Governors Ball 2013 pt. 1 (June 7th and 8th) Governors Ball 2013 pt. 1 (June 7th and 8th)

Editor’s Note: All photographs of “The People and Puddles of Governors Ball” (which can be found throughout and in their own galleries at the end of each day’s segment) are the work of Melissa Huffsmith-Roth (who was kind enough to join Charles on this assignment…you can view more of her work here and here) and are presented here, uncorrected, in order to offer a more immediate snapshot of the gray and wondrous strangeness that was Governors Ball 2013. All Artists Galleries and rambling are the work of Charles and have been edited extensively because – let’s face it – the boy can be a little “unfinished” at times. Enjoy.

Friday, June 7.

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I broke today.

Covered in mud and soaked through my raincoat (underwear, shirt, socks, hat and shoes) I looked down at my hands to see they had pruned and were slowly turning from the familiar (albeit disconcerting) pale to an alarmingly ashen blue.

“I think I’ll be okay. I just need a second.”

“I don’t know,” Melissa replied, her face more grave than any of the times she’s seen me sporting fresh bruises, torn pants or open wounds. “I feel like we’re about to go into a dark place.”

“Maybe.”

Dinosaur Jr. had just finished playing. Their set was blurry, loud and plain as the day J. first decided all Gregg Allman needed to be truly great was a flank of Marshall stacks burnt up past eleven delivered alongside a cynical Amherst deadpan (they really don’t do much to transform a space) excepting, of course, for the unexpected appearance of Scott Helland for a blistering return to the band’s deep, hardcore roots as Deep Wound (minus Murph who didn’t appear to be playing) with “Training Ground” which pretty much ruled.

Though to be honest, I thought Lou Barlow kept saying “D. Boon” so I was a little disappointed that Mike Watt didn’t appear to help pay econo homage to the lost, befuddled greatness of the Minutemen.

But, yeah, “Freak Scene” blistered and “Just Like Heaven” was roaring cassingle euphoria and I finally had the opportunity to confess that I was introduced to the D.J. (fuckit, man) through “Start Choppin’” which lifted a tremendous weight off my chest.

Dinosaur Jr.

Unfortunately, that poseur weight was quickly replaced with the very real threat of pneumonia and so we absconded to the black lit slurry of the Miller Time tent.

“We can go, you know.”

“I know. I just need to figure it out and try or dry off or go…I don’t know. Sure.”

We headed to the cover of the golf range situated just shy of the media tent, hidden well behind the Salty Sister and within easy earshot of the You’re Doing Great Stage where Best Coast mumbled something about California living vis a vis New York’s tenacity and then played another one of their Thorazine shuffles.

I flipped off a cloud.

“I quit.”

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Melissa called a car.

Earlier I had seen Poliça here back when the rain still felt like a casual challenge I was hell sent to endure because Ben knows I refuse to recognize that my body has limits and I will NOT be outshined by Brooklyn Vegan.

They were good, not great though they had that one song where the weird wraith (whom I contend is a V lady) let her mooning and crooning Rancho Relaxo electronics give way to a lumbering drum blast that almost had me believing that thunder had landed ten feet from my face but it hadn’t and never would which is good because the last thing the day needed was lightning.

I vaguely remembered the time I smoked opium in college and had the most wonderful nap.

Poliça

In the car to the office, I shivered and sulked.

“At least, you showed up.”

“I know.”

“You tried.”

“I did.”

“We saw Reignwolf.”

I perked up.

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It’s a rare thing to go to a music festival (as much as I’d like to convince myself otherwise) and be truly astounded by a band you don’t know a goddamn thing about, particularly one in the unenviable position of opening up a long weekend of festivities on a school day against a jaded sea and the driving rain but goddamn if Reignwolf didn’t come to NYC with his A game.

He opened his set balls deep and stag, armed with a guitar and a kick drum, dripping a leather desperation that reminded me of a young Bruce Springsteen raising hearts and hell at Max’s Kansas City had the Boss swapped his epic rock swell for the lonely tether of the dirt blues. He crunched, he cried, he tore out against the sky and though his roar was tempered, somewhat, by the introduction of the rest of his band (still potent, sure, but safer) those first three tracks of his just about won him the goddamn festival.

“That kid fucking BROUGHT IT!”

Reignwolf

The People and Puddles of Governors Ball – Friday, 6/6

Saturday, June 7.

