Andy Boyle's Governors Ball: Day 3
And our journey ends here…As one walked across the RFK bridge from 125th Street Harlem, there came the promise of two things. Finally some good weather and a pungent smell. The previous two days of Governors Ball 2013 saw torrential rain and then mud, and then more mud. Warmer weather helped dry most of it by morning, but an aroma, not unlike farm animals or manure, became greater as Randall’s Island got closer.
It was an eclectic day of entertainment from rock to hip-hop, with a noteworthy set from British indie group Foals. Signed to legendary label Sub Pop in the U.S., Foals have sonically gone from strength to strength with each album, 2013’s Holy Fire as uplifting as it is melancholy. Their live show has grown in confidence, after appearing a little held back at Coachella. Front man Yannis Phillipkas strolled out into the crowd to outstretched arms and belted out sustained harmonies that evoked images of ’80s super stadium gigs like Queen or U2. Now a main stage fixture, Foals is truly one of the newer must-sees on any festival circuit.
Deerhunter took their "raw" approach to a live performance quite literally, standing on stage and sound checking for about 20 minutes in front of fans before casually announcing that they would now begin playing. Super skinny lead singer Bradford Cox (whose other project Atlas Sound is well worth listening to) kept it weird by giving a lengthy intro about how "oil and gasoline powers the entire festival and that those substances are made from our dead ancestors. So we are spraying you with music powered by your dead ancestors." Charming. In the setting sun of the afternoon, Beirut brought a jaunty and brass filled flavor to the stage, a successful blend of world music and indie-rock.
Grizzly Bear‘s audience continues to grow with the group taking the early evening main stage slot, the impact of their music slightly lost in the dwindling daylight. The XX were oddly relegated to a smaller stage after their show-stopping Coachella found them on that festival’s main stage performing to nearly the entire number in attendance. Another band whose live show suffered just a little by being performed in evening light, The XX relied on high powered spots and lasers for visual impact. This band has cleverly reworked its earlier material and newer songs to fit an almost dance music rhythm, albeit slow, seductive and dark, which works effortlessly, translating the quiet nature of their recorded music to fill a stadium sized venue.
British rockers Bloc Party proved they still have many fans in the U.S. after a 2009-2011 hiatus, which saw them tour sporadically and record side projects. The group released Four in 2012, but have decided to go back on indefinite hiatus after the American summer. A shame as their set was one massive dance rock party, the group debuting a ripping new song, "Ratchet", admitting that they knew that the word now has a whole different meaning in hip-hop in the U.S.
Other notables were Lumineers, Yeasayer and Twin Shadow, but the evening belonged to the final set by Kanye West. Sporting a stage swallowing lighting rig that looked straight out of an ’80s hair metal video, thundering beats and throaty screams erupted over giant video screens projecting rabid attack dogs barking hungrily. Then, the heralding new song Black Skinhead from his upcoming album Yeezus made it clear that his newest offering was dark, and a vastly bold step in a new musical direction for Kanye. Sounding like offcuts from an early Nine Inch Nails record, it threw the massive (and I do mean massive) audience into a stomping frenzy. As the bouncy, galloping beats of hip-hop’s last few years begin to get a little stale, I’d hope producers and artists see Kanye’s new direction, being a majorly accessible artist, and begin to fuse the heavier, even post-industrial, style of this new song (that is clearly going to be overplayed this summer) and steer hip-hop back into darker and more dangerous waters.
Photos By: Andrew Boyle