So, with Saturday’s events left behind us and a breezy, sunny, chilled out Sunday ahead of us, we got up bright and early and headed to the Randall’s Island Ferry Station to ferry us over to the festival. Sitting on the 20 or so minute ferry to the island, I couldn’t help but notice the change in crowd – As opposed to Saturday, today there was a much higher volume of “free-spirited” concert goers sitting all around me, and they all seemed to be spreading the same mellow and indie vibes that I could expect from the the line-up of the day. So, with an eagerness for some head-noddin’ and loungin’ in the sun, I entered the festival grounds and headed over to the first set, which again begun it’s course well before noon…
The Atlanta, Georgia-based garage rock band Turf War was welcomed to quite an energetic crowd despite the time of their gig, and it definitely played a part in the band’s ensuing performance from start to finish. Beginning with a groovy and relaxed sound, they jammed out with a neighborhood rock band-like style that got people moving their feet and head-bobbing, which lasted throughout all of their set, especially during their classic song “Cheers to the Years”. This band is up-and-coming with a phenomenal sound and signature style, so be sure to check out their music and keep an eye out for them in your area!
It was still an entertaining site to watch the herd of diverse people migrate from stage to stage like a herd of sheep would with a shepherd, as Alberta Cross was the first artist to perform on the Hype Machine stage on Sunday. This band already had a diverse background, so it was a perfect match in harmony with the crowd when the band began to perform. With Turf War acting as a perfect precedent to Alberta Cross’s signature heavier/classic rock infused sound, these guys rocked with an energy that was contagious enough to get the whole crowd dancin’ to their melodies, and it was nothing short of phenomenal to see these guys had in store for their hometown crowd.
The disco-pop collective The Jezabels deserve an award for their endurance and energy while performing at Governors Ball this. Hailing from Sydney, Australia, this 4 piece “intensindie” group has been performing 2-4 times a week every week for the last 3 months, with Florida being their last show the night before their performance here in New York. This would’ve been hard for me to believe if I had known before their performance, as these guys (and girls) brought some real flare to the scene of the festival. Playing originals like “Try Colour” and “Easy to Love”, this group from down under was a real treat to see.
As the crowd slowly made its move toward the Hype Machine stage that Alberta Cross had so smoothly opened for earlier, the 5 person multi-talented collective Freelance Whales took the stage and began their performance. You could tell the crowd was extremely pleased to hear each and every wild instrument that this band is able to play, from the synthesizers to glockenspiel to the acoustic guitar to even the harmonium. With all these noises being molded together beautifully by the strong yet welcoming vocals of the entire group, it is comfortable for me to say that the Freelance Whales were one of the best performances of the day.
The triumvirate Phantogram was a truly spectacular performance to see during the daytime of the festival at the Honda Stage, despite their dark and ominous feel and customary performances being at night. The three occult band members played soothing synths with clear-meshed percussion and simple yet intricate guitar lines, bringing everyone in the area to their feet in an almost hypnotizing manner. Playing classics of theirs like “Don’t Move” and “Futuristic Casket”, this group was truly exciting to watch from start to finish, and left the crowd bone-chilled with adoration for the trio as the next performers came to the opposing stage.
It seemed as though there was change in ambiance and aura as Cults came to stage. I knew from listening to their music before that this band had the definitive “cute and alternative” vibe to their sound, and this was only strengthened by their performance at Governor’s Ball on Sunday. With harmonizing and alluring vocals, the band was able to change the mood from the upbeat and somewhat ghoulish to romantic and swaying, especially during their performance of “Go Outside”.
Devendra Banhart. What else could be said about this free-living Spanish-influenced charmer? With his “peace-to-all” outlook and hippie-folk sound to back it up, this show had a real distinct and individual feel to it, almost as though they were visitors travelling on a freedom bus across the United States that decided to stop by and let us in on their good intentions. Devendra’s backing band was great to see perform alongside him as well, as they were constantly moving and helping back harmonies and speak their hopeful words to the crowd. With a cleaner-cut to his hair and beard and a weird yet original aura, Banhart prepared the the crowd perfectly for the next performance on the Hype Machine Stage.
Built to Spill
As the adventure into the 1990’s began on Sunday with Built to Spill, they proved that they still had all the mojo and energy they needed to rock. Starting off in a softer manner and progressively getting stronger and louder, these indie-rock pioneers demonstrated everything that you needed to see in a modern day rock band – unyielding vocal talent, complimentary guitar and bass melodies and a blending drum influence that ties everything together. Lead singer Doug Martsch’s soft and angelic voice resonated well among the crowd, as they sang along to classics like “Distopian Dreamgirl” and “Stab” with an accomplished feel, as though they knew they everything they needed to do to make their performance so memorable.
Built to Spill | Facebook
Cage the Elephant
If you couldn’t already tell from the photo, Cage the Elephant turned the feel of Sunday’s performances upside down and backwards. Bringing some gritty garage rock and indie-grunge to the stage, these guys were getting rowdy, and it was directly reflected within the crowd as about 15 minutes into their set, the seemingly “chilled” attendants introduced a mosh pit that would stay open and in full effect throughout the whole show. Also, it is noteworthy to say that the lead singer, who had been dealing with a “lost voice” the night before, was able to relinquish any doubt that he’d be unable to sing, as his loud and heart-filled vocals resounded throughout the entire festival ground. And, in a truly fashionable manner, the lead singer exited the stage by a long and frivolous stage-dive into crowd surf, ending their maniacal performance and leaving the crowd dazed and bewildered for the next performance on the day.
Continuing with the trip into the 90’s, Fiona Apple’s performance on Sunday was almost an insight into her emotional side, as her unrestrained passion and energy was seen in every song of hers. As talented as a singer she is, it was present that any song she performed was unlike it’s studio version, with a new, improvisational, and robust feel to them. The crowd was singing along to her every song at first, and this made the whole feel of her performance both creative and inspiring, almost to the point where everyone hushed just to hear her resounding and raw voice.
Fiona Apple | Facebook
Explosions in the Sky
As the sun began to set on the beautiful New York City horizon and breeze of the cooling Hudson River came flowing over the festival ground, Explosions in the Sky took the stage. With their unmatched composition and talent, these guys seemed to bring everyone in the crowd together in a free-spirited and driven manner. Playing what seemed to be a collection of mini rock symphonies, the Texas instrumentalists captivated everyone with their spacey guitars and moody melodies.
Despite having played at Orion Fest in Atlantic City the day before, Modest Mouse came out just as energetic and motivated as you’d expect them to be. They came to the stage with a “rock hard” kind of persona, and it was present throughout their whole set, no matter the song. Whether it was during “Dramamine” or “Bury Me With It”, they brought the full package with them and got the crowd more excited than it had been the entire day. The band was organized, succinct, and loud, reinforcing some of the reason why people came to the festival.
As the festival came to its final performance, and the crowd migrated back to the Honda Stage for the rock pioneer Beck. The crowd seemed to be a bit tired from the early performances, but to no avail did they come to its senses and dance the night away with the old-timer. Playing classics like “Girl” and “Gamma Ray”, Beck’s performance was unhindered and smooth in its entirety, acting as the perfect closer to such a chilled out day and revolutionary festival weekend. With a whole weekend behind us of phenomenal music and beautiful people, Governor’s Ball was completed with a bang, definitely provoking the question, “What do they have in store for us next year?”