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After a long, hot shower, a bloated diner burger and something like a ten-hour nap, I felt refreshed. Enlivened, even. The rain had kept up all day and night and the winds had turned gale forcing the festival to cancel sets by headliners Pretty Lights and Kings of Leon (who were supposed to announce their new album, I guess) the night before. Rumor had it Feist only played one song before citing genuine concern for electrocution and that Beach House had likewise abbreviated their time.

We were lucky to get out when we did. Tales of mud and misery were swirling around the twits and grams with the usual brand of new democratic hysteria but even cutting through righteous hyperbole it sounded like the conditions at Randall’s Island had swiftly turned to shit and people were suitably pissed.

“If you don’t like the weather, move.”

“Fuck you.”

There is a certain logic in that discourse. It rains in NYC. It rains a LOT in NYC and recently it’s been raining with more and more frequency and increased ferocity so trying to put together any sort of outdoor event in this town is a total crapshoot on the edge of unmitigated disaster so you can suck it up with the masses or you can go home like I did.

“At least no one got hurt.”

Conversely, copping the hardened New YOWK City been there/done that attitude in regards to what was pretty much universally considered an unpleasant situation is precisely the kind of bullshit that makes good men move to Philadelphia.

“It’s like you don’t even care if the terrorists win.”

Melissa and I arrive at the festival with fresh pairs of galoshes (the last, it appears, in Astoria) and are met with acres of ankle-deep mud.

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“This is going to suck.”

“Let’s go see Robert DeLong.”

I love this DeLong kid. We’ve shot him a couple of times for the site and each picture just seems to leap from the screen with a wild, percussive urgency. His music isn’t really for me, though. I mean, if I were twelve years younger and had anything like a semblance of rhythm, I would be heralding DeLong and his fluid blend of drums, electronics and wide-eyed melody as hip-twisting messianics for my day-glow generation and I certainly appreciate the shit out of his enthusiasm on so early and thick a Saturday but I crave the rough crunch of guitars and the undeniable sensuality of musicians, together, at play.

Robert DeLong

So we leave the swamp of the Skyy Vodka Tent and head to the Main Stage to catch Wild Nothing which is a mistake.

I fucking hate Wild Nothing and I always have. I hate them on record. I hate them live. I hate their beginnings as fey indie dissonants and I hate their progression into sulking Tom Tom Club worship. Their sound is anemic, their presentation passionless and the fact that they have attained even the slightest hint of value in our culture leads me to believe our nation is truly and irrevocably fucked.

Wild Nothing

“Let’s go see Miss Mister. M-S-M-R? How do you say that?”

“I don’t know.”

“The ones with the glitter puke cheerleader video.”

I should note here that Governors Ball is big…like…REALLY big. I don’t know the exact measurements but I think it’s safe to say the whole thing encompassed a couple square miles with four stages all at a considerable (or, more appropriately, considerate) distance from each other which makes trekking from one to the other through thousands of drunks ill-prepared for the mud a physical challenge I simply didn’t expect. I fault no one/nothing for this (except, perhaps, God and the time-honored tradition of pre-gaming) and certainly feel it’s no reflection on the festival or her organizers but goddamn if it wasn’t a real pain in my ass. I should also note that since I feel like I failed rock and roll by exiting before hypothermia, I am desperately trying to overcompensate.

MS MR remind me of someone, though I can’t remember who. Someone I knew well but not well enough to still be in touch with. Someone I fucked? No, that list is short and of a wholly different cloth.

Why did I think this band was Australian?

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They’re good. Too good. Like they were scrupulously invented in a Columbia Records laboratory with the sole aim of capitalizing of the growing youth demographic that wants to shimmer like GaGa and smell like Grimes while never offending their parents enough to lose car privileges.

Also, they like dancing.

The girl (MS?) sings, the boy (MR?) produces and the rest of the band are anonymous session men (no offense). I believe this band will gain suitable attention over the next six months and retire their name early to collect well on licensing deals.

Melissa likes them.

I’m fascinated.

MS MR

We leave early to see Japandroids and, en route, catch some Icona Pop who have turned the Skyy Vodka Tent into a blazing wall of unstoppable summer time dance love.

“I should have shot them.”

“You really want to be in there, right now?”

I can smell wet flesh, beer and feet.

“Nuts to that.”

