Governors Ball 2015: Best, Worst & Biggest Moments from Deadmau5, Florence + The Machine, The War on Drugs & More
It's Monday morning now, and Governors Ball 2015 has finally come to an end. Over the weekend of June 5, countless rock, EDM and rap acts took to the stage at New York's City's Randall's Island to play for crowds of adoring fans. But, with the best of the fest which ranges from free chips to Florence + The Machine to SBTRKT, we also got sound issues, long lines for burgers and big ol' mud pits. In all its glory, Music Times was there to take in it all. See our best of the fest superlatives!
Most Bizarre Chant: Charli XCX knows how to get a crowd pumped up, be it from performing her smash hits like "Fancy" or "Boom Clap," whipping out inflatable guitars or dancing around the stage like the mad punk that she is. Her best way to get a festival crowd into the set? As we discovered on Friday (June 5), it was by having everyone chant expletives. After asking fans to hoist their middle fingers in the air, XCX then asked everyone to shout out "P*ssy power!" during her set for a solid three minutes. Alrighty, then! -Carolyn Menyes
Best Stage Banter: The Decemberists' Colin Meloy. Known for his witty banter, Meloy had a few choice words to say about the crowd (all in jest) and the "Patronizing boom box" to out in the crowd on the right, which read "you're doing great," a slogan repeated by other GovBall volunteers and employees at the festival all weekend. Meloy also commented on the less-than-picturesque Honda Stage setting, noting it was a lifelong dream to perform across from a New York City tollbooth. Most artists ask the crowd for a scream of a yell at some point and even if the effort is poor, applaud them all the same. Meloy spoke truth to power and demanded more from the audience, especially when they weren't giving 100 percent. It didn't help he was up against Florence, who had a massive crowd. - Ryan Middleton
Biggest Mud Pit: To the left of the Gotham Tent. Early week rains, accentuated by an early Friday sprinkling got the grounds nice and soggy as tens of thousands of people made their way to trample all over the nice grassy fields of Randall's Island. This inevitably led to some mud pits where there was the most foot traffic and the water pooled. To the left of the Gotham Tent there was a pretty large zone where one could lose a shoe if you were careful and some individuals took it upon themselves to splash people on the exterior of the pit with mud. We did not appreciate those individuals. -RM
Best Dance Moves: Kiesza. The festival didn't have many big time dancers on stage this past weekend, but one leading lady really shone on stage -- Canadian songstress Kiesza and her two backup dancers. Performing in the Gotham Tent on Saturday. Kiesza drew a pretty large crowd who were largely there to see her perform "Hideaway" and also the singer's hit with Jack Ü "Take Ü There." She had some wonderful choreography during her set, matched by her backup dancers and during "Take Ü There" she topped everyone by doing a handstand and walking across the stage on her hands, doing a split on the right side. -RM
Guy Who Just Can't Seem to Leave Governors Ball: Ezra Koenig. Last year, Koenig's Vampire Weekend headlined day three to a packed crowd, and the singer must have loved it so much because he was just chilling at GovBall all weekend. On Friday, he joined Chromeo on stage for a quick jaunt of "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" before playing the smash "Bonafied Lovin'" with the funky duo. It was a set highlight for sure. That momentum must have carried Koenig through to Saturday, when he continued to hang around the festival grounds to join SBTRKT for "New Dorp, New York." At this pace, we just sort of expected a Vampire Weekend revival on Sunday (which would have been awesome), but alas... -CM
A photo posted by Music Times (@themusictimes) on Jun 8, 2015 at 8:06am PDT
