paraded around the stage and her inflatable fruits, amping up her diva personality while still staying somewhat relatable, particularly for the open-hearted lyrics of her Froot cuts. Rousing versions of “Primadonna”, “Blue”, and “How to Be a Heartbreaker” guided her set regardless, giving a dramatic flair for her big hits albeit stripping them of a noticeably emotional performance.–Nina Corcoran

38. Charlotte OC

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 2

Photo by NYPics

Honda Stage – Saturday, 12:15 p.m.

Being the first act on stage is tough. Charlotte OC shared a little bit of the sound problems the Honda Stage would have later, doing her best to own it for the small, sunny Saturday folks who made it out. Rather than relying on production — something that would be easy with her silky smooth sound — she uses a live band, and as they kept up with her, she let herself loose more and more. She never missed a beat even as she danced around stage, but the energy felt flat, giving a mixed start for the second day. –Dan Bogosian

37. Benjamin Booker

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Big Apple Stage – Friday, 2:15 p.m.

Benjam Booker ended his set with an array of chaotic feedback, tossing himself around like a mad man at the end of his rope. He rarely talked between songs as his raw vocals were saved to escalate the songs; that sort-of boogie soul stood out in the mix of rain and sunshine on Friday afternoon. Live, Booker’s vocals sound even rawer, like there’s something primitive inside him. He didn’t win over the crowd, though. It wasn’t soulless, but it wasn’t quite soul. –Dan Bogosian

36. DIIV

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Honda Stage – Friday, 1:30 p.m.

Zachary Cole Smith and his nom-de-plume are finally pushing beyond their tabloid drug drama and into the depths of an alternative world far more deserving of their efforts. In a bold move, the Brooklyn four-piece performed almost entirely new material during the festival’s sunniest hours, but everyone in the crowd was content to roll with it — for a short while. Dreamy shoegaze loves its appeal when you’re left lost in the mix of songs you don’t know. Though now that DIIV are following good vibes, they’re giving them back to the community with harmonized songs masked in their own baggy shirts. –Nina Corcoran

35. Sturgill Simpson

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Photo by Ben Kaye

GovballNYC Stage – Sunday, 3:00 p.m.

Sturgill Simpson and the band took the stage to Run The Jewels. If that doesn’t give you the idea of what kind of country band this is, nothing will. Playing to a smaller crowd – they had to be the only country act all weekend – they started straight-forward with “Life of Sin” and worked their way towards more adventurous tunes. The guitar work sounds like a fiddle struck by lightning, playing so fast but never floundering under pressure. Combined with Simpson’s southern curl and a taste beyond the stereotypes, they have an edge. –Dan Bogosian

34. Bishop Nehru

Bishop Nehru performs at The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 3

Photo by NYPics

Gotham Tent – Sunday, 12:45 p.m.

For those disappointed by BADBADNOTGOOD’s collaboration with Ghostface Killah but still hopeful for slow-riding hip-hop, Bishop Nehru is their answer. The New York rapper has been making jazz-styled instrumentals ever since he was 13 years old, and now that he’s 18, the local is perfecting his vocal groove to match. Maybe it’s a result of the independence gained by directing and editing his own music videos that gave him his cool demeanor onstage. Maybe it was the unfazed look of a kid who doesn’t care. No matter what, his set was the low-key performance of a rapper more tied to modesty than fame, a connection rare to come by in today’s social media-driven scene, but so chill that a good half of the crowd walked off in hopes of finding something with a little more fire. –Nina Corcoran

33. DJ Killah Kam

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Sennheiser Silent Disco – Saturday, 9:35 p.m.

