Governors Ball Recap 2016

photos by Makenna Cummings

Governors Ball 2016 will probably be remembered for all the things that went wrong. Bad weather. Cancelled Sunday. No Kanye West. Like him or not, the Cult of Kanye took Governors Ball full force this year. It’s the first time I’ve ever been to a music festival that had a merch line dedicated to a single artist. Kanye was face of Governors Ball 2016 – and he never played. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that Sunday was cancelled. It had arguably the best lineup, with the most hotly awaited concert of this year to cap it off. But it didn’t happen. My Governors Ball experience was great regardless, albeit incomplete.

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I started off my Governors Ball experience as many New Yorkers did; sneaking out of work and commuting up to Randall’s Island – making it to the festival just as Duke Dumont was beginning his set, characterized by thumping bass, and a huge, lively crowd underneath the party tent. To continue the party, I then headed to Matt & Kim’s main stage set. I’d seen them a couple of times at Lollapalooza over the years, but it was a special privilege to see them play in front of their hometown. Their stage presence is electric, and they garnered some of the best crowd engagement I saw all weekend. They have an innate ability to couple spontaneity and fun into their sets, without being clichéd or repetitive.

Jamie XX was next, a headline-caliber act in the elusive sunset time-slot. His set was incredible, ranging from the depths of deep down-tempo house to 80’s synth-pop hits. With such a variety of tempos and genres, his ability to keep audiences engrossed in the moment is what sets him apart from so many other electronic acts. Whether you’re a fan of DJ-centric performances is a personal preference, but his brand of dance music is something special.
Next up were the hometown heroes, The Strokes. They started a half-hour late, which I’m pretty sure is the first rule of rock-stardom. Opening with “The Modern Age”, their set reminded everyone that a traditional five-piece band can still rock the fuck out. Especially when your leading man is Julian Casablancas. The cherry on top was their cover of “Clampdown”, by the Clash. This is a song they used to regularly perform, but hadn’t played it in a set since 2004. The high schooler in me died at that moment, only to wake up the next morning with Day Two in my sights.

day two
I walked into the festival just as The Knocks began their set. The New York boys hosted a great dance party, bringing Wyclef Jean onstage for a quick collaboration and smoke break. After the session, I headed over to Albert Hammond Jr. for a second set of Strokes-y guitar work. From there, my afternoon consisted of trying to see as many acts as possible, ranging from the beats and wordplay of De La Soul, to the chill, ambient Lord Huron set.

The overall mood of the festival seemed to shift as the day progressed. We watched as ominous clouds rolled closer to the island. Our fears culminated during Purity Ring, when a torrential downpour hit the festival. I made the mistake of trying to make my way to the end of Mike Snows’ set. Moments later, I found myself tightly packed into the press tent, trying to wait out the monsoon. At least I could hear them close with “Animal” in the distance, a small consolation.

Luckily, the festival Gods cleared the weather for my final set of the day, M83. Anthony Gonzalez’ brainchild has been at the forefront of electronic alternative rock for years. Their newest album, Junk while universally respected, does not seem to have the critical acclaim that Hurry Up We’re Dreaming seemed to garner. Regardless, their set was amazing, though short. A welcome addition to the setlist was “We Own the Sky”, as well as the inclusion of “Into/Outro.” Alas, this was to be the last concert I saw all weekend. As I rode the Manhattan ferry into the night, I could hear the faint sounds of the Killer’s “When You Were Young” playing in the distance. A short end to the festival, but a fitting one to say the least.


Against Me
Big Grams
Bloc Party
Bob Moses
Catfish and the Bottlemen
Christine and the Queens
Elle King
Father John Misty
John Bellow
Marian Hill
Matt & Kim
Meg Mac
Of Monsters and Men
Purity Ring
Around the Festival
Thanks Squarespace!