If there was a time to take back years of wishing I could spend festival season in the UK, it was last Friday, when NYC’s Governors Ball was literally dampened by a full day of rain. It didn’t seem so bad when Bon Iver pals Poliça took the stage, and New York’s own Holy Ghost! played early enough in the day that “Dumb Disco Ideas”’ refrain of “I need water” didn’t sound like a taunt, though it seems unlikely that the dance-rockers’ latest would have gone over as well once everyone was thoroughly drenched. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs’ introspective take on electro-pop isn’t particularly well-suited for sunshine, either, and the young producer/singer capped off a year of touring behind debut LP Trouble in style. Unfortunately, by the time Local Natives took the stage in the early evening, I was getting flashbacks to when the LA band came to Nashville just before the 2010 flood, and Feist and Beach House’s sets came to abrupt ends when it became clear that conditions weren’t going to improve. Headliners Kings of Leon and Pretty Lights were cancelled altogether.
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The rain ended for Saturday, leaving widespread mud and middling morale. While MS MR, Dirty Projectors, and Alt-J all delivered admirable sets, Cut Copy’s sound worked best to lift spirits. (As a bonus, they performed on the main stage, which meant that the crowd could stand on pavement without worrying about sinking into the ground.) The Australian synth-rock outfit’s biggest, most festival-friendly songs–”Hearts On Fire,” “Take Me Over”–are built around optimism, which was much needed that afternoon. They were followed by a rescheduled set from Kings of Leon, whose frontman Caleb Followill noted, “We’re 21 hours late.” The Nashville rockers generously made up for lost time, debuting an untitled track from their forthcoming sixth album Mechanical Bull. I closed the night with Animal Collective and Nas.
Sunday saw the sunniest dispositions as the festival grounds continued to dry out. Nashville duo Cherub seem infallibly party-ready, and the fast-rising sisters of Haim shook off the past couple of soggy days with all their hair-whipping, Emeril-quoting glory. Cold War Kids’ brand of blues rock felt particularly warm and tactile, and Portugal. The Man showed off the strength of latest LP Evil Friends. English art-rockers Foals reflected the cloudy skies and reminded the audience of just how good they are at blending sharp technical prowess with a raw emotional punch. Back-to-back sets from Beirut and Grizzly Bear provided some much-needed soothing for the stressful weekend, though Bloc Party still excel when they’re at their angriest and most cathartic– “Helicopter” still holds up, despite its 2005 context. The festival ended on two very different notes, between the jubilance of the Avett Brothers and Kanye West mining more dark, twisted depths.