Limping, tendons twisted like pants in a washing machine, sunburn creeping ants down my neck, I made my way to the third day of the concert. Slight headache, eyes squinting.
Let’s do this.
Tame Impala – Seconds after walking in through the press entrance, electrified Daft Punk-styles vocals kicked the pain out of my knee. A crowd like mold on bread, but you only live once, ya dig? I dove in, my nerdy politeness dissolved already, while Tame Impala dreamed on stage for everybody and me.
It’s something about the soul of Tame Impala that reminds me of Daft Punk, as if this would be the result if they traded in their space age helmets and Tron-cameos for white t-shirts and an ample amount of weed. And that dreamy psychedelia slipped me down onto a chillwave rendition of a forgotten beach, the high choral tones passing ten feet above me.
Tame Impala is to the Beatles as Finnegans Wake is to Ulysses?
A-Trak – I love Tame Impala, but they left me in a non-music-festival head space that I tried to shake between the GovBallNYC stage and the Honda stage. Luckily everyone was in full blowout mode, with sun-crisped beer-dipped patrons swarming deliciously around me.
It was time to drink.
A-Trak agreed. The burst of his hiphop house scratches kicked up a daytime nightclub feel, and the people acted accordingly. Mostly by jumping and spilling beer on each other.
There was a surreal synchronization between the roars of the crowd and the crowd-roar sounds A-Trak was working with, and the energy magnified in a feedback loop, the music melting into the audience in a through-the-Looking glass effect. Peering into the abyss, we were the abyss, amirite?
Until the music cut out.
Yup, the GovBallNYC equipment took down another DJ. A-Track scrambled with his silent turntable, and everyone flopped around for a couple of minutes. Poor A-Trak. He kept it going though, tossing out some mollifying Is-everybody-having-a-good-time’s to keep our heart rates up, so props to a man who can work under pressure.
War on Drugs – Cross the field (by this point pitted by shoe-filled craters), I grabbed a nice spot for War on Drugs, close enough to watch the photopit with envy.
If Bob Dylan made out with an 80’s hair band, I’m pretty sure Adam Granduciel would pop out of somebody’s forehead.
Dat guitar solo tho. Watching that man’s twitchy fingers reminded me of someone shoving a sword down their throat, where every second you think “Damn that thing cannot go down any further can it?” BUT THEN IT DOES.
Weird Al – Full Disclosure: The first piece of music I ever owned was a cassette of Bad Hair Day. A cassette. Of Bad Hair Day. So maybe I’m a little biased when I say that Weird Al did one of the greatest performances at the entire festival.
But I’m not biased. WEIRD AL IS JUST FLIPPIN’ AWESOME.
Case in point, his comeback resurgence was strong enough to clench the only encore I saw at GovBallNYC 2015. Just sayin.
It was a real love/hate crowd though. Throughout the entire performance, there were disgusted youngin’s walking away from the frontline saying things like “That guy is weird,” exchanging places with an older crowd hopped up on so much nostalgia that you’d think they were going to burst an artery. As the haters exchanged places with the fans, the audience became so pro-Weird Al that he probably could’ve started a mini-revolution, like the kind that could overturn the municipal government of a small town in Tennessee.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Would it have really been a bad marketing decision to just call them the High Flying Birds? Can’t Oasis fans find this stuff out on their own?
Just throwing it out there.
But I can’t really joke that much about Noel Gallagher, even though my head is full of poke-fun-at-Oasis witticisms, and it’s because he is so damn good at what he does. A real class act, my bruddas, a professional musician. He gave just the right balance of new and old stuff, pulling the “Champagne Supernova” out just when the crowd was lagging.
The man knows how to please a crowd.
Flying Lotus – At some point, some marketing manager chilling at the top of a record label must have convinced every DJ/turntabulist/electronic musician that they could only do live shows if they had a visual gimmick of some kind. I’m all for it, I guess. But does there have to be a mask for SBTRKT, Daft Punk, and deadmau5? DOESN’T IT GET HOT IN THERE? AND OF WHAT MATERIAL IS THAT MAU5 MASK MADE???
That being said, FlyLo’s schtick worked for me. Throughout the show his figure was hidden behind a projection screen, his shadow puppet body barely visible against the flashing back of the stage. Through the first half of his performance I thought he was just mixing his cocktails from backstage, and when I saw him he shimmered up in a specter-burst of smoke.
And OH SNAP DID HE JUST REMIX A SONG FROM FINAL FANTASY? THESE PEOPLE ARE DANCING TO VIDEO GAME MUSIC! THE WORLD HAS COME FULL CIRCLE!
Revenge of the Nerds 4eva.
Hot Chip – On this the last day of our concert, lend us thy daily Hot Chip, that you may lower the sun by the pulley of thy good vibes. May the crowd always hop, dipped in azure and marinara pink, to the baggy off-white of their priest-wares. May they keep their synths synthing, lest the heat hanging in the air take us, lest the curving flows lift us up atop the crest of distorted phrases, and may we, with obsequious thankfulness, shimmer with their middle-aged flowers, talk with their fur-lined flowers, shroud the naked skin of their curl-petalled flowers, recant the sinful mutterings of their red-lipped flowers, sip their floral nectar, cherish their chant-birthed floral blooms, and pounce, and boycott, and scuttle the flowering flowers of their flowered flowers.
Lana Del Rey – As soon as Hot Chip finished up their transcendental chords, I shuffled one more time across the moonscape field to catch Lana Del Rey before the Black Keys. The thing I did not realize is that PEOPLE EFFING LOVE LANA DEL REY.
I stood way far from the stage, a small city’s worth of people in front of me and no one behind me. I was a bit late, and when Lana appeared on stage my camera made her look like a tiny ghost, the kind that probably gives haunted ants a lot of trouble but doesn’t particularly bother anyone else. I listened to one song, thought “ok Lana, cool cool, your voice could drown me like soup,” but when I turned around there were THE SAME NUMBER OF PEOPLE BEHIND ME AS IN FRONT OF ME. In a riptide turn of events I had become completely surrounded by Lana fans, with no way of possible exit.
I’m not even exaggerating. There were people around me who had the same look of fear that I know I had, searching for the little crowd-ditch that you can always find and there WAS NONE. I was a sailor ship-wrecked on the wandering rocks of the Del Rey Fandom.
From now on, I will identify Lana Del Rey with claustrophobia.
The Black Keys – I pried myself from the mob eventually and staggered to the Black Keys. They had just as many people as Lana, maybe more, but it was time to chill at the top of the hill at the edge of the festival where people ate cardboard pizza and made out with tomato-sauce breath. The breeze from the East River decided to finally come in and lick my scalded sun burns, and my jumbled muscles unwound. The band was small but in view, framed against East Harlem, the type of mood for sighing and whispering.
Dan Auerbach’s voice hit every peak and valley at the exact right angle. Every time. He infused gritty desperation with perfect pitch, in a well-trained effect of utter nonchalance. While listening, it occurred to me that he might have sold his soul for his voice, Faust-style. He looked so unassuming in his short-sleeved button up and jeans. Those are always the ones that sell their souls, right? Maybe not. I don’t know much about this soul business.
But as the concert closed over me, it was easy to reap the benefits of the Black Keys. Even if it was Mephistophelean.
A+, GovBallNYC. I’ll see you next year.