With a lineup stacked with dance music, and the biggest EDM act of them all dealing with the plague of sound issues on the main stage, the real party was bumping in a little pen off by the main entrance. Killah Cam was spinning in the silent disco, mixing in everything from “The Macarena” to “Hollaback Girl” for a classic — if not quiet — dance hall experience. With two wireless antennas sending out a live mix to high-quality Sennheiser headsets, the sound quality was miles ahead of what was going on on the mainstage. Sennheiser is pushing their “Find your MOMENTUM” slogan with their newest lines of stylish and insanely good headphones — a phrase which fits well when watching the unabashed silliness of a Silent Disco — but it’s their old company moto that was proven true by the actual quality of the listening experience they were providing: The pursuit of perfect sound. Take that, deadmau5. –Ben Kaye

32. A-Trak

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Honda Stage – Sunday, 4:45 p.m.

Even when A-Trak worked behind his laptop and turntables, you could spot why he’s so well known. He’d actively dance while spinning, throwing himself around like a ragdoll all the while. Perhaps most impressive were the scratches themselves; he invented the notation for it, but it was still unexpected to see him machine gun fire scratches in polyrhythms and do it from on top of his desk or behind his back. What an NBA player is to playing horse, A-Trak is to DJing. There is nothing he can’t do. –Dan Bogosian

31. Chronixx and the Zinfence Redemption

Chronizz and the Zincfence Redemption, featuring lead singer Chronizz  performs at The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 3

Photo by NYPics

Big Apple Stage – Sunday, 2:15 p.m.

Chronixx and the Zinfence Redemption had the difficult task of being the only reggae band all weekend. They have a unique sound: Two guitarists, neither of whom really rest on the traditional upbeat reggae, play Santana-like leads and riffs. A few songs in, they had to stop as the PA fluttered out from a keyboard error. It would’ve been so easy for them to give up, but they kept on as crew worked to fix the keys. Seeing a band die there would’ve been easy for the crowd and painful for the artist, but seeing Chronixx and the Zinfence Redemption survive felt heroic. –Dan Bogosian

30. Lana Del Rey

Honda Stage – Sunday, 9:15 p.m.

Video Games and Volume Knobs: The Tragic Story of Lana Del Rey is a rather fitting title for the story of pop music’s sighing Americana gal. It’s just as easy to harp on Del Rey’s entire career as it is to support it, and I often find myself falling into the latter category. SNL gigs and H&M clothing lines aside, she’s a talented singer. Her heart bleeds right into her voice, turning solemn tones into wounded appeals for help, glossed up in pouting lips and and dramatic production. When closing out the final night of Governors Ball, Lana Del Rey suffered the insufferable: audio mixing that placed her vocals too low to be heard, especially when combating the in-your-face blues of The Black Keys on the main stage.

So the expected crowd of flower crowd girls and iPhone filming fans sang all the words loudly but talked through the filler tracks, watching Del Rey’s image flicker on the black and white film screen while she, for all intents and purposes, possibly lip synced to her own songs. “Shades of Cool”, “Ultraviolence”, “West Coast”, and “Blue Jeans” pushed through the audio struggles for memorable performances where she occasionally smiled and showed her teeth. (How rare!) The rest, however, left everyone wanting more. Despite continual “Turn it up” chants between songs, the issue was never solved. Did it matter? Fans seemed content just to see her onstage, and the lucky few in the front who got to take selfies with her awkwardly between songs could brag for months to come. Lana Del Rey’s intrigue continues to grow under the guise of self-sabotage or victim pitying, a toss up we can never confidently choose between. –Nina Corcoran

29. Chromeo

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 1

Photo by NYPics

GovBallNYC Stage – Friday, 4:45 p.m.

For a band full of shining equipment and sleek outfits, Chromeo are quick to lose their shine after five dance tracks that begin to sound the same. The electro-funk duo effortlessly throw out songs as groovy as Daft Punk, but their deft dodge from subtleties result in finishing touches similar to the Ghostbusters theme instead of the sheen of “Lose Yourself to Dance”. It’s what’s expected of a band who racks up millions of YouTube views without looking for diversity within their sound. Stage props, on the other hand, were all set. Mannequin legs in place of keyboard poles are campy fun the same way their chrome instruments are, but it wasn’t until frontman Dave 1 started goofing around with that oh-so-familiar Afropop riff of “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” that their set interested casual onlookers. Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig waltzed out from stage left and the two tag-teamed the song together, and, just as swiftly, he left, leaving many wondering what they should take away from the set if anything apart from its random eccentricities. –Nina Corcoran

28. Noel Gallagher’s Flying Birds

Noel Gallagher performs at The Governors Ball Music Festival

Photo by NYPics

GovballNYC Stage – Sunday, 6:45 p.m.

