I sing of peeps amidst ecstatic tunes, of Epical smashing lyres and red Solo cups. Oh Muse! I will relate the drunken electricity of the synthpop Saturnalia.
That is, I’m going tell y’all about my time at GovBallNYC 2015.
Fair Warning: Lots of nerdy verbiage is coming your way.
The Decemberists – I’d been hearing Colin Meloy’s Neutral Milk Hotel-y voice since I was a mile away, reminding me that I was late. Is it bad that I hear my own guilt in his nasal tones? Not that I’m guilty of anything. Don’t look at me like that.
But it’s that kind of emotion that makes me obsessed with bands like the Decemberists. They don’t invoke private moments like how that beaux didn’t call you back, they stick you in the gut with a moaning call outwards, exposing you to the publicness of the world.
Is it masochism? Is it love?
Either way, when I finally arrived at the north field, people were swarming to Meloy like he was the pied piper. It was the band’s last song, a sea shanty waltz, and the 3:2 rhythm was clearly throwing a good portion of the crowd off balance in delirious imitation. And yet they rushed the stage, and when the giant cardboard whale attacked Meloy and he repelled it with an avenging kick, everyone cheered.
Yeah, that last thing actually happened. Welcome to Governors Ball? Time a drink.
St. Vincent – The crowd around the Honda stage evacuated and rushed like muddy water across the mud and water to the Big Apple stage. St. Vincent was already up there, stoic as a statue and flanked by two silver body-suited ladies who were dancing like the air was slippery.
Here are the two notes I took about St. Vincent:
“Can angels piss in your ear? This is that.” (I am convinced I meant this in a good way)
Those were my sober notes. Point stands though: St. Vincent’s guitar work is so rockingly badass that she wears the stage like crown, immobile to the point of being regal, and every static-throttled slam hypnotized the crowd into swearing fealty.
Florence + the Machine – I must have been seriously drowning in some pseudo-religious absorption at St. Vincent, because when I got my lanky behind over to my girl Florence, she was already on her last song. The human-fueled buffer zone between us reduced her to a speck, and getting any closer would’ve involved a jackhammer or the human shoulder equivalent.
It turns out I didn’t have to be near the stage at all, because the crowd was the most interesting part. Everyone just looked so damn happy, hopping about in a display that I could only call wholesome, or sincere, or whatever you see in videos of people dancing at Woodstock, when everyone seemed to be on the same side.
Florence told her fans to jump, and they jumped. But not before she explained that she had hurt her foot and could not jump with us. She sounded profoundly sorry. Jeez, I’m gonna make myself cry. IT’S OKAY FLORENCE, FIRST HEAL THYSELF.
Ratatat – By the time Flo was done, the audience had gotten #realfestival thick. Walking (read stumbling) was impossible unless you followed in the wake of some intrepid #GOGETTER who could carve a way through the mob with swinging elbows and a drunken smile. But once one of these human snowplows got going, everyone followed, lines of twenty odd people mimicking subway cars or a particularly ambitious conga line. But at the end, it was all worth it, BECAUSE RATATAT BROUGHT LAZRS!!!!!11!1!111oneoneone.
I mean, the lightshow was cool and all, but there is something antithetical about Ratatat at a music festival. Their spaceship guitar riffing was pitch perfect, every note in the right place, and because of that I found it a bit boring, like I should’ve been listening to them in the Sydney Opera House.
Until the third song, and suddenly it was like the guitar was speaking to me. It was telling me that I am a cynical dick.
My Morning Jacket – Um yeah, so this is about to get weird.
Walking (read floating) to My Morning Jacket was a subtle form of astral projection. Jim James’s melodic voice flooded through the air like the smell of flowers, not the stale, perfumey kind but the fresh cut ones that make you chill out not because of the scent but because you are just breathing so damn deeply. Head went light, feet went the good kind of weak, and he appeared on the stage like an icon on the wall.
There is something simple and sincere about My Morning Jacket that reminds me of a fundamentalist preacher (the kind that is really sincere, not the kind that wants to take away your rights). At his best, Jim James is calling you to believe, not in anything in particular, but to just Believe. Stage, pulpit, people, mass, he was preaching to the innovators and the audience was singing back like they were being faith healed.
But at the same time I was in one of those rural bars where singers sit behind chicken wire and you throw bottles at the bands. Truck-stop fluorescence bleeding through the windows, and MMJ whispering fatherly advice into my drunken ear.
The side of country music that just wants to scream.
The thoughts going through my head at the time: “Must cover Drake. Can’t leave. The bass is shaking my veins out of their bone-divots.”
Drake – Is it the cool thing to do to make fun of Drake? I can’t really figure it out.
Whatever man, Degrassi was awesome. Respect.