When Impose accepted my proposal to cover Governors Ball (without an apostrophe according to a very specific email I received in the days before the festival), I was pumped. I hadn't attended a serious music festival since 2009, when I went to the short-lived All Points West as a 16 year old with my parents. I was spending the summer doing theatre in Manhattan and I split the day pouting because the boy I spent the month kissing was not texting me back and feeling uncomfortable as my parents noted how many people were smoking weed during Fleet Foxes' set. I don't know what I was expecting five years later, but I may have been turned off from music festivals forever. Sorry if I ramble on, but I am reporting my Governors Ball 2014 experience to you, those who were hopefully not harassed by a frat bro with a water gun last weekend.
I should have known I was out of place as I crossed the bridge to Randall's Island and was greeted by an enthusiastic volunteer telling me to “TURN UP!!!!” I dodged his high-five and was immediately accused of being “no fun.” I think I'm fun : ( As I entered Governors Ball, I heard the aggressive chanting of Run the Jewels. Missing them was my first fuck up of the weekend, but I decided to skip the final moments of their set to get a good spot for Ratking. Of course, the concept of a “good spot” becomes devoid in a festival setting, and I ended up avoiding getting jabbed in the face by a neon blue mohawk throughout the set.
The last time I saw Ratking was in an overcrowded garage at my school, so it was weird to see them in a giant tent. Bucket hats were in an abundance here, but that was also just a general theme of the weekend. In fact, bucket hats were so popular that I overheard this conversation while waiting for the bathroom: Girl 1: Wow, a lot of people have bucket hats. Girl 2: We HAVE to get them. Girl 1: Do you think CVS has them? Girl 2: Ugh, I hope so, let's go ASAP. Ratking's set was great, possibly enhanced by their excitement to perform on a field where Wiki and Hak once both played soccer. As Hak put it, Governors Ball is “An East Coast Coachella, but doper because there's no sand in your fucking mouth.” Towards the end of the show, Princess Nokia joined the boys to perform “Puerto Rican Judo”, complete with some rad karate moves and crowdsurfing.
Princess Nokia Rules
Following their set, I met up with some school friends and checked out Janelle Monáe's set. Unfortunately, Big Boi did not join her for “Tightrope”. During her show, I decided to check out the press tent, which was a depressingly muddy structure containing reporters sadly typing or charging their phones.
By the time I left the GovBallNYC stage, the crowd for Washed Out had expanded beyond the restraints of the Gotham Tent. I had no idea so many people enjoy Washed Out. My pals and I took advantage of the free Ben & Jerry's Phish Food ice cream that would be come my main sustenance on Day 1, and listened to Washed Out's set from afar. Our placement under one of the few trees in the vicinity proved to be a prime spot. Later, we could hear the strange sounds of Julian Casablancas + the Voidz' but could also watch Jenny Lewis on a giant TV next to a raised, circulating Honda. Not so sure what J.C. was going for in his jersey and leather vest, that was some questionable festival apparel. However, hearing Jenny Lewis perform “A Better Son/Daughter” was definitely a highlight of the weekend.
Next, we headed over to catch some of Neko Case's set along with many many dads. The number of times I heard people ask who Neko Case was: countless. The constant explanation: the girl in The New Pornographers. Neko's set seemed cool, but our tummies were demanding to be filled with overpriced food truck cuisine. The food trucks were placed at the top of a large slop overlooking the festival. From our vantage point, we could see and hear La Roux's set in the Gotham Tent. Literally, at the sound of the first notes of “Bulletproof”, people literally dropped their food and sprinted to join the sweaty masses. Half an hour later, we end up with some pretty mediocre lo mien, but at least we had the fuel to go watch Phoenix. Phoenix had the highest female-on-male-shoulders count of the weekend, but then again, I didn't see Vampire Weekend. Oh, and Phoenix was great, like, really amazing.
The author and woman's fall from grace
Now seems like a good time to discuss the food and drink options at Governors Ball. To its credit, the festival boasts a wonderful though pricey selection of local NYC favorites. I was personally very frightened of Jack's Sliders and Sushi. Festival sushi should not exist. Drink-wise, the popular beverage-of-choice was Foster's. Everyone had a fucking gigantic $13 25 oz. can of Foster's in their hand, Foster's covered the ground, Foster's were raised into the air. Fuck Foster's. Oh yeah, Foster the People played Gov Ball, too. Gov Ball 2014 was sponsored by Foster's.
My friends and I split to see TV on the Radio and Grimes, respectively. Their report was that TV was great. I had no idea what was happening during the 20 minutes I was at Grimes' set, but her new music seemed cool and I applaud her choice of using fans to make her look even more celestial. She also brought on her dancers from the “Oblivion” video, including her brother, who were dressed as mimes #GrimesMimes.
Quinn and Co. met up in front of the medical tent to find a spot for Outkast which in retrospect was a horrible idea because I hate seeing people vomit. Everyone had the same idea to get to Outkast's set reeeeeaaaally early, and we got stuck next a great group of people who somehow broke the balloon chain that stretched across half of the festival while chanting “USA, USA.” I had heard that Outkast's first show at Coachella was ~okay~ but that they have been consistently making their set tighter. I'm pleased to report that this is true. They ran through all the hits, even bringing up a very lucky group of girls onstage for “Hey Ya” (who were then joined by a very excited Janelle Monáe). Big Boi and Andre 3000 were adorable together, joking around like the old pals that they are while the audience lost their shit. Oh, and Sleepy Brown joined the boys for a few songs while wearing a black and purple silk robe and waving a light pink handkerchief.
