My first bareback (ew?) dive into a sun-saturated Governors Ball, and I armed myself with enough spf 100 sunscreen to make Mercury think the Sun was a space heater. Late again though, as usual, hoofing it along Randall’s Island, frantically tripping over dogs and children.
Holy shit, there’s a press entrance.
Kiesza – I met up with my compatriot Teri amidst a horde already triple the size of Friday night, and before I could blink to refresh my sweating eyeball-grapes, Kiesza was screaming “Hideaway” into a tsunami of high school students. The fans sprouted and budded prolifically enough to cut up Kiesza’s impeccable voice into a sound-system garble.
Do NYC high schoolers just go to concerts to hang out? In Louisiana we went to Walmart parking lots.
EVERYONE HERE IS SO SOPHISTICATED!
Or maybe I just wasn’t invited to parties in high school.
Sharon Van Etten – Rode a wave of echoey ambience from the Gotham stage to the Big Apple and foxtrotted on the dry-patch islands to avoid the massive mud puddle that was apparently trying to rival the East River. Sharon Van Etten was sending out a lugubrious dirge-call, her weighty voice pushing me down into the mud. Everything felt heavy, as if the audience were moving in slow motion.
Angus & Julia Stone – Following Teri’s lead, I stomped off across the field, past a delicious looking pile of flowers in the shape of an apple or a cherry or some other symbol for virginity and guilt. The Stone clan welcomed me with another emotional funeral. Julia was bringing the harmony, country-porch style, like sincerity was her avocation. And then Angus took the lead, and the tone shifted from #realtalk sad to #Beowulf sad. Spot-on vocals pounced me, inseparable from a coming apocalypse, harbinger of doom sort of stuff, unavoidable disaster.
At the same time, my camera started running out of batteries and my pen started running out of ink. It was the end of the goddamned world, apparently.
But it got better, as apocalypses do. I was taking notes in the middle of a flailing concert space, like the nerd I am, and a flower-crowned girl with the scent of rubbing alcohol gently took my notebook, drew a shaky rendition of an ostrich, and returned it. Here’s to you, ostrich girl.
On another note, my left side was on fire. I’m talking a sausage-level sizzle. I think I may have smelled myself cooking? And it smelled good?
Little Dragon – I caught Little Dragon just when dehydration was making my witticisms sound like baby-speech, so I heard most of their set from the nearby press tent, guzzling down orange-lemon Perrier (It was Perrier or nothing, man. They had run out of free water bottles, but they had enough flavored mineral water to bathe in.) Teri and I cracked into a bag of Kettle chips and festival-style MEATwiches and listened to the crystalline tones of Yukimi Nagano.
My friend just said that Little Dragon = The Unicorns + Soul, and I’m not going to disagree.
Future Islands – I’m into the 80’s, y’all, I really am. And Future Islands’s synthesizer reminiscences made me want to don a Members Only jacket and remix a Human League song. But they were more than that, too. Sustained frantic tranquility, or something like that.
Also, the guy behind me was scowling at me because I’m a giant. IT’S NOT MY FAULT.
Bjork – Bjork was late, but that doesn’t matter because she’s Bjork.
Other things that are different when you’re Bjork:
• You can dress up like a butterfly.
• You can haul an entire orchestral string section on stage.
• You can interpretive dance awkwardly and make people love you.
• You can roll your r’s pirate-style and get away with it.
The strings cushioned her harp-throat like a bed of Valencia oranges. She had me believing her voice could pull down the sun from the sky, and it did. When she was done, that yellow star of ours was nowhere to be seen.
Conor Oberst – First thought I had when seeing Conor Oberst: is he wearing Pharrell’s hat?
Coming from Bjork, my second thought was how violent the tone shift was. Bjork seemed to be singing what the Earth was singing, but Oberst goes in for the little tragedies of being human. The Honda stage corner of the festival became quiet and intimate, and the harmony wavered on the brink of tears, voice quivering and sincerely flawed, guitar and mandolin chanting like the chorus of a Greek tragedy. And then that boss trumpet, poking some brassy optimism back in there.
In middle school, all the Emo (read emu) kids were into Bright Eyes, and because of that Conor Oberst ended up as the butt of every music joke about over-indulgent sad kids. But the truth is that Oberst’s music offers up an emotion, and that emotion is as sincere as you take it. If you take it sincerely, it’ll work.
Flume – There was Flume, too far away to see, and my foot was stuck in the mud. At first I made fun of all the shoes I saw abandoned in the fields, and suddenly I was considering yanking my foot into glorious nakedness.
But Flume. He’s legit, bits of conversations relived in symphony. Weaves well like any good DJ. Let’s all go listen to him now.
SBTRKT – SBTRKT is a musical project invented to make people in the know laugh at people out of the know when they try to pronounce the name. This is a truth.
But besides that, he’s got these clapping lyrics that sneak in under percussive silver bells.
And then there’s the mask. It was too dark to see it, and the “mask on stage” thing is a little played out. BUT WHY DO I THINK IT IS SO COOL?!?
Summary: SBTRKT is a mad music genius, and he plays a killer cowbell.
Deadmau5 – THREE INSTRUMENTALIST/DJ’S IN A ROW. Is that good? Before deadmau5 I would’ve said no, but now I say yes. The headliner of Governors Ball Day 2 bombshelled my brain.
Let’s get this out of the way: the visual aspect of the show was seizure-drippingly awesome. Yes, it broke halfway through. The sound cut out, and the stage stalled like a cow trying to go down a set of stairs. But mau5 is a good guy. In the midst of the technical difficulties, he came out and did push-ups, and that’s good enough to appease us drunken peeps.
As soon as his stage was fixed, mau5 dropped artillery beats that shattered through the audience pretty much nonstop.
Listening to deadmau5 live is a little like having sex over and over again. I’m not even being facetious. House music just builds and builds and builds and climaxes, then builds and builds and builds and climaxes again. The trick is keeping the crowd hooked after the climax, and bringing them up again. Mau5 can do this at will, and it’s why he was able to turn the army of mismatched festival goers into one heaving collective throb of humanity.
Mau5 eventually turned down that sexual barrage and hit a serene space, ambient, atmospheric, almost spiritual. I listened to him stumbling (drunkenly) through an abandoned night-drenched Randall’s Island. The intense unity of the crowd that I had just left rushed into my empty mind, and for a second I felt everyone’s weight, and it was pleasant.