On to Japandroids who I (and pretty much everyone else, really) love, LOVE and want to love live but, man, they just don’t know how to translate their sound to a stage. Their guitars are too thin, the drums too brash and the dual vocals never seem to jive. I think they think that they’re a punk band so their inclination is to scream to the point of tunelessness which is a bummer because they’ve got such clean hooks and “WHOAS!” They keep saying they’re Guns ‘N Roses because who wouldn’t want to take a pot shot at Faxl? They do give legitimate props to Tommy Stinson, however, which gives us warm and fuzzies all over and when they play “The House that Heaven Built” I yell along like a bearded schoolgirl.

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We set back for The Dirty Projectors for some reason. I think it’s my decision. I think maybe, just maybe, watching the band work through their obtuse noodles live will win me over to their favor but it doesn’t.

They just play.

And play and play and play and the more I watch them the more obsessed I become with the length and crane of the singer’s neck. It’s amazing. He’s like a monitor disguised in a mop.

Perhaps the lizard people are here, after all, subsuming hearts and minds one indie darling at a time.

I mean, I want to like The Dirty Projectors. I really do. I believe there’s something in the complexity of their tunes that should tap into the reluctant postmodernist that drives me to Gravity’s Rainbow over and over again (one day, I will finish) but when I hear their music all I can derive from the band is an effete intellectualism that reads first as snobbery before reducing into a blubbery cry for help.

At least we both hate Zappa.

The Dirty Projectors

Melissa and I take a corn dog break (there are many delectable edibles to be had at Governors Ball but I pretty much just ate jalapeno corn dogs for three days straight) and enjoy the gleeful filth of Fucked Up. Pink Eye (I can never remember if we’re still calling him that) kindly explains to the crowd that he will gladly kiss each and every one of them but there’s no way they’re going to make out. He also tells us to trust our bodies over authority while explaining that he lost a hundred pounds by ditching prescription meds in favor of cannabis. They play “I Hate Summer.”

I miss Kwame.

We also hear some Divine Fits who are elevated from just fine to “fucking all right” when I remember that there’s a dude from the New Bomb Turks playing with them.

It’s 80s revivalism.

“Get PAID, BUDDY!”

Then we go to see Alt-J or or whatever the fuck that band is named.

Ugh.

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It’s like watching a luxury car commercial surrounded by an obnoxious bunch of soulless privilege punks in couture shades and fifth reich rerun fashion. I hate it and so does Melissa. And the more I hate the more the crowd expands and soon it gets to a point where panic descends onto those of us who just want to get our job done and run like hell to the nearest bar to drown the nothing this band evokes out with Miller High Life because no one is moving, no one’s letting a single body out. In fact, people are blocking us from getting away. Standing their ground like terracotta princesses as we beg and plead for just a few more feet but are met with elbows and the people now pushing to get into the VIP and are screaming at security “to do the fucking math” (whatever that means) but the staff is calm, cool…fuck the bait…and it takes me fifteen minutes to finally break loose meeting scorn and revile the whole way and when I do, I grab a brew and head straight for Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.

I wish I’d started a fight. I really think I could’ve held my own this time

Alt-J or

I’m actually not entirely certain why. I’m not predisposed to the love in shit and white anyone with dreads totally skeeves me but I just had a feeling that I should see this band.

Maybe I just needed a breather.

They’re actually really fucking enjoyable. Yeah, Alex Ebert can be a little overwhelming with his inarticulate Miles Davis meets good time gone bad guy meets charismatic hippie cult lover but I’ve read enough about the band to appreciate his demeanor as some manner of long drawn conceptual performance art piece (initially funded, in part, by Heath Ledger) and besides, the kids up front fucking love it. LOVE IT! And he loves them, descending from the stage to hold their hands and sing to, above and beyond them.

Someone hands him a card. He reads it out loud and looks touched…like, genuinely and deeply moved by whatever was contained within the folds which I couldn’t relate to you for all the tea in China on account of his affectation.

He holds the card to his heart and the band plays “Man on Fire.” This is the only Edward Sharpe song that I know and I’m not too proud to admit that the video makes me tear up.

It’s pretty beautiful, actually and the whole band is sold on the love and that’s good. We need some shameless love now and again.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

We leave to see Kings of Leon who I think are pretty solid for taking a late afternoon slot when their headlining sting got cancelled.

We pass Azealia Banks who is playing “The Harlem Shake.”

“Isn’t that controversial?”

“Why?”