Leaving Randall's Island on Day 1 felt either post-apocalyptic or like an illegal border crossing between the sirens, the rattling chain link fences, the hordes of exhausted, bedraggled people, and the huge police force. A woman sitting in front of me on the 4 train was crying, and I felt the same way.
At the end of Day 1 I wondered, “What will Governors Ball destroy first, my body or my soul?” Day 2 answered my question with both. Impose had arranged for me to follow Deafheaven around for the day. I am late to our 10:30 meeting time, but luckily, so is team Deafheaven, so no big deal right? Being at the festival before the gates open is surprisingly peaceful, so I cherish the clean porta-pottys before I am joined by thousands of sweaty festival freaks. Deafheaven's wonderful manager, Justin, meets me by the Gotham Tent, but of course as we pass through Gov Ball's hi-tech VIP scanning system, I am not allowed through.
I spend the next two hours traveling from press tent to press tent, speaking on the phone to the head of Gov Ball press, and at one point, holding back tears in front of the silent disco. But no luck. My credentials will not allow me access to the band. I begin my post in front of the VIP gates, attempting to explain my problem to each security guard. One very talkative guard asked me who I was trying to talk to, and when I explained that Deafheaven is kind of a metal band, he immediately hopes they will do something crazy like Ozzy. He imitates biting off bat heads. He generously gives me a bag of cheddar and sour cream ruffles, providing me with the strength to continue my battle. It's almost 2:15 and Deafheaven is about the start. The security guards finally agree to let me backstage if I can have their tour manager confirm that I am not just a psycho fan. He gives them the okay, and I bust backstage right as the band is raising their beer cans in the air as a pre-show toast.
Deafheaven's George Clarke
I'll never know how Deafheaven spent their morning or what their pre-show ritual is. I like to imagine singer George Clarke meditating or drinking tea to soothe his throat. The crowd went absolutely nuts for Deafheaven. The girls in the front who were clearly waiting for Chance the Rapper's set seemed shocked by the crowd surfers who were suddenly flying over them and into the photo pit. Security was deeply distressed and unprepared for the uncontrollable crowd who are eventually joined by Clarke. Although he seems absolutely terrifying onstage, Clarke bounces over to me following their set and introduces himself with a smile. While the band breaks down, I help myself to an Honest Ade Pomegranate Blue drink, a small reward for my struggles. The band heads over to do a series of interviews with journalists who have the credentials in order, so I follow. Guitarist Shiv Mehra tells me that the band has witnessed 50-year-old men break down and sob during their sets, but that is basically the extent of my interview. I am blocked at yet another VIP entrance and the band disappears. I am finally admitted to the VIP oasis and begin hunting down Deafheaven. Their trailer is outside the VIP zone, and once I finally find tour manager Justin again, we mutually agree that I should stop trying. I attempt to enter the VIP area once more, but am blocked for the final time. My greatest brush with luxury at Gov Ball is using the VIP porta-pottys.
Defeated but relieved, I head over to the press tent to hide from the sun until Disclosure's set. I reunite with my friends for the first time and together we navigate the disturbingly fratty Disclosure crowd. I think I was most-excited about seeing Disclosure, and even their 4:45 set time couldn't crush my excitement. That is, until I realized that Disclosure also appeals to the most obnoxious EDM fans. I was standing next to a dude with “swag” tattooed on his chest. Disclosure sounded great, and they brought out fellow-festival performer AlunaGeorge to perform “White Noise.” My friends dipped but I was determined to enjoy Disclosure's set. I moved to the back of the crowd to be able to physically see them (the screens). Unfortunately, I found myself surrounded by boys who were grabbing passing female asses and spraying innocent passerbys with water guns. One dude attempted to explain himself to a victim by saying, “People act like they don't want it but when I actually squirt them, they realize how much they actually did want it.” These are the people who actually enjoy “Blurred Lines”. Once again defeated by the music festival spirit, I fled Disclosure and found my friends enjoying falafels in the shade. From here, we listened to “Latch” and eventually gave up on warning people not to step in the vomit next to us.
Throughout the day, I saw countless people in the same Strokes shirt that one of my best friends wore in high school. People were hyped to see their favorite NYC band together again on home turf, even way up near Harlem and not in the Lower East Side or wherever the boys like to hang out. Forever rockstars, The Strokes begin later, putting a blemish on the otherwise organized festival schedule. Julian is wearing a neon blue tropical shirt covered in rainbows. Again, questionable. The Strokes were actually great and my middle school dreams of seeing them live came true.
At this point, I decided to leave the festival because I didn't care to see Spoon, Sleigh Bells, Jack White, or Skrillex. I guess I really am no fun.
I woke up on Day 3 and realized there was no way I was going to drag myself to Governors Ball. Instead, I finally saw The Grand Budapest Hotel and enjoyed the air conditioning. I didn't want to ruin my memories of seeing Vampire Weekend at APW back in 2009, right after the release of their debut album. More importantly, Governors Ball was turning me into a miserable monster, and I knew that my confrontation with Odd future fans would lead to my demise. I have gathered a few choice tweets to help reconstruct the events of Day 3.
Until next year…