Noel Gallagher shook his booty (seriously) for the first few songs, switching from acoustic to electric guitars depending on the number. He tried to hold back his notoriously rough tongue, but still managed to ask “Are there any Mexicans here?” before bursting into one song, and bantering about the size of his … musical instruments. “That’s a big trombone,” he would say before one, and “that’s a big saxophone,” before another. Two of the most unifying moments of the whole fest were when he did his lone Oasis covers, dedicating “Champagne Supernova” to “the moms & dads in the back.” There wasn’t a single audience member who didn’t sing along to the final chorus. –Dan Bogosian

27. Drake

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 1

Photo by NYPics

GovBallNYC Stage – Friday, 9:30 p.m.

For all the jokes about Drake’s fragility, there’s a decent rebuttal in favor of his quotable lyrics and straight-laced crew. During his headlining slot on Friday night, Drake made a slew of jokes about his heart on his sleeve, but come the end he didn’t shake it off to reveal anything stronger. He pushed away his soft side after crooning “Hold On, We’re Going Home” only to feel reserved amidst his own high points like “Know Yourself” and “Trophies”, even with help from the monstrous trees behind him and the fireworks shot overhead.

In a way, he was bound to be mediocre if only due to comparison. Last year saw OutKast slap Band-Aids on their shaky Coachella set for a nonstop performance at Governors Ball, and the year prior saw Kanye West’s phenomenal and half-terrifying debut of then-unheard Yeezus material. How do you follow that up? Remind the crowd how many hits you have. Drake did that, but it wasn’t enough. This is New York, where half the world’s celebrities show up for marginal surprises; a headlining festival slot should be no problem. So he teased the crowd about having Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, or Kanye West show up only to reveal… no one. There’s no better way to disappoint an audience than teasing them with a toy they will never get, especially when the possibilities are so high.

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 1

Photo by NYPics

Then there’s the fact that those unfamiliar with rap procedures were left jarred by his abrupt cuts mid-song, playing the fan-favorite meat and nixing the extra verses and outro swirls. But even when he left for his encore, an awkward semi-silence lingered in the air, a sound that remained when he finished for good. Drake’s lack of confidence, or lack of displaying whatever confidence he has, let a perfectly verbose set fall flat with untied ends, despite whatever mood he built prior. –Nina Corcoran

26. Deadmau5

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 2

Photo by NYPics

GovBallNYC – Saturday, 9:30 p.m.

A few audio blips made themselves known throughout the weekend: a second-long cut in Charli XCX’s set, several long silences during SBTRKT’s, and another during Lana Del Rey’s. No artist saw their set as butchered by electrical failures as Deadmau5 — but is anyone surprised? The electronic mouse-head-bobbing musician has a football field’s worth of electronic equipment he brings with him on tour, a setup equally as impressive as it is alarming, if only for sheet energy consumption. Although the crowd was dancing nonstop despite mud (and one Panda suit-wearing man handed out glowsticks to anyone interested), Deadmau5 was fed up with the festival. Several songs in, the entire stage went black from what can be assumed was a power failure. When he returned, he tried his best to work through his songs, moving beyond the American understanding of dubstep into a more fleshed-out structure, before it skittered again, leading him to walk off the stage for nearly half an hour and let the same song run on loop, starving EDM kids of those juicy drops they crave. –Nina Corcoran

25. Strand of Oaks

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Honda Stage – Sunday, 1:30 p.m.