Worst Technical Difficulty: Deadmau5. The Canadian electronic music act used the Governors Ball as the launch point to premiere his new live set up. Despite rehearsals, the first 15 minutes of his set was effectively cut out because music would play for about 10 seconds and cut for the next three minutes. He was seen taking off his helmet and yelling at techs, who seemed to have a difficult time managing the power usage from mau5's dome. He tried to entertain the crowd with a few pushups as techs worked furiously on the problem, but eventually recovered with a set packed with his own originals. Honorable mentions go to Lana Del Rey and A-Trak, who both had sound issues on the Honda Stage. -RM
Biggest Anti-EDM Rant: Ryan Adams. Though the singer-songwriter tried to play off his takes on deadmau5's concurrent set at the main stage as a sarcastic joke later on Twitter, for fans who saw Adams close out the Honda Stage on Saturday night, it was pretty clear that he was not joking. Slamming the DJ/producers as a "Terminator nightmare over there," Adams challenged deadmau5 to make the same sort of "real" music he does. "Try and make this song on your f*cking iPhone," he said with a bite in his voice. After Flume played over for "Gimme Something Good," this was sort of expected, and the fans who chose rock over dance music had no problem cheering in agreeance. -CM
Best Sarcastic Catchphrase: As the weekend dragged on, temperatures began to swell, mudpits became the norm and everyone got a little tired of dancing and lines for food. How to combat festival fatigue? Take GovBall's signature hashtag #YoureDoingGreat and tell it to your fellow festival goer. Really. Your feet hurt, your tired and you just so happened to miss your favorite Black Keys song while you peed, but you're doing GREAT! -CM
Best Free Food: Kettle Brand Chips. As a member of the media, you learn to survive on free drinks and food. Food and drinks are notoriously expensive at festivals, however smart attendees know there are brands all itching to reach the most valuable audience - 18 to 29 year olds. Vitamin Water was giving out free drinks and Kettle Chips was making it rain free chips. Whether you wanted sriracha, maple bacon or sea salt, they had it all and it sustained me for the whole weekend, with a heavy dose of quality music. -RM
Most Delightfully Mismatched Walk-On Music: Sunday night (June 7), country crooner Sturgill Simpson slayed the main stage with his powerhouse vocals and 45 minutes of straight music, with no nonsense. So, what kind of music would bring in GovBall's token country act? Why, none other than Run the Jewels. RTJ is great pump up music, but it was a little jarring to move from hardcore rap to Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, but it sort of worked? We don't know how. -CM
Longest Food Line: The line for Ramen Burger between the Honda Stage and Big Apple Stage was extra long all weekend. We get it, the idea of mixing a burger together with delightful soupy ramen as a bun is rather intriguing, but is it worth waiting what looked like an hour in a line that oftentimes stretched to the Statue of Liberty. In case you missed it, don't worry - Ramen Burger has some brick-and-mortar locations across New York City. -CM
Carolyn's Best Set - Friday: Governors Ball 2015 was filled with dance-able sets, from deadmau5 to Hot Chip to Flume, but the best time to groove to some real funky fresh music has to go to Chromeo, a true highlight of day one. From "Bonafied Lovin" to "Jealous (I Ain't With It)" to "Night by Night," this Friday afternoon set was a nonstop groove-fest. Not like this should have been unexpected - Chromeo sound awesome on record - but this duo's live show is an energetic, freak'um thing not to be missed when it rolls in to your town.
Ryan's Best Set - Friday: Odesza. Tough between Drake and the bit of Florence I caught, but Odesza's live magic did the trick for me. Some attendees were there just to hear "Sun Models," which they saved for the end, but their whole set was packed with In Return tunes like "Say My Name," "Bloom" and "All We Need." The tent was overflowing, as it was all weekend (make it bigger GovBall!), as the pair played live drums and triggered sounds from various controllers in front of them. Possibly the most fun part was when the crowd was clearing out after "Sun Models," they played a heavy trap song, totally flipping the script on their entire set.