“Um…Twitter?”

Another High Life and Kings of Leon play. I really don’t dislike this band at all. I have no idea how they went from crazy Pentecostal backwoods rednecks to being one of the biggest rock bands on the planet but I can handle that mystery. It’s the American dream and I need to believe.

They’re pretty damn decent. Their music doesn’t jump out and shake my ribs so easily but I have every confidence that they mean every note they play and are thankful as hell to be in a position where they resonate on a big stage for thousands of people. No bullshit, man. Just rock and roll played with Southern discomfort and a voice idiosyncratic enough to rank as one of the most memorable of our time.

We both sort of wish we could stick around for “Sex on Fire” (a title that still makes me cringe in confusion, a bit) but I want to see Animal Collective so we trudge back and wait.

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Animal Collective is one of my favorite bands on paper. They started out noise mongering with Black Dice back in the days when NYC was enjoying a fresh post punk hive (alongside Liars, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and other Knitting Factory alumni) and have made a point of idiosyncratically evolving from found sounds to folk strums to electronic warps to the Beach Boys as interpreted by laptops to whatever, exactly, that Centipeded record was with a steadfast cast of friends that swells and contracts as their art suggests all the while slowly, assuredly transforming into a beast that would make Syd Barrett’s psych conceptions proud.

I have never, however, enjoyed listening to them.

But I’m at a festival, and a wonderful thing about festivals is getting the opportunity to finally see what a given band’s fuss is all about.

I am…hmmm…I don’t know what I am. I get the impression from the fractal balloons on stage that I am missing something by seeing this band during the day. I feel like that should say something about the value of their music but I once saw Stereolab on a sunny summer afternoon and that turned me off the band for years (a mistake, John Cale was there too) so I can’t really put all my stock in circumstance.

Still, they just strike me as boring. Less performers than conduits for a frazzled take on the dark wonders of America’s sea change which is alternately reverential and blindly propulsive, archaic and immediate, frantic and meek, anything. Everything. A mess and a stare and I really wish I preferred hallucinogens but I don’t.

Not that Animal Collective are a drug band but they are certainly an “experience” (albeit a woefully sedentary one) and we all know that experiences are better…um…experienced while under illicit influences.

So I guess I’m grumpy.

Animal Collective

I want to see Guns ‘N Roses.

I know. I know. I know. I KNOW! GNR has been the Axl show for a long time now and nothing he and his band of minions can ever do (even with Tommy Stinson) will ever even loosely equate to the fucking INCREDIBLE danger that the band brought, cock wild, to the world back in 1987 with the single greatest debut LP of all fucking time (and, yes, I will fight you over this).

And I know that Kendrick Lamar is still playing and Nas is going to drop some serious fucking shit on a thousand hungry heads but my heart has always belonged to Appetite and it always will no matter who is playing it, no matter how deep the mud is I’m sinking in or how disinterested Melissa is in having anything to do with the throngs swarming in the deep black to worship at the altar of excess and sleaze.

That record changed the goddamn world and if GNR play one quarter of its perfection with any reasonably semblance of gratitude I will be glad to have lived this life.

And they do.

Well, they open with “Chinese Democracy” which Melissa thinks is genius because no one really gives a shit but it’ll get people to come running and I think is genius because I firmly believe that, at this point, Axl is well aware of the maddening farce his work has become and so he chose to open his band’s headlining with an understated “fuck you” because he’s, like, fifty now and no one wants to see him parade in a kilt.

But then it happens.

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That riff. That perfect riff that Slash so mastered in a stupor of tits, dope and ass plays and everyone in a drunk mile range rushes to better earshot because there is nothing, fucking NOTHING, like hearing “Welcome to the Jungle” played live.

They play “It’s So Easy” which is my favorite song ever and any concerns I had that Axl would be unable to deliver his white snake howls with conviction are razed and there are explosions and shit and then there’s “Mr. Brownstone” and so much more but we decide maybe it’s best to leave while we’re ahead (again) and outside we hear “Live and Let Die” (more explosions) and “Rocket Queen” (which has some shame stories and tears for another day) and as we get towards the dark shards of an underpass where a cop has promised we can find the road home, we hear “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”

Melissa sits down and lights me a cigarette.

An ambulance whirs by, then another, then a bulldozer.

We smoke, unconcerned.

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The People and Puddles of Governors Ball – Saturday, June 8.



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