Governors Ball 2013, Randall's Island, New York, NY, June 7th - 9th, 2013 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Governors Ball NYC Music Festival 2013

Governors Ball 2013, Randall’s Island, New York, NY, June 7th - 9th, 2013,

Jun 21, 2013 Photography by Robert Kidd The Governors Ball NYC Music Festival 2013
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Much credit should be given to the organizers, artists, and attendees of Governors Ball for sticking it through despite Mother Nature’s best attempt to transform the festival grounds into swampland. A tropical rainstorm hammered away throughout the opening day of Governors Ball 2013the festival’s third outing, expanded this year to a three-day affairand its effects lingered across the whole weekend, creating mud pits almost a foot deep in some areas. Friday’s festivities bore the brunt of nature’s assault: Dinosaur Jr.‘s J Mascis was forced to hide his famous silver locks under the hood of a raincoat, and Feist announced her intent to power through the rain, only to have equipment short out on-stage and cut her set short. Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino even admitted that she wouldn’t have been willing to put up with day’s mud and pouring rain to watch her band play, but she seemed happy we all stuck around. By late evening, the festival was forced to cancel the remaining acts due to unsafe conditions, sending a lot of unhappy festival-goers stomping home.

The weather was much nicer on Saturday, with the primary discomforts being the ankle-deep mud pits and the trace smell of sewage in the air. Wild Nothingwho topped our Best Albums list last year with the incredible Nocturneplayed one of the day’s earliest sets, and brightened the mood for a lot of us who were about ready to give up on the muddy weekend by just killing it during his performance. (His seven-song set tapped into both albums and the new EP, Empty Estate.) His performance was followed by Swedish duo Icona Pop, whose joyous pop hits “I Love It” and “Girlfriend” are quintessential summer jams, and had the early arrivals dancing their asses off under the festival’s largest tent. Dirty Projectors were another mid-day highlight, playing many of the best tracks from Swing Lo Magellan and a handful of Bitte Orca cuts.

The late afternoon offered perhaps the festival’s toughest scheduling conflicts, pitting Alt-J versus Divine Fits. (And because Kings of LeonFriday’s headlinerwas rescheduled for Saturday evening, the schedule was bumped so that the first half of Cut Copy’s set also occurred during this block.) We wound up catching Alt-J, who performed most of their debut record for an audience who knew all of their lyrics (even if they couldn’t quite match their singer’s unique voice.)

Rapper Azealia Banks’ GovBall set was her first hometown show in two years. While her wordplay didn’t strike us as particularly inspired, her costumetraffic cone orange and cut up like swiss cheesewas the fest’s most memorable. One of the evening’s final performances came from Animal Collective, whose set suffered from terrible sound that could barely be heard at points unless you were up close. (Because of the size of the crowd, that wasn’t an option for everyone.) Their acoustics did seem to improve as their show went onthe band apologized and blamed it on not getting a soundcheck in before performingand the visuals were easier to appreciate once the sun went down, but all of this still amounted to one of the fest’s disappointing sets.

Saturday night’s headlining slots asked attendees to choose between local hip-hop hero Nas and Guns N’ Roses, the festival’s lone bid for the classic rock crowd. We went with Nas over Axl & Friends, whose set was top-heavy with his own classic tracks from Illmatic. By the time he started into his lesser-known material, people were wandering off just in time to catch Axl Rose butcher a Pink Floyd cover and then redeem himself with “November Rain.”

By Sunday quite a lot of the grounds had dried out, making the whole experience much more pleasant for those who returned. One of the best sets of the weekend came courtesy of Yeasayer, who were happy their late afternoon slotting was going to get them home in time for the season finale of Game of Thrones. The band played songs from all three of their albums, but the highlight was a performance of their early single, “Wait for the Summer,” which closed out the set. Grizzly Bear took the main stage immediately afterward, with a relaxed vibe that made for a perfect way to wind down in the early evening. There were many attendees who enjoyed their set sitting on the shady hill the lined that end of the festival ground, which was no longer a dangerous mudslide. (The dance area under the tent Bloc Party would perform in next, however, was still at that point sludge.)

In contrast with the Saturday night headliners, who mined their decades-old releases during their late sets, Kanye West’s performance was very forward-looking. Heavy on new materialincluding three never-before-heard songs from his impending Yeezus record, one possibly titled “I Am A God”and tracks from 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezy did break into some older cuts (“Jesus Walks,” “Stronger”) for singalongs with the absolutely massive crowd. Though he appeared as a distant, flailing dot to the majority of the crowd, his stage show was big enoughand easily bright enoughto be appreciated from a long, long distance, with stacked spotlights and screens projecting warped, psychedelic footage of the rapper interspersed with images of fighter jets in brilliant, Lisa Frank color palettes. West’s banter between songs was limited, save for one rantalready quite popular on YouTubewhere he states that his new album isn’t just about selling millions of records. (It will probably still sell a million copies, but the point is that Yeezy don’t care.) Regardless, his performance on Sunday night was full of flash and energy, and ended Governors Ball on a high note.

For a second straight year, Governors Ball has succeeded in delivering NYC a fun and well-rounded summer festival on the under-visited Randall’s Island. They deserve twice the credit for somehow pulling it off in the face of some of the nastiest rainfall we’ve gotten since Sandy.



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June 25th 2013

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