GRAPHICS BY LISA ITO
This past weekend, Randall’s Island in New York City hosted the third annual Governors Ball music festival. Indie music fans joined classic rock and hip hop lovers for three days of incredible music highlighted by sets from Kanye West, Alt-J, Kings of Leon, Guns N’ Roses, The xx, and Grizzly Bear (as well as a shit ton of mud, which you’ll hear more about below). For quick facts about the festival, our awards, and gorgeous photos by Luis Ruiz, keep scrolling!
The setup: Hosted on New York City’s Randall’s Island, Governors Ball was a three-day festival featuring tons of amazing artists including Alt-J, ON AN ON, Kanye West, Kings of Leon, Haim, and The xx. In the three years its existed, Governors Ball has grown unlike any festival I’ve ever witnessed. The two stages at last year’s fest were replaced by four massive stages which were all close enough to walk between in under 10 minutes. This year saw an extra emphasis on the food — more amazing vendors than ever got involved and surrounded all stages with the smells of pure heaven (if you could smell it through the mud).
Weather: If you read anything at all about this past weekend, you know we got quite the storm here in New York. It rained the entire day on Friday which turned the grassy fields of the park into a pit of 6-12 inch deep smelly mud. While it only rained on Friday, the rest of the weekend saw the repercussions.
Food options: As I mentioned above, there were more food options than ever this year. The stages were surrounded by food stands and trucks, all serving different creative cuisines from New York based restaurants such as Crif Dog, Rickshaw Dumping Bar, Porchetta, Luke’s, and Arancini Bros. It might have been expensive, but the food was all well worth heading to the festival hungry.
Overall crowdedness: As could have been expected, the rain kept some people away on Friday, and likely the rest of the weekend. By Kanye West’s set on Sunday, however, it looked as if all the ticket-holders made it out. While it was super busy, it was never uncomfortably packed and most importantly, the bathroom line never took more than 10 minutes. Ugh, I don’t want to think about those bathrooms ever again.
Not your festival if: If you don’t like the smell, sight, and/or feeling of mud, you would have been miserable this weekend. If not for the mud, though, there really weren’t many things not to like. I highly suggest this festival to anyone who likes great music.
Unnecessary visual effects: While the main stage at the festival has 3 mega screens set up for Kanye West’s set, they really didn’t do anything to help out the thousands of people that had to stand in the distance. The video footage of Kanye was psychedelic looking — they used what looks like low-budget iPhoto/Photo Booth effect as make the screens useless.
Best set from converting Kanye fans to indie-lovers: We were in a prime spot for the Kanye set, which just so happened to be the stage that Grizzly Bear played. As usual, the band was absolutely incredible, but what was most entertaining about the set was the crowd filled with hip hop fanatics who couldn’t help but get into “Two Weeks”. Heads were bobbing everywhere.
Get a new sound guy: Sorry Beirut, but your set was all but lost at Governors Ball. Your delightful folk pop was way too bass-y, making the lyrics incoherent. For anyone who was seeing Beirut for the first time, try and see them again, they really can be incredible.
Best quote: Towards the end of a rain-soaked Friday, we were making our way to the refuge of the SKYY Vodka tent for whoever the hell was playing. We were excited for Eryka Badu, but it really didn’t matter who was playing, we just wanted to get out of the monsoon. And this is the exact moment our friend uttered the quote of the festival, “everyone would be under that tent even if Limp Bizkit were playing.” So true, Daniel Topete.
Best dessert: This one’s a no-brainer! Brooklyn’s Arancini Bros had a stand set up and had a ton of savory fried rice balls for sale. But it was their nutella-filled, cinnamon and sugar coated ball that won our hearts. It was seriously one of the best treats I’ve had my entire life. A close runner up was the free samples from Ben & Jerry’s.
Best set: Though there were countless amazing sets at Governors Ball, it was Haim (officially pronounced Hi-um) that stole the show. These chicks are unstoppable and captivated the massive crowd that was out in full-force to see them on the main stage. You need to see them as soon as you possibly can.
Best set (other than Haim): Having seen Twin Shadow over a year ago and simply enjoying his set, I wasn’t as excited as I should have been for his Governors Ball appearance. Since releasing his 2012 album, Confess, his set has been injected with tons of guitar, which take the place of dreamy synths that I personally thought were overkill. This set blew me away and sold me on Brooklyn based artist who’ll likely play the main stage whenever he releases his next record.
Worst muddy repercussions: This award should be going to the grass fields on Randall’s Island, or rather the muddy hell that replaced them after a day and night of torrential rain, if it were not for the Chinese bagel place in Manhattan that sits right where the bridge from Randall’s Island left the thousands of festival-goers. While they knew what they were in for, I doubt they expected to be left with a barely-recognizable bathroom and muddy brown floors. Sorry guys!
Should have been a surprise headliner: I mean, Puddle of Mudd would have made a lot of sense!
Rest in peace: The thousands and thousands of umbrellas and Sperrys lost in the mud (including mine).
Surprisingly top 40 crowd: Yeah, we all know Alt-J is incredible. But I really wasn’t expecting the bro-filled crowd that flocked to the Honda Stage on Saturday for them. It was a stunning sight to witness.