In which alt rock completely embarresses itself, with Big Thief followed by Phoebe Bridgers it was the one time all you indie kids had their moment in the sun and blew it, Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek simply can’t get away with such scary self-absorption and, thankfully, Phoebe Bridgers has put away her skeleton catsuit and that’s about all you can say positive (wait, there is something else but be patient). Indie hasn’t been what it once was after a ten decade run from TV On The Radio in 2008 through Adrianne Lenker in 2018. Now it’s all over….
If the Day One of Governors Ball was an exploration of ace vibes (here), day two had better performers but the sets weren’t as strong. I caught everybody I wanted to see except A$AP Rocky as exhaustion kicked in. I didn’t see all of any set except J Balvin and I had no choice: I wanted to see both Megan Thee Stallion and Big Thief on at the same time and both sets were not that good but I saw enough to state categorically that I wouldn’t invest in a ticket to either.
Part of the problem was the audience, which were not the Gen Z’s of the prior days Billie Eilish but the aggressive and Frat like ill-mannered louts for A$AP Rocky and the late comers Latin-American community out for Latino-Urban mental illness is the new black,, the VIP section during Balvin’s set was insane (I had not gone with VIP but bought a three day GA pass on SeatGeek for $138 and was standing right next to it).
My day began with top EDM producer A-Trak and his kid brother performing as The Brothers Macklovitch, dropping the bass with aplomb during the all House all the time set and even sampled their father. Unfortunately, it suffered from the usual EDM bugaboo: there was nothing to watch (Grade: B). Better was ARIZONA, in the past I’ve found their electronic pop rock underwhelming but they gave me a handle on the entire weekend -remember that old TV show about a guy who wakes up one morning to find seven years missing? We woke up to find two years missing and ARIZONA’s joy of performance after a two year break was palpable, as was porn moustached lead singer Zachary Hannah (Grade: B)
Pink Sweat$ is a child of Khalid (yes, time passes that quickly), a young black man who might not have THAT VOICE, but is a soulful and intelligent guy and if you wanna listen try “At My Worst” (Grade: B) meanwhile Jack Antonoff is priming himself to replace Bruce Springsteen as the King Of New Jersey with his band Bleachers and comes close at the midway part with a cover of “Jersey Girl” (yes, it is Tom Waits… Springsteen covered it on 1975-1985) and Jack’s best song given a ridiculously awesome take on “Rollercoaster,” one of the best moments of the two days (Grade: B)
King Princess has lost her mojo and the “Dyke” tee-shirt is a touch overkill, she was a little better than her 2019 performance at Gov Ball with a terrific psydelic jam but her songs aren’t as good as her earliest releases (Grade: C+), Cordae dropped one of the best albums of 2019, The Lost Boy, and it is well known as that sorta emo rapping. In person his rapping improves and a speed rap sent the audience -a large one, though helped by Megan The Stallion setting up on the stage right next to him, into ecstasy, “RNP” had the concrete dance floor shaking (Grade: B), and then a coupla steps away… Here I had a problem, I wanted to see both Big Thief and Megan Thee Stallion. Since I was closer to Megan (and prefer her), I figured I’d start there and give her half an hour, or more if she was real good, and then rush to Big Thief. Needless to add, she came on stage fifteen minutes late and I would have been much more upset if what I did see of Big Thief hadn’t convinced me they were awful on stage. Megan mentioned that the first time she played New York she was working the stripper circuit, and I believe it, and I know she is a great, and I do like that “Hot Girl Shit” – “Thot Shit” plus her “WAP with Cardi B was one of the best songs (debatably the best…) of 2020. However, on the stage it is a loud and righteous bore by the numbers big time rap show (Grade: C+) , as for Big Thief… some of the material was ace, the new song “Certainty” passed me by when released earlier this year and revealed itself, but Adrianne and Buck are creepy not cool and when Adriene noted how strange it was to see the buildings and blue sky in the distance you had to wonder why it was strange (Grade: C+). Phoebe Bridgers was on the stage right next to Big Thief and I am so happy I have never been too kind to her, because once you got past her first song, “Motion Sickness,” she had nothing though her cheerful and giggling positivity and cool black pantsuit were worth celebrating (Grade: C+)
So I scarpered early and waited for J Balvin, pretty good position which helps of course, plus I could sneer at the crowd in VIP -I’ve done VIP and I’ve even done the super-VIP, where I met Chance The Rapper and Jason Isbell, but I reached the conclusion the improvement in sightlines was practically non existent for the headliners so why bother? Balvin was great but not as great as buddy Bad Bunny at MSG in 2019 (here). If you’ve seen J Balvin’s Amazon documentary “The Boy From Medellin” you’ll know he is a master songwriter of super powerful Latin-Trap and reggaetón ragers and a poster child for mental illness and depression, plus a terrific live presence the two other times I’ve seen him (as a featured artist) on stage. J Balvin was sincerely overjoyed to be headlining a US festival, it felt to him to be a testament for all immigrants and was dedicated to each community from Asian-Pacific to Afro-American. He opened with the gigantic “Mi Gigante” and never looked back with a band in hiding (or at least I couldn’t see em) and six very weird male dancers. The audience went crazy. I’m going to see the Giants around about now so that was another year in the books…(Grade: A-)
Day Two: B-
ARIZONA – B
Big Thief – B+
Bleachers – B
Cordae – B+
J Balvin – A-
King Princess – C+
Megan Thee Stallion – C+
Phoebe Bridgers – C+
Pink Sweat$ – B
The Brothers Macklovitch – B
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“Tarrant” is based on the Alice in Wonderland movies. Tarrant is the real name of the Mad Hatter.
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