Governors Ball 2017 had one of the best lineups of any summer music festival, which is why both Friday and Saturday were sold out. The island was jam packed with half naked high schoolers, frat boys, and rich hipsters doing expensive drugs and passing out before the gates even opened. Not enough people were wearing sunscreen and drinking water, and I’m pretty convinced I was the only sober person there. Let me just say, it was nothing like what Conor Oberst described in “Governor’s Ball.”
When we arrived on Friday, there was already 15 year olds reeking of booze and a few people with their eyes rolled to the back of their heads laying on the ground. It was about 1 in the afternoon. The grounds were packed, with crowds of people going in every direction.
The first set we caught was Francis and the Lights, who typically have a lot of auto tune and vocal effects, but live it sounded pretty different. They put on a good show, with the front man Francis Starlite climbing things and dancing around. By far the best part of their set was when Chance the Rapper graced the stage during “May I Have This Dance” and they did the dance in the music video. It was so fun to watch hundreds of people start sprinting to the stage when they heard Chance coming on.
We spent some time exploring the grounds and trying some of the food there. There was an impressive amount of vegan options and fun things to try. While sitting up on the hill and people-watching I counted about seven groups of teenagers smoking weed and a handful doing coke off their iPhones. It was really something else. People were passed out, stumbling around, a few were very obviously on heavy psychedelics, probably acid or molly.
The next set we saw was Lorde, someone I’ve listened to for a couple years but never had the chance to see live. She was radiant, coming out on stage to thousands of screaming people and smiling. She was incredibly humble and was very obviously in awe of the crowd before her.
Her performance was flawless. She’s a fantastic performer, full of energy and she was entirely uninhibited. It was so cool to see this badass 19 year old girl doing what she loves. She had a great set list, including “Liability” which is probably the best song she’s ever released. Jack Antonoff of the very underwhelming band Bleachers joined her for it, playing the piano. They wrote her upcoming album “Melodrama” together, which is incredibly sweet and their chemistry and friendship translated and they performed well together.
The act of the day was definitely Chance The Rapper. He was the only headliner that night, which is rare. Not only that, but he performed with The Social Experiment, a project he’s a part of that includes the phenomenal Donny Trumpet. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience to see him perform with them because they’re not the backing band he usually tours with. It was truly a treat.
Chance was a powerhouse. He bounced around the stage, rapping hard and hitting every mark. He played some songs off “Acid Rap” which I was really excited about. He did his part of “Favorite Song” and I’m pretty sure everyone there wanted Gambino to come out to do his verse, but unfortunately that was not the case. However, he did “Lost,” a beautiful track that usually features NoName but even without her there, it was so cool to see live. Because SoX was there they did “Sunday Candy” and that was an incredible moment that night. There was something special about it because so many people knew the words and Chance was so passionate and emotional.
Day 1: 10/10, aside from hearing a bunch of non-black people screaming the n-word during Chance’s set.
Saturday rolled around and the island was still full of barred out teens and drunk people falling all over themselves. However, this was a great day with a fantastic lineup.
First we saw Car Seat Headrest, a band I’ve loved for a really long time. Will Toledo is a great frontman, and the band was so tight. It was also the first time I saw a mosh pit at Gov Ball, and it was pretty cool that security let it happen. Their set was a dream, with them playing “Vincent” and “Fill In The Blank” early on to get the crowd pumped up. “Destroyed By Hippie Powers” was great too and it was really cool to hear the songs I’ve been listening to since “Teens of Denial” came out live. They ended with my favorite song, “(Un)forgiving Girl” and the crowd went nuts. The energy on both ends was intense and everybody looked like they were truly enjoying themselves. This was probably the best set of the day.
Wu Tang Clan played later that day, and about 70 to 80 percent of the people on the island were there to watch. The crowd was so tightly packed that if one person moved slightly it would create a ripple effect. It was intense, even just watching from afar. It was fun to watch, outside of all the rich white kids in the crowd screaming the n word and reciting lyrics about money and guns. Weird. Regardless, another once in a lifetime experience to watch them perform and it was definitely entertaining.
Childish Gambino performed that evening, drawing a massive crowd. The most incredible part was that he announced that this was the only show he was playing in all of 2017. We were blessed to be there. His backing band was so tight, the backup singers were talented and the instrumentals were funky and the sound was really good. Glover did a mix of old and new, and when he performed songs off “Awaken, My Love!” it was beautiful. His singing voice is terrific. I had no idea his range reached the notes it did and I stood there in awe. I knew the guy was talented, but c’mon. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. When he performed some of his hits like “3005” and “Worldstar” the energy of the crowd was sky high, people rapping along and everyone was so engaged. However when he switched to something more jazzy or soulful off “Awaken” the crowd was completely detached. It was a damn shame. After he played his most popular songs, a sea of people started to leave. I found it incredibly disappointing because he was giving his all in this performance and it was beautiful, and these people just came to hear the hits and then leave. Regardless, we stayed and it was lovely. The visuals behind him were also gorgeous, with colorful patterns and fun graphics. It was really impressive.
Day 2: 10/10
The last day.
With rain ponchos packed, we arrived on the island bright and early to catch The Orwells. The group is known for the vocalist’s crazy antics, and oh boy did they deliver. Mario reminds me a little bit of Buffalo Bill from “Silence of the Lambs” with his mannerisms. They were so, so fun. “Who Needs You” was the best moment of their set, with the crowd bouncing around and the band looking like they were enjoying themselves too. There’s really no other band like them out there; they really embody a punk rock vibe that few bands have anymore.
Next we caught Mac DeMarco. I’m not a huge fan of his music, but I figured I’d see if he’s worth the hype. The short answer is, he’s not, I just really don’t get it. His music is slow and boring and it all sounds the same. I will say that he sounds infinitely better live, though. However, looking back on his set, there was absolutely nothing special about it. I’m not necessarily underwhelmed or anything, it just confirmed to me that his music is comparatively boring considering the other acts that weekend.
Franz Ferdinand, however, were an absolute pleasure to see. They are such good performers and were a bright light on an otherwise cloudy rainy day. The crowd was so dancey and the songs they played were so peppy and definitely a highlight of the day.
The last band we saw this weekend was Cage The Elephant, a band I’ve loved since “Thank You Happy Birthday.” They played a lot of new material that I wasn’t familiar with, but it was still a great time. They’re good performers and were charismatic and fun to watch.
One of the best moments of the set, of the day, of the festival, was when they were performing “Shake Me Down” and he sang the line, “Even on a cloudy day, I keep my eyes fixed on the sun” and the sun began to peek through the clouds. It was a fitting ending to an absolutely perfect weekend.
Day 3: 10/10. No surprise there.
There truly is nothing else like The Governors Ball. The range of genres represented in the lineup, the numerous food vendors and options, the activities and the overall vibe are truly something amazing. I had one of the best weekends of my life, and I’ll be riding that wave for a while.
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