Carolyn's Best Set - Saturday: Call me an ol' softie, but I will always be a sucker for Conor Oberst's live show. It's been a pleasure to see this Bright Eyes singer grow over the last decade to a true soul singer in a session band. Though Oberst said his 2014 album Upside Down Mountain was largely unheard of, the fans in the crowd would have never known it as they held onto every word like it was gospel. While Bjork played a divisive set across the festival, Oberst was beyond solid, sounding vocally flawless and speaking openly and cheerfully with the diehards. Though his solo material played well, the true set highlights came from his back catalogue, with fans shouting every word to "Lover I Don't Have to Love," "Old Soul Song (For the New World Order)" and "Landlocked Blues."
Conor Oberst sounded amazing at #govballnyc, even if he thought we should've seen Bjork instead. #noregrets #youredoinggreat A photo posted by Music Times (@themusictimes) on Jun 6, 2015 at 9:15pm PDT
Ryan's Best Set - Saturday: Rustie. This was the craziest show of the weekend. There was a solid 100 person moshpit of kids in the front just going HAM every time the bass kicked in, which happened to be quite often. The little Glasgow-native with bleached blond hair got the crowd going with chants of "hey hey hey" on the off beats at an early time from 2:15 to 3, even going a little over time and forcing the techs to come up and tell him to end the set forcefully. For a festival with almost all live electronic acts, Rustie held it down with A-Trak for DJs, scratching intermittently throughout his set.
Carolyn's Best Set - Sunday: Millennials love "Weird Al" Yankovic, and the jokey polka player loves them right back. Weird Al catered heavily to the 20-something audience, rolling through his new hits ("Foil," "Handy") and mixing in fan favorites, such as "White & Nerdy," "Fat" and "Canadian Idiot." Filled with more costume changes than I could even count, Weird Al's all-too short set was a full-on performance and the small yet dedicated crowd at the Gotham Tent was singing along to every word and laughing at just the right times. When he closed out the set with "Yoda," there's no way that the chants couldn't be heard from the farthest corner of GovBall.
Getting a lesson in #wordcrimes with @alfredyankovic at #govballnyc! A photo posted by Music Times (@themusictimes) on Jun 7, 2015 at 8:45pm PDT
Ryan's Best Set - Sunday: The War On Drugs. The six piece band were thoroughly enjoyable for those with weary bodies after two and a half days of festivaling. The group has grown quite popular with each passing album, most recently 2014's Lost In A Dream, which was heavily rinsed out with tracks like "Under The Pressure" and "Eyes To The Wind." They didn't say a word, but rather let the music do the talking, which can be very welcome. The pace is slow and measured, broken up by searing and sexy guitar and sax solos from Adam Granduciel and Anthony LaMarca. The sign of a good set is that it is over before you even know and at 6:45, The War On Drugs had to call it quits, with protests from the crowd.
Carolyn's Festival MVP: Florence + The Machine. Bless her heart, Florence Welch is just now recovering from her broken foot at Coachella, but her performance was still no-holds barred. She leaped, twirled, ran down stairs made just for her and I was mildly worried that she would break her foot again. As should have been expected, Welch's vocals were beyond loud and powerful as she just slayed new cuts from her album How Big How Blue How Beautiful. "Ship to Wreck" and "What Kind of Man" punched live just as well as one could have expected, and Welch's big, happy energy was just infectious as she soaked up all of the love at GovBall. The only complaint? Her set was just too damn short at one hour on the dot. I could've watched Florence all day and night.
Ryan's Festival MVP: SBTRKT. Closing out the Gotham Tent on Saturday night, UK producer, DJ, live performer SBTRKT brought his live show and more to Governors Ball on Saturday night. He brought a drummer, his frequent collaborator Sampha, who played a drum, keys and sang and a whole array of synths, keyboards and various controllers laid out around him to provide as much flexibility as possible. Everyone was super busy, with the drummer going to town on the beats, Sampha, providing back up drums and keys, while also singing and SBTRKT playing at times two instruments, distorting and jumbling up the sounds coming out of his various synthesizers. Ezra Koenig, who couldn't stay away from Gov Ball came out to sing their track fitting titled "New Dorp. New York." Even Ryan Adams might have been impressed with this.