Governors Ball 2014 Review: Best, Worst and Most Ridiculous Moments from New York City's Music Festival
This weekend, Randall's Island in New York City was taken over by the power of music. Governors Ball 2014 boasted perfect (albeit hot) weather and some slay-worthy sets from some of the biggest names on the festival circuit.
But, who were the real winners of the weekend? Music Times was there to take it all in and has compiled the Governors Ball 2014 superlatives. Check them out below, and while you're at it, take a peek at our daily recaps here: Day One, Day Two, Day Three.
Most Awkward Stage Banter: Julian Casablancas. During both of his sets (for Julian Casablancas + The Voids and The Strokes), Casablancas proved that a decade-plus on stage in front of massive audience doesn't make you a great speaker. "I don't do words so good," he said at one point during his The Voidz performance. Other topics of conversation between his two sets included: a "governor's balls" joke, Space Invaders the video game, playing soccer with Phoenix in the "Southern Hephasphere" and the WWF. Rock on Julian Casablancas... you and your Hawaiian shirt.
Best Guitar: Derek E. Miller's tiger-striped Jackson SL. Give a man a guitar, and he'll write some three-chord tracks. Give a man a tiger-striped guitar, and he'll form an incredibly raucous noise pop act. Miller's yellow-and-black Jackson axe is already recognizable thanks to its appearance on Sleigh Bells' Bitter Rivals, and it was just as great in person.
Happiest Stage Time: The Big Apple Stage at 8/8:15 p.m. Hosting TV On The Radio, Spoon and Interpol, Governors Ball's third-biggest stage hosted the three most grateful acts. Each remarked how it had been a long time since they'd played New York City, debuted new material and commented over and over again how pleased they were to be back in the big city and how happy they were with the crowds. Though TV On The Radio largely had a lukewarm reception, the crowds at Spoon and Interpol were similarly feeling the love, singing along to every word, jumping and screaming all at the right moments. There was a lot of love going on in the 8:00 hour and even more big ol' smiles.
Best Music Trend: Hip-Hop Super Duos. There are hip-hop groups, and then there are hip-hop duos. And then there are hip-hop super duos. Governors Ball saw the performances of several pairs of previously established rappers coming together to double our pleasure. Killer Mike and El-P stomped as Run The Jewels, Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler, The Creator shared the stage for multiple sets, and yes, Andre 3000 and Big Boi can count as a super group thanks to their solo successes. Other emcees should consider teaming up.
Most Difficult Time Conflict: Never been so torn in life re: Bleachers vs. SKATERS, both rising acts in the world of indie and alternative rock. Fans of one of these acts would logically enjoy the other... and both played at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday at the two stages farthest away from each other (The Gov Ball NYC Stage and Honda Stage, respectively), so catching some of both was logically difficult. In the end, both delivered solid sets and there was no real wrong choice, but no real right choice, either.
Best Celebrity Cardboard Cutout: Jeff Goldblum. There were plenty of celebrity heads in attendance this weekend, from overexcited Arnold Schwarzeneggers to less-than-tasteful Philip Seymour Hoffman. The best however was Jeff Goldblum, specifically as his Jurassic Park character Ian Malcom. The pair of friends operating the likeness put the cool nail in the coffin by trailing Malcom with an inflatable T-Rex. Going the extra mile gets you mad points in our book.
Least Difficult Time Conflict: Jack White vs. Skrillex for their respective headlining sets on Saturday night. Unlike Bleachers and SKATERS, White and Skrillex (né Sonny Moore) land on the opposite end of the musical spectrum. The audiences at Governors Ball seemed basically split 50/50 between White and Skrillex, with one bluesy, bluegrass-y set playing against an explosion of electronic noise (which included a Lion King remix). Sure, fans can like both White and Skrillex, but when deciding on what one is in the mood for on a Saturday night, the choices couldn't have been more polar opposite.
Best Stage Getup: Jenny Lewis. Wearing a suit onstage isn't a revolutionary move on behalf of a female performer, but wearing a white suit featuring a My Little Pony-esque airbrush compilation of clouds and rainbows is awesome on any gender. The cherry on top was Lewis's acoustic guitar, which had been painted to match. Anna Wintour presumably did not attend Governors Ball, but she would have wept...either out of joy or disgust (for Music Times it was the former).
Longest Food Line: Sticky's Finger Joint. The chicken finger booth, which boasted prices from $7 to about $13, always featured lines at least 15 people deep. Due to its quickly spreading reputation and its convenient location directly between the main stage and the Gotham Tent, Sticky's was always hopping. At its busiest times, people in line for a little bit of fried bird blended in with the audience at the main stage. Music Times was unable to stand waiting half an hour for food when there was a bunch of live bands around, but we did find out the place is located near Washington Square Park. Heading there for lunch ASAP.
