Governors Ball 2015 Moves Ahead Of The Curve

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds perform at Governor's Ball 2015.
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Noel Gallagher and His High Flying Birds perform at The Governor’s Ball Music Festival. Photo by Katie Chow.

Festival season is already in full swing, and Governors Ball this past weekend set the bar high for the rest of the summer. Taking place over three days on Randall’s Island in New York City, acts closing out each night included Drake, My Morning Jacket, Ryan Adams, Deadmau5, Lana Del Rey, and the Black Keys. While Governors Ball is only in its fifth year, it’s quickly become a well-oiled machine, offering something for everyone and growing into its own cachet.

Guest star extravaganzas are typically reserved for bigger festivals, but Chromeo provided one of the weekend’s most talked-about moments with a surprise appearance from Ezra Koenig, a sight unseen since Coachella 2011. The Vampire Weekend frontman joined them to play his own band’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” before assisting the self-described funk lords on a new version of “Bonafied Loving.” The artists have had a long-running connection, ever since Chromeo remixed “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance” from Vampire Weekend’s debut album in 2008.

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Numerous festivals have come under fire this year for featuring a pitiful number of women on their bills. While we’re still some distance away from achieving total parity, Governors Ball was about as close to balanced as you can ask for at this point, driving its diversity home. Sets from acts including Charli XCX, MØ, Sharon Van Etten, and Marina and the Diamonds were powerful and bracing, and hopefully other events will follow suit. St. Vincent is one of numerous alternative-leaning artists who are proving that onstage theatrics aren’t just for arena-fillers and delivered a typically inventive set accompanied by dancers clad in holographic suits; hopefully sooner rather than later, we’ll be seeing what she can come up with for a headlining slot, considering her shredding could fill a room of any size.

As you may have already inferred, this year’s lineup seems to already be leaning away from the EDM zeitgeist. Another clear highlight was Australian psych-rockers Tame Impala, who flexed some serious muscle with their main stage set on Sunday. While new singles “Let It Happen” and “I’m A Man” from their upcoming third LP Currents are already crowd-pleasers, the real MVP of their catalog is “Elephant” from 2012’s Lonerism, whose insistent chug can reach across an enormous field with no problem. Similarly, powerhouse acts like Death From Above 1979 and White Lung adapted well to the outdoor setting, though there’s still plenty of room for nuance.

Over a decade into their career, Hot Chip showed why none of the soulful British acts that have come in their wake can quite match up. There’s an impenetrable earnestness to their delivery that makes them sound intimate even at an open air festival, and the quintet’s latest album Why Make Sense? is going surprisingly underrated. Hopefully, some of the people who were wondering who they were will enjoy discovering the rest of the UK staples’ transcendent discography.

While music festivals have somehow become marketed as some sort of bizarro fashion show over the past few years, a youthful rite of passage that involves buying metallic temporary tattoos at H&M, Governors Ball successfully attracted a wide range of attendees with veteran acts like Bjork and Noel Gallagher, who dedicated Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova” to all the parents in the audience. (There were quite a few–get your kids earplugs next time.) Even for those who weren’t pushing strollers, it was the kind of unifying moment that was as undeniable as it was cliché. There’s an inherent triumph to music festivals, given their scale and scope, and the Governors Ball motto of “You’re doing great” is something we’d all be better off embracing.

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