Folk rock is Philly’s claim to fame right now with The War On Drugs and Kurt Vile. Where Strand of Oaks stand out, though, is in their personality. The four-piece look more likely to turn up at an official trading of metal patches rather than tryouts for soothing vintage rock. Sure enough, they’re perfect at crafting exactly that. While a few of their songs fail to find their stride live, getting caught up in their own reverb and turning too sleepy, their unending gratitude for the crowd made up for the songs that fell flat. Their Philly equivalents may puff their chests up on the daily, but Strand of Oaks have a whole lot of love to give which is a welcome change in that scene. –Nina Corcoran

24. Flying Lotus

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Gotham Stage – Sunday, 8:00 p.m.

The crowd was packed for Flying Lotus, filled to the rim with people wanting to catch a glimpse at the glorious producer. Before taking the stage, he stood aside and greeted New York City, then disappeared behind the curtain where his light show took over. Behind his lights, the only parts of Flying Lotus able to be seen were the Apple logo on his laptop and the glowing eyes of his goggles. He asked if “y’all heard that To Pimp A Butterfly album?” and jammed out to “Wesley’s Theory”, and he’d stutter out the raps so the crowd would lead instead of follow. With the rest of him a shadow, he looked like a spider crawling across a turntable, while the lights made the show itself feel like one was staring into a kaleidoscope on a rollercoaster.–Dan Bogosian

23. SBTRKT

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 2

Photo by NYPics

Gotham Tent – Saturday, 8:00 p.m.

There’s a big moment of truth when a musician comes to perform live, revealing how much of their sound is warped by studio equipment and how much is a genuine control of their instruments. For British electronic producer SBTRKT, his masked self struggled to keep the sound equal throughout his set, despite seemingly having quite a joyful time. SBTRKT shined during his jazzier improv moments in pursuit of mood over precision. Surprises appearances by singer Caroline Polachek, who showed up for Wonder Where We Land‘s smoothest number, “Look Away”, and Ezra Koenig, who dazzled on “New Dorp, New York”, resurrected a shaky halfway point, which was then saved by an extended version of “Wildfire” and a cover of Radiohead’s “Lotus Flower”. –Nina Corcoran

22. White Lung

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Honda Stage – Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

“This is what happens at festivals,” vocalist Mish Way said early in White Lung’s Saturday afternoon set. “I’m exposing.” The sun was breaking out, and so were the sound problems. The band couldn’t hear themselves, and the audience could only hear what was coming from the wedges. On top of that, Way wasn’t a fan of the weather (“I hate seeing people’s legs”), the time (“It’s too early…”), and her lack of sleep (“I’m so tired”). It was far from a perfect situation for a Canadian punk band, but damn if they didn’t do the best with what they had. Even for all the grievances, Way put on a fiery performance, all hip shaking and guns out. Though clearly not a prime example of what a White Lung show can be, it still made evident that there’s a truly punk band making fresh new rippers that’s well worth checking out. –Ben Kaye

21. Future

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Photo by Ben Kaye

GovballNYC Stage – Friday, 3:00 p.m.

The crowd got turnt up by Future — no easy feat for an afternoon set. He was one of the last artists to really fight off rain, but the smoke from his audience stayed constant. He and his DJ were stoked to see everyone, and the crowd reciprocate. Apart from a few flat moments where he tried to separate the crowd by geography (New York City vs the rest of the world that travelled there), his banter was entertaining. He was like an enabler mixed with a good friend: party if you want to, smoke if you want to, do this if you want to. There’s an energy to that worth seeing. –Dan Bogosian

20. Logic

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Photo by Ken Grand-Pierre

Honda Stage – Sunday, 3:00 p.m.

With four unofficial mixtapes to his name and his debut album still hot on his heels, Logic has more talent than his discography implies. The high school dropout is rounding the corner of his 25th birthday with calming confidence. His small town Maryland charm brought his songs from speed spitting to the elevated territory of a rapper with his priorities in the right place, even when calling himself out: “Sometimes I feel like my stage banter is exactly like Matthew McConaughey’s acceptance speeches.” Like Danny Brown before him, Logic rides equally on talent as he does on personality, and that’s not a bad thing. From the speed of “Gang Related” to the pause between songs to locate a fan who contacted him on Twitter, he’s the perfect blend of well-written words and heartfelt care. –Nina Corcoran

19. The Districts

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Honda Stage – Friday, 12:15 p.m.

Though they’re currently only big enough to play for a smattering of fans during the opening slot of the opening day of a festival, The Districts are bound for more prime real estate in the future. On Friday, they used their 30 minute set to prove it. They may have been slowed a bit by the dampness, but you could barely tell as they used reverb and twisted effects to transition from one jam to the next. Rob Grote is a real pleasure to watch as a front man, and you couldn’t tell if the mist flying off him was rain from rocking out, spit from furious delivery, or just a bit of hot breath meeting cold air. Either way, he and his young bandmates were a great way to get amped for a dreary day. –Ben Kaye

18. Conor Oberst

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Honda Stage – Saturday, 6:45 p.m.

Conor Oberst’s voice is different live than on the records – less prickly, less pruney, more sweet. His set felt like a breath of fresh air, a relaxing break to a packed field of picnickers and fans that caught him. Backed by an eight-piece band, his music sounds just like the record – apart from the fact that, again, Oberst himself actually sounds better in person. One of his musicians plays lap steel standing up, which looks a tad out of place on stage but sounds so right. The sun started going down during his set but never made it all the way. Oberst’s show still felt complete. –Dan Bogosian

17. Royal Blood

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Big Apple Stage – Sunday, 3:45 p.m.

Royal Blood were one of two bands I caught a mosh pit break out in – the other being Death From Above 1979. Their straight rock and punk energy beholds some anthemic choruses that left a huge audience headbanging and throwing up the devil’s horns all the while. During instrumental parts, guitarist Mike Kerr would run over to Ben Thatcher’s drumset, and they’d get lost in each other, like they were touching something deeper without saying it. Thatcher wore a Deron Williams Brooklyn Nets jersey, smashing into the drums with each powerful swing. It might be slow blues at heart, but warped through Kerr’s pedals and vocals, it stays high octane. –Dan Bogosian

16. The Picturebooks

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Honda Stage – Sunday, 12:15 p.m.

Despite being a German two-piece, The Picturebooks sound like a confederate blues, American four-piece. The drummer doesn’t use cymbals, apart from a rarely used bell, and he also uses orchestral drumsticks. Still, he beat the shit out of his floor tom with his bare hand at one point. You know that Josh-Homme-Queens-of-the-Stone-Age guitar tone, where it sounds nothing like a guitar but is still definitely a guitar, all piercing highs or grungey lows? Picture that over some schizophrenic blues, with the vocalist literally singing into his guitar pickup for some “oohs”, and you’ve got the Picturebooks. They looked like mad men, gorillas sent to tear up the earth. They killed it. –Dan Bogosian

15. Charli XCX

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 1

Photo by NYPics

Honda Stage – Friday, 3:00 p.m.

Charli XCX is still a behind-the-scenes songwriter in the American mainstream, but the pop-punk singer continues to prove to audiences across the pond that she’s ready and willing to blow up. Beneath her moniker, Charlotte Aitchison is a 22-year-old twirling about in zebra print outfits the same way a girl of the same age would in the solitude of her bedroom. But Aitchison, when given the stage, lights it up with unrelenting energy and spiked attitude, sharpened by every “Fuck you!” from “Sucker” and the tween sass of “Break the Rules”. Whether repeatedly leading chants of “Pussy power!” or flashing her bra mid-song, Charli XCX will demand attention at any given moment, which, as a pop star teetering on the edge of international fame, is genuinely deserved. –Nina Corcoran

14. The Decemberists

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Honda Stage – Friday, 6:45 p.m.

An old march welcomed The Decemberists to the stage as the band strut on by in suits. The size of an army, they didn’t look like they were feeling it during the opening song, but they kicked it up a notch during “Cavalry Captain”. “It’s been a long standing dream of mine to play adjacent to a toll booth,” vocalist/guitarist Colin Meloy joked to the crowd. With stars and stripes on Meloy’s guitar strap, lilting oohs and ahhs sung by all, and the unusual vocabulary to every song he’s ever written, they felt like America’s band to a subset of the audience. Whatever they are to everyone else, their live act was a tad stiff, but undeniably fun. –Dan Bogosian

13. The Black Keys

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Photo by Ben Kaye

GovballNYC Stage – Sunday, 9:15 p.m.

