The 2014 Governor’s Ball was a big time success thanks to sublime weather, peaceful crowds, a killer lineup and a festival setup that ran like clockwork. Below are our three standouts, three let downs and a crowned champion from the first 2 days of the 2014 version of Governors Ball which is easily becoming a must attend like its West Coast Coachella brethren:
Festival Setup- The grounds at Randalls Island were spacious and gorgeously laid out with lots of shade and different nooks and crannies to lounge and still hear/watch acts. There were games randomly placed on the lawns, multiple drinking/photo locations and even a silent disco. With so many unique food options (everything from Mile End Sandwiches to Luke’s Lobster Roll to late night champion Griff Dogs) lines were very accessible. As were the facilities, while surely some people flocked like sheep to the first port-a-john they saw, a walk of a few minutes found no waits. With a crowd this large it was a godsend even the stages all allowed for very easy access.
The Weather– This may be a bit of a curve ball but it is the truth. Like the whole east coast NYC has suffered from some insane weather this winter/spring and now in early summer the festival promoters got perhaps their biggest wish as the sky was high, bright and beautiful. It was telling how everyone commented that this alone made it better than last years mud pit. Very calm crowds, happy artists, sunshine; doesn’t get much better.
Early Gems- While the big names got the headlines (and the crowds) there were early gems to be found. Jason Isbell put on a nuanced set that was a festival highlight standing out via his excellent country tunes amongst a sea of 80’s inspired electro indie rock and hip hop. He even invited Candi Staton on stage to get a Muscle Shoals duet going before an emotionally stripped down version of his “Elephant”.
Other early highlights were the anthemic voice of Jenny Lewis on “The Next Messiah”, before Neko Case raised the bar with a dynamic “Night Still Comes”. Washed Out’s mix of synth-roots-rock of “All I Know” was engaging as was the hip swinging blue-eyed soul of Fitz and the Tantrums complete with an elongated “Sweet Dreams” cover before their set closing “Money Grabber”.
While not necessarily on the early side of things Spoon had a smaller than normal crowd playing against Sleigh Bells but the Austin band broke out sparklers and their off kilter pop expertly on “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”. TV On The Radio experienced the same issue opposite Grimes but the Brooklyn band, having not played NYC in years, showcased a motoring set of tunes highlighted by “Wolf Like Me”.
Timing- It can’t be avoided at festivals, but it is always an issue. While hip-hop fans were loving Outkast, De La Soul came out as a surprise with Damon Albarn. Many people would have loved to have seen both. Giving Julian Casablancas two slots on the main stage instead of say Spoon also seemed like a poor move, but we all make choices, some of them better than others like…
An 80’s Revival- It is everywhere from fashion (I lost count of the amount of high waisted jean shorts on the girls and shitty tank tops on the boys) to songs (when The 1975 went into their saxaphone solo the poppy yacht rock became too much and I will skip over Classixx set completely). Having lived through the decade already, this full on everywhere revival was just depressing. In recent years it seemed ironic, now it is just par for the course. Even talented artists like Janelle Monae, who certainly did not dress the part, focused her songs towards an early 80’s new-wave inspired set.
Big Name Uninspired Offerings- There are bound to be some artists that don’t come through and Damien Marley was one that seemed to leave his good songs at home favoring bland versions of his father’s tunes after a drawn out intro. As the set progressed the crowd noticeably dwindled. The same can’t be said for The Strokes who many in attendance were specifically there to see, however the monotone lyrics from Julian Casablancas didn’t provide a real spark. Perhaps he was more focused on his first appearance on the main stage with The Voidz who were more into style and NASCAR shirts than substance.
Headliners- For both Friday and Saturday the majority of the sold out mammoth crowds stuck around to catch the big name draws. Fans of all ages/races/backgrounds were looking forward to Friday nights set from Outkast and the band did not disappoint, busting out of the gate in highly energetic fashion as Andre 3000 (complete in blond wig) and Big Boi seemed giddy. The frenetic “B.O.B” exploded as an opener, leading a run of momentous hits before dropping low for “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” complete with mega horn solo. The outfit continued its festival trend of splitting up into individual sets which were admittedly a bit of a roadblock. The Atl-iens came back old school however when both returned to the stage as they gave a big “Hootie Hoo” to the crowd.
While more duo songs would have been appreciated from the hip-hop crew the individual on Saturday took over as Jack White blew through guitar rockers heavy on White Stripe numbers and only tipping his hat to a few of the newer Lazaretto tunes. Drummer Daru Jones kept time as White slammed the beat into set standouts “Sixteen Saltines”, “Icky Thump” and the thumping night closing “Seven Nation Army”. Clearly a festival driven set, White let loose with the thunder blazing his guitar all over the sets while injecting off the cuff jams and grooves. White proclaimed his love multiple times for New York and thanked the crowd for making it in the sun, enjoying the full day with him. There was a whole hell of a lot to enjoy.