Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review: Governors Ball 2012 @ Randall's Island (Day 2)

Fiona Apple
Governors Ball 2012 @ Randall's Island - June 24, 2012
Photos: Chris / Review: Damien & Chris

Damien's Thoughts:

It says a lot about my sense of optimism when I wake up on the morning of any music festival and assume that it's going to be a maaaaaassive shitshoooooow, but as it turns out I had absolutely nothing to worry about when I got to Randall's Island for Day 2 of Governors Ball 2012.

Transportation from my uptown lair to the island itself was a breeze (in the form of a hipster-filled X80 bus to Randall's), and upon retrieving my VIP wristband ably provided by VIP Of Life James MacFie, I found myself staring down into a field containing two massive stages and dozens of tents full of swag and tacos and tacos (and tacos). I lowered the elbows that I was expecting to have to throw on my way in and strutted off to the VIP area at the Hype Machine stage to meet up with Jamie and Chris to chill on beers and air-conditioning before checking out Freelance Whales. Yes, that last sentence sounds bougie, but damn if I don't love some VIP treatment.

Freelance Whales put on a good set for sure, but I quickly forgot about it as we were using the area essentially just to meet up before heading to the other side of the Ball to get our minds rocked by NYC-via-Saratoga Springs indie rock / electronica duo Phantogram on the Honda Stage. I'd seen Jamie rocking their album and EP on Spotify and been intrigued, but their live set took their shoegaze-meets-J. Dilla beats musical style to a completely different level. Perhaps benefitted by the Honda Stage's intense bass setup and touring drummer Tim Oakley, tracks from the Eyelid Movies LP like "Running From The Cops" and "Mouthful of Diamonds" took on a slinky and infectious life of their own. The beautiful Sarah Barthel let her vocals soar over the near-chiptune stylings of Nightlife''s "Don't Move," and by the time the band ended the set with "Futuristic Casket" the crowd was in full dance party mode. Definitely a band to catch when next they rock a venue or festival near you.

As evidenced by the number of beards sported by the crowd, Sunday's audience was definitely here to catch the '90s indie power players that were set to rock the stage: Built To Spill, Fiona Apple, and muh-fuckin' Beck. And really, how many different ways can I affirm the inevitability that YES, THEY ALL COMPLETELY KICKED ASS? I saw BTS rock through "Virginia Reel Around The Fountain," I saw Fiona kick her absolutely electrifying set off with "Fast As You Can" and end it with "Criminal," AND I saw Beck - who we honestly had no idea what he was going to do - rock through the bulk of Odelay and get thousands of people chanting the lyrics of "Loser" into the summer night sky.

All that and I ate nearly a half-dozen Hill Country BBQ brisket tacos. Props to the Governors Ball staff for near-flawlessly pulling off a Sunday in NYC that I won't soon forget.


Chris's thoughts:

After an extremely sunny day of EDM blasting in my ear drums, I was looking forward to the much-more-up-my-alley lineup that awaited me for day two of Governors Ball. The day started out sunny but got progressively cloudy as the hours went by, which I don’t think anyone was really complaining about. Every now and then you’d get a nice cool breeze that refreshed you and allowed you to mentally prepare for either a) another great band or b) another brisket taco.

Day two was much more reliant on indie artists, particularly indie artists formed in ‘90s, which meant instead of the park being filled with neon tank tops, it was now filled with plaid shirts and scraggly beards. I hate to make festival crowds sound so stereotypical, as there were a lot of un-stereotypical people there of course, but it was kind of amusing just how vastly different the crowd was on day two. As I watched Freelance Whales perform on the Hype Machine Stage early on in the day, it was clear that there wouldn’t be a whole lot of fist pumping and jumping around. Instead there would be a lot of swaying and head bobbing. In short: a much chiller day was had.

The two biggest surprises for me throughout Sunday were Phantogram, who performed an energetic set at the Honda stage, and Cults--a band I never paid much attention to amidst the hype that surrounded them for the past year, but who really won me over during their set. As frontwoman Madeline Follin sang the chorus to one of the best songs, “You Know What I Mean,” there was a noticeable cheer that swelled up as she belted out the lines “’cause I am afraid of the light yeah you know what I mean… ‘cause I can’t sleep alone at night and you know what I mean.” I walked away from their set having a hard time getting that song out of my head for the remainder of the day (and week).

Later on in the day, Built To Spill performed a hypnotic set, jamming out their songs to an enthusiastic crowd. Fiona Apple would later draw one of the festival’s largest crowds, which I can only assume the majority of were seeing her for the first time. She didn’t disappoint—though of all the bands that performed on the Hype Machine stage, hers seemed the quietest. Later on, Modest Mouse would perform on the same stage, but we only stuck around for about 25 minutes before heading back over to the Honda stage to get a good spot for Beck.

Ah, Beck. Having been a fan of his since a friend of mine gave me Mellow Gold on cassette for my 10th birthday (side note: he also gave me In Utero that day), to say I have a long-standing attachment to the artist is a bit of an understatement. The last time I saw Beck was during the Guero tour, when he played a sold out Hammerstein Ballroom and my brother and I hesitantly bought tickets from a very sketchy scalper (we did, however, make it in). But considering Beck has no album to support at the moment (he’s been busy producing albums for people like Stephen Malkmus and Thurston Moore), he really could have pulled out anything from his lengthy catalog for Sunday’s performance. What we got was a set that leaned heavily on Odelay material, but also included songs from Sea Change, Guero and Modern Guilt (of the three times I’ve seen Beck, he has yet to play a single song off of Mutations, arguably his best record).

Beck’s backing band actually happened to be the same band he recorded Sea Change with, which meant the suite of songs they played off that record in succession, “The Golden Age,” “Lost Cause,” and “Sunday Sun,” sounded particularly good. “Sunday Sun” was updated up a bit, with his drummer adding an electronic drum sound to the verses, and then heavily pounding his toms for the chorus. It got us ready for Beck to reach further back and play some of his heavier songs, including one of my all-time favorites, the punky thrasher “Minus.” The 11pm curfew meant there would be no encore, so when Beck said, “okay, we’re gonna end this with something big and stupid,” and kicked into “E-Pro,” everyone sang along, knowing this would be the grand finale of Governors Ball.

It was a fine way to end a near-perfect weekend, and I really look forward to seeing what Governors Ball has in store for us next year. Take a look at some photos I shot with my point-and-shoot below…

Freelance Whales
Explosions in the Sky
Kid who loved Explosions in the Sky
Beck (sorry for the blurriness)
Cults (*sigh*)
MCA Tribute
Built to Spill
Fiona Apple


  1. I LOVE Cults 2!

  2. They're quite good. Screw me for being so late to the party :(

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