“This is where it begins,” belted over the PA, and you could instantly feel The Black Keys take over. Without a backing band, the two still sound thick by playing over pre-recorded parts off the bat with “Dead and Gone”, but it never felt cheap. Guitarist Dan Auerbach – the subject of the Governors Ball screens’ corniest joke (i.e. “Which rockstar never forgets daylight savings?”) – has a voice that groans but still remains tasty, while drummer Patrick Carner is a master of subtley live in a way that the records don’t do justice towards. Playing against Lana Del Rey, the duo easily had the loudest set of the weekend, with Auerbach charging around during solos before looking at Carney, sharing wicked smiles like there was a secret only they knew. By the end of the night, everyone was in on it. –Dan Bogosian

12. Sharon Van Etten

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Big Apple Stage – Saturday, 3:45 p.m.

Sharon Van Etten’s guitar cracked out during the first song but came back after, and nothing bad would ever happen with her on stage again. Sometimes the reverb and harmonies would bleed with more gaze, and often even sound twangier, but the vocals were always heavenly and blew the crowd away. To be there felt lucky, like we were being converted to a new belief. Her endless hum, soaring vocals, and the smell of summer during “Do It” made for a set that would melt the ice off any non-believers. –Dan Bogosian

11. Björk

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 2

Photo by NYPics

GovBallNYC Stage – Saturday, 6:45 p.m.

Björk is a walking wonder. Trying to summarize her music and its complexities is difficult enough as is, let alone her live shows. Yet at Governors Ball, her performance spoke for itself. She filled the stage with a sea of orchestra members dressed in white to compliment the intricate butterfly outfit (complete with furry wings) and Kanye-esque mask she hid behind. In a powerhouse move, she played gloomy track after moody track, the complete opposite of a festival’s atypical sugary set. The toxic apparel brought darkness for those unfamiliar with Vulnicura‘s written writhing, further guided by the accompanying screen’s overindulgent nature shots. Björk is a tour de force, whose every miniature “Thank you” brought a grin to onlookers’ faces, showing the talent of a woman willing to go the extra lengths to redefine music’s inner representation. –Nina Corcoran

10. Tame Impala

Tame Impala with Kevin Parker on vocals and guitar  performs at The Governors Ball Music Festival

Photo by NYPics

GovBallNYC Stage – Sunday, 4:45 p.m.

Tame Impala never fail to have fun onstage, but for being so serious about their studio production, it’s a welcome sight to see them giggling mid-song and Kevin Parker wagging his hands like a child. From the weed-loving response to “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” to the slow groove of “Cause I’m a Man” to the surprise Innerspeaker cut “Make Up Your Mind”, their setlist ran with the structure of headliners-to-be. Even the massive nerves tied to eight-minute-long “Let It Happen” were hidden. Psych rock is just as easily to write as it is to drag on, but Kevin Parker and his faithful bandmates are slaves for perfection. Live, they stay on the same wobbly rainbow-colored wavelength for extended jams and sporadic disco inserts mid-song. Parker’s opening sentence to the crowd could have worked just as easily as the adenine’s response post-set: “New York City … holy shit.” –Nina Corcoran

9. Future Islands

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Gotham Tent – Saturday, 5:45 p.m.

Baltimore’s synthpop heroes Future Islands are victims of their own success, but not because of their own wishes. Frontman Samuel T. Herring has been doing those iconic “Letterman” movements onstage for years. As a festival primarily filled with teens, Governors Ball saw a sizeable crowd gather solely for their Snapchat stories to let Herring’s demonic growls get the front and center shot. No matter why they draw gawking, Future Islands still put their all into the set, shining just as much in their moves as their do in their rhythm section. Keyboardist Gerrit Welmers, bassist William Cashion, and touring drummer Michael Lowry were just as tough, and revved up versions of “Like The Moon” and “Tin Man” had arguably stronger sounds than “Seasons (Waiting On You)” itself. –Nina Corcoran

8. Ryan Adams

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Honda Stage – Saturday, 9:15 p.m.

Before starting any song, Ryan Adams asked, “What’s going on party people?” From that opening riff of “Gimme Something Good”, he possessed the crowd. It’s hard to put your finger on how normal and how strange his look feels at the same time – he’s drenched in denim, playing in front of a Dr. Pepper machine, a working arcade game, and two impossibly large guitar cabinets (literally, they have to be impossible, those are either stage props or the invention of a musical mad man). He and his guitarist would switch off on solos with Adams planting his feet and leaning as far back as humanly possible when he would bend a note just as far. Throwing in a few Dad jokes (“You had a choice between KISS or us, and you chose us,” he said in reference to Deadmau5), he packs twice as much energy as acts half his age. –Dan Bogosian

7. Florence and the Machine

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 1

Photo by NYPics

GovBallNYC Stage – Friday, 7:00 p.m.

With the huge lungs plastered across her first album cover and the earthy images of this year’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, Florence Welch has long been in tune with her angelic side. The wholesome singer puts a spell over international crowds time and time again, but her set on the main stage elevated her return to new levels of airy charm. Despite still healing from a broken foot, Welch darted across the stage, fanning her arms during “Ship to Wreck” and “Shake It Out” while letting each note poured out of what could only be her soul. Even better than her healed self being able to jump nonstop was her affection towards the crowd. Upon spotting one girl’s “Hug?” sign in the distance, Welch offered to hug her, only if she was able to crowdsurf to the stage — and so the crowd obliged. Welch scooped her up and then encouraged her to hug the rest of the group. “There’s no need for a question mark at the of of ‘Hug?'” she said, dropping the most heartwarming quote of the evening and, at least for that set, creating a sense of community within the crowd. –Nina Corcoran

6. Hot Chip

Hot Chip performs at The Governors Ball Music Festival

Photo by NYPics

Big Apple Stage – Sunday, 8:00 p.m.

The difference between successful dance acts and ones that fall by the wayside comes down to equipment. As any DFA Records diehard or disco lover will tell you, the feel of live instrumentation can never be truly mimicked. Hot Chip’s lively parts, be it the bass or Sarah Jones’ remarkable drumming, add a reinstalled pulse to their already polished numbers. While they plowed through “Huarache Lights”, “Over and Over”, and “Need You Now”, the crowd continued dancing until a shortness of breath gave up on itself and let fans discover new energy within the music. While fans crowded the front for “I Feel Better” and their closing cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”, Hot Chip couldn’t help but smile themselves, happy to be making people dance on the other side of the pond while the sun set gracefully behind them. –Nina Corcoran

5. My Morning Jacket

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Honda Stage – Friday, 9:15 p.m.

A suite of horns welcomed My Morning Jacket to take the stage to a warm crowd. Their light show wasn’t quite as impressive as some of the other acts over the weekend, but considering their show isn’t nearly as scripted, they still sucked you in as the band jammed on. All night, Jim James’ macabre vocals never wavered, jumping through guitar hoops while he wore a jacket that made him look like Jerry Garcia imitating a southern gentleman. Live, their guitars sound fatter, like the beefiness of their riffs could only be experienced outside of headphones. The setlist was impeccably eclectic — a healthy heaping of cuts off this spring’s The Waterfall (“Believe (Nobody Knows)”, “Big Decisions”, “Compound Fracture”, among others); a few favorites off Z (“Gideon”, “Lay Low”, “Worldless Chorus”) and It Still Moves (“Mahgeetah”, “One Big Holiday”, “Steam Engine”); a couple selections from Circuital (“Victory Dance”, “Circuital”) and Evil Urges (“Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2”, “Evil Urges”) — but also textbook makeout music. You forget how long they can jam, but they never lose focus once. That determination gave half the perfect close to night one. –Dan Bogosian

4. St. Vincent

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Big Apple Stage – Friday, 8:00 p.m.

St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark, doesn’t like you to record her show. Instead, she wants you to be in the moment, which is why a computerized voice asks you not to record anything prior to her entrance. The same guidelines applied on Friday evening shortly before the equally robotic singer took the Big Apple stage. Despite all this, Clark emerged remarkably human, offering a surprising amount of banter, and not the usual fluff about relating to humanity, but the quirks of being a New Yorker. This made the Governors Ball set all the more special. Nevertheless, Clark segued into all the dance breaks and provided all the non-string tones that make her set one of the best in the market. A year later, seeing St. Vincent live still feels like being sucked into a perfectly planned, mesmerizing black hole. –Dan Bogosian

3. Ratatat

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Gotham Tent – Friday, 8:30 p.m.

Ratatat are no longer the small buzz band from 2010. It’s been five years since their last full-length, and as their lead single “Cream on Chrome” immediately suggested when dropped, their return is a thing of beauty. Side screens brought 3D images to life while the Brooklyn duo shot through a stream of older hits (“Mirando”, “Loud Pipes”, “Seventeen Years”) and new material from Magnifique over backdrops of trippy birds and dancing chains, their music expanding into a sound and sight far too massive for the thin edges of the Gotham Tent. Electronic experimental rock gets pushed farther when silhouettes of their whipping hair lure everyone into communal bobbing. In a difficult move, their light show enhanced their music instead of distracting from it, which, given how absurd shots of twitchy faces and wide-eyed parrots are, is a feat in itself. Even Drake, three songs into his set, couldn’t lure the crowd away from the stage in their adamant chant for an encore, a request unfortunately turned down by the clock’s hands. –Nina Corcoran

2. Kate Tempest

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival New York - Day 2

Photo by NYPics

Big Apple Stage – Saturday, 12:45 p.m.

A small crowd is hard to win over and easy to lose. Throughout Kate Tempest’s first song, her band looked shellshocked to be there and the crowd looked confused about her work. Then she freestyled for over two minutes about “the science of image” and how “everyone here is human,” and one of the most electrifying sets of the weekend happened. A one-of-a-kind intelligence came out in every improvised word as she continued freestyling between songs, sometimes as the intro for songs but sometimes just trying to reach out. Every word felt was moving to some of the deepest pock grooves, her band rounded out by a producer, her drummer, a backup singer, and a keyboard player. She left when she thought she ran out of time, but realized she had five minutes left and so did the crowd, who chanted for an encore. Naturally, she obliged. If there’s one thing I learned Saturday, it’s to watch out for Kate Tempest. She can turn nervous energy into the killer moment of the festival in a blink of an eye. –Dan Bogosian

1. “Weird Al” Yankovic

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Photo by Ben Kaye

Gotham Tent – Sunday, 5:45 p.m.

Weird Al” Yankovic is a singer-songwriter, a parodist, a record producer, an actor, a director, an author, and everything in between. When given a stage to show off his talents, he doesn’t waste a single second. His treasure trove of songs and footage kept a crowd of various ages laughing nonstop, be it with his own twist on the Oscar-nominated film Whiplash or Queen’s “Another One Rides the Dust”. Finale “Word Crimes” mocked Robin Thicke with educated ease while his timeless cuts “Amish Paradise” and “Yoda” solidified his set as one that truly couldn’t get any better unless more time was allotted. It’s hard to believe the man only has four Grammy Awards, or that the phrase “only four Grammy Awards” is remotely logical in cases like this. The crowd’s nonstop roaring at the start of each song and the refusal to leave after he said farewell spoke volumes about the man’s longevity and relevance in 2015 — nearly 40 years after his first song hit the airwaves. “Weird Al” isn’t just a parody act riding on the melodies of others. He’s an entertainer through and through, and Governors Ball was lucky enough to witness him stuff a set to its brim with nonstop entertainment. –Nina Corcoran

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Photographers: Robert Altman (NYPics), Ben Kaye

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