Biggest Bro: Festival bros are an annoying, yet inevitable, part of any major music event. So, you know, take it as you must. The award for the biggest bro (read: douche) goes to a man at the very top of the show, at Haerts' opening set at the main stage on Friday. Boasting an American flag cutoff tank top, this guy was loudly chatting with his friends, completely ignoring the glorious indie rock happening on the stage. Oh, except for when he yelled out "You're not André 3000! Only 10 more hours!" WOW. So creative. He also downed a 25 oz. nasty Foster's beer and then smashed the can on his head. You just can't make this stuff up...
Band With The Most T-Shirts: Far and away, The Strokes. Ignoring the cool concert rule of "not wearing the shirt for the band you're seeing," dozens if not 100+ concertgoers rocked the signature Strokes T-shirt on Saturday afternoon. Good to know the alt-rockers still have plenty of love, but the jam packed set would've been enough to prove that. (Runner up: Vampire Weekend on Sunday had a much larger T-shirt fanbase than expected.)
Most Egregious Form of PDA: That couple during Jack White. Near the back, stage left area of the crowd, a couple was doing everything but basically being naked. Homeboy lifted the girl up as she straddled him, the two ate each others' faces, ended up rolling around on the ground and... erm, how do I put this lightly... oh yeah, they dry-humped the crap out of each other. I'm sure they were drunk, and hey, the sweet tunes of The White Stripes get us going too. Just not in front of 12,000 other people.
Carolyn's Best Friday Show: Janelle Monae. There's just something to be said for a performer who consistently gives 110 percent, which Monae definitely is. She jammed more music and cinematic display into her 45 minutes than higher billed acts did in their two hours. She zoomed through her hits and sprinkled in some deep cuts, all while being technically on point and wild. She is one well-oiled android.
Ryan's Best Friday Show: Janelle Monáe. The diversified tastes of Atlanta were on display all over Friday. No offense meant to the night's headliner (Outkast) but Big Boi's big find was the best thing on the scene. It's ironic that the vocalist has always adopted a cyborg alias for her albums, as there's nothing remotely robotic in the performer's passionate stage show. Brian Setzer was describing Monáe when he spoke of jumping, jiving and wailing.
Carolyn's Best Saturday Show: Jack White. Say what you want about his personality, but White can seamlessly move through a live show. Mixing in solo material new and old, The White Stripes classics and even a couple Raconteurs songs, White's headlining set Saturday night was a 90-minute jam session for the ages. There was also something entirely endearing about him telling people to "Sing along, I'm not gonna stop ya." Garsh, Jack White, we wouldn't even want you to try.
Ryan's Best Saturday Show: Sleigh Bells. If you've watched the music video for Sleigh Bells' "Bitter Rivals," you understand what the band's live show might be like. There were plenty of acts selling sensory overload during the Governors Ball weekend, but while Skrillex et al performed from heights high above their fans, Sleigh Bells were blessed to be at the Gotham Stage, allowing it to bring its strobe-powered set down to the people.
Carolyn's Best Sunday Show: Interpol. These New York City rockers know how to please a hometown crowd and zoomed through a set full of fan favorites, largely from Turn On The Bright Lights and Antics. Happily playing hits like "Evil," "NYC" and "Stella was a diver and she was always down," both the crowd and the band were feeding off each others' enthusiasm. Interpol also boasted a little new material from its upcoming album El Pintor, displaying a bopping return to form after two less well-received albums.
Ryan's Best Sunday Show: Tyler, The Creator. Perhaps the world's most controversial rapper at the moment, Tyler got help from Odd Future pals Earl Sweatshirt and Jasper Dolphin, but the set couldn't have done without the greatest actual voice in hip-hop. Tyler has turned stage banter into an art unto itself, making the interludes between songs as entertaining as the tracks themselves. Of course most of that involved ripping on his audience, such as VIP ticket holders ("F--k the VIP") and media ("All your photos suck").
Carolyn's Festival MVP: The Strokes. Call it a hometown favorite or just "a band people really love that don't play live that often anymore," but The Strokes' set on Saturday evening was clearly the highlight of Governors Ball 2014. From the opening riffs of "Barely Legal" to the closing chant of "New York City Cops," every moment of this show was a sparkling testament to the power of good indie rock. Plus, we need to talk about Julian Casablancas' shirt. It was a sight to behold.
Ryan's Festival MVP: Empire of The Sun. The Gotham Tent's closing act was the best time slot throughout the weekend, featuring Grimes Friday and Sleigh Bells Saturday. Empire of The Sun brought it all home on Sunday, with a colorful pastiche of costumes and dancers. The music allowed for fans to rave nearly as well as the weekend's EDM acts, but Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore kept things organic, roving the stage with a pair of guitars and a whole lot of glam. Those who caught the act and wanted to head out early (work on Monday after all) could